Vibration and Motility
The following is an excerpt from The Way to Vibrant Health by Alexander and Leslie Lowen:
"Bioenergetics is the vibrant way to health and the way to vibrant health. By 'vibrant health' we mean not merely the absence of illness but the condition of being fully alive. Vibrantly alive is perhaps a more accurate term, for vibration is the key to aliveness. By increasing the vibratory state of the body through these exercises, a person is helped to approach this quality of health.
A healthy body is in a constant state of vibration whether awake or asleep. Look at a sleeping infant and you will see fine tremors pass over the surface of his body. You may observe small twitches in different parts, the face especially, but also the arms and legs. We adults sometimes experience these tremors or twitches, too. A living body is in constant motion; only in death is it truly still. This inherent motility of a living body, which is the basis of its spontaneous activity, results from a state of inner excitement that is continually erupting on the surface in movement. When the excitement mounts, there is more movement; when it falls, the body becomes quieter.
As the vibratory state of the body increases in a coordinated manner, pulsatory waves develop and spread through the body. We are familiar with these waves in the beat of the heart that pulses through the arteries and in the peristaltic movement of the intestines, which is a pulsatory wave. But we do not often experience the pulsatory waves that flow through the whole body in states of full relaxation or intense feeling. In full relaxation respiratory waves pass through the body with each inspiration and expiration (inhaling and exhaling). In states of strong emotion, waves of feeling sweep through the body. Similar pulsatory waves occur in the climax of the sexual act. Usually, however, we do not allow ourselves to relax fully, breathe deeply, or feel intensely.
Vibration is due to an energetic charge in the musculature and is analogous to the vibration occurring in an electrical wire when a current passes through it. The lack of vibration is an indication that the current of excitation or charge is absent or greatly reduced. One can get a clearer picture of this phenomenon by considering what happens to a car when the ignition is turned on. As it starts up it goes into a strong vibration, which then settles down to a steady hum. This hum (or vibration) will continue as long as the engine is running. Should the engine stop while the car is moving, one immediately senses that it has gone dead by the absence of the hum.
The quality of the vibration in a car or a person’s body tells us what shape it is in. When the car shakes or the vibrations are rough, we sense that something is amiss. In a body, gross vibrations are a sign that the excitation or charge is not flowing freely. Just as rapids in a river denote that rocks or other obstacles impede what would otherwise be the smoothness of its course, so too gross vibrations denote that the current of excitation is flowing through muscles that are spastic or in a state of chronic tension. When the tensions are released or the muscle relaxes, the vibrations become finer, hardly perceptible on the surface yet experienced as a delightful purr. Still, it is better to shake than not to vibrate at all. Then, too, there are conditions when a body will shake because of an extremely intense charge. For instance, we shake with anger or tremble with fear, or convulse with sobs and pulsate with love; but regardless of the emotion, we are fully alive in these states.
In the course of bioenergetic work, a person’s body is brought into a state of vibration through the special exercises... The objective is to keep the vibrations going at a fine and steady purr as the excitement builds or the stress increases. In effect, one increases the body’s tolerance for excitation and for pleasure. To accomplish this the ego has to be securely anchored in the body, identified with it, and unafraid to go with the body’s involuntary responses. The end result is a person whose movements and behavior have a high degree of spontaneity and yet are coordinated and effective: the quality of
During this process there is a corresponding change in a person’s thinking and attitudes. When the vibrations pass fully through the body, a person feels connected and integrated, all of a piece. Many patients have commented on this reaction. The feeling of unity and integrity leads to a natural sincerity in thought and action. If a person develops bodily grace, he develops the corresponding psychological attitude of being gracious. Such persons are not only vibrantly alive, they are radiantly alive.
Bioenergetic analysis is the name for bioenergetic therapy. In bioenergetic therapy a person is helped to get in touch with himself through his body. By using the exercises described in this manual the person begins to sense how he inhibits or blocks the flow of excitation in his body; how he has limited his breathing, restricted his movements and reduced his self-expression; in other words, how he has decreased his aliveness. The analytic part of the therapy helps him understand the why of these mostly unconscious inhibitions and blocks in terms of his childhood experiences. He is helped and encouraged to accept and express the suppressed feelings in the controlled setting of the therapeutic situation.
The goal of the therapy is an alive body, one capable of fully experiencing the pleasures and pains, the joys and sorrows of life. The more alive we are, the more we can tolerate a heightened excitement in our daily lives and in sex. Analysis of repressed conflicts, release of suppressed feelings, and dissolution of chronic muscular tensions and blocks have the purpose of increasing a person’s capacity for pleasure.
The pleasure of being fully alive is anchored in the vibratory state of the body. It is perceived in the full pulsatory expansion and contraction of the organism and its component organ systems, the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems, for example. It is felt as streaming sensations in the body reflecting the flow of excitation. It is the sweet melting sensation of sexual desire, the flash of intuition, the longing for closeness and contact, and the throb of excitement.
Vibratory activity is, as we noted earlier, a manifestation of the inherent motility of the organism, which is also responsible for spontaneous actions, emotional releases, and internal functioning. This inherent motility is not under the control of the ego or will; it is involuntary. An alive body pulses and vibrates. Naturally, as we become older our bodies become more and more static until they reach the absolute stillness of death. But the premature loss of motility is pathological. This happens, for instance, when we become depressed. Depression is a pathological decrease in the vital functioning of the body, a diminution of motility, feeling, and responsiveness.
In addition to these involuntary movements, we also make many voluntary movements, consciously or semiconsciously, such as walking, talking, eating, and so on. In a healthy adult the two kinds of movement, the involuntary and the voluntary, are finely coordinated to produce behavior that is both graceful and effective. This is the way we would all like to be. But true grace cannot be learned. What one learns in a modeling school is how to be a mannequin, not a graceful, alive person. The pose may look attractive in a picture but it strikes one as stiff and awkward in real life, for it is achieved at the expense of the spontaneous motility of the body. One can only achieve grace by increasing the motility of the body, then fusing it with self-awareness to yield a high degree of self-possession. The mark of the graceful and gracious person, is his self-possession.
One of the most fundamental exercises in bioenergetics is also the easiest and simplest. We use it to start the vibrations in the legs and to help the person sense them. It is also our basic grounding exercise. Doing it without any preliminary warm-up may or may not result in any vibrations. Young people generally respond quickly. Older persons, whose bodies are less charged and more rigid, might not experience them. However, their legs, too, can vibrate after they have done some of the other exercises that reduce their rigidity, deepen their breathing, and increase their energetic charge (amount of energy, excitation, or current in the body)."
Excerpt from Lowen & Lowen, The Way to Vibrant Health (1977)