What is Body Mind Centering® ?
Body-Mind Centering®, developed by Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen, is a way to combine bodywork and more passive manipulation of tissues with the active form of movement re-education. She was trained in dance and worked as an occupational therapist in rehabilitation centres in the 1960s in which she became more and more fascinated by the body’s natural healing ability. Her interest led her to study with both Eastern and Western teachers of various body therapies, movement educational approaches, martial arts and vocal work. Most of her knowledge however accumulated from the thousands of students with whom she worked: infants, children and adults. With her endless curiosity, openness and desire to stay present in the ‘not-knowing’ areas she learnt from all situations and developed a finely-tuned sensitivity to both her own and other people’s subtle changes of mind and body. She was able to observe movement patterns and obstructions in people’s postural expressions and link it to the flow of the mind, either smooth or disrupted. The comprehensive theoretical framework of Body-Mind Centering® (BMC) developed from her studies, clinical work and teaching.
“There is something in nature that forms patterns. We, as part of nature, also form patterns. The mind is like the wind and the body like the sand; if you want to know the wind is blowing, you can look at the sand.” – Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen
Cellular Awareness and Experiential Anatomy
The human cell is the foundation of human life. By attending to its structure and intelligence we learn about the body as a whole. BMC attends to the relationship between the smallest level of activity in the body, the ‘breathing’ of the cells, to whole body movements. Although the internal structure of all cells is the same they look very different to each other depending on their specialised function in the body. Groups of cells come together and form tissues, which combine to create organs. Tissues and organs make up the body systems. BMC classifies them slightly differently to classical anatomy based on their qualities; Skeletal, Muscular, Nervous, Endocrine, Fluid, Immune and Organ system. Each body system can be seen to have its own ‘mind’, a form of awareness in which they perceive, feel, and respond. This form of ‘mind’ is different from the common notion of rational thought. As we bring our inner awareness of a particular body system through the method of Experiential Anatomy we experience its specific quality, movements and feeling states. Together the body systems form a complete and integrated framework of support within the body. BMC helps to find the unique expression of each body system and attends to any system that needs more support for a healthier integration of them all.
Embryology and Infant Movement Development Patterns
Body Mind Centering® takes us back to the moment of conception and the specific movements at various stages of the embryological process as the first cell grows into a baby. These early movement patterns within the womb form the foundation of all other movements of the human body. At birth the baby transitions from a life free from gravity in the amniotic fluid to an environment of air and friction that is physically disconnected from the mother by cutting the umbilical cord. The nine months of the baby’s life is a continuation of the gestation process that began in the womb, a growth process that ends in the baby standing and walking. Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen identified different developmental stages of movement through which the infant progressively moves through towards whole-body integration. They help the baby experience concepts of time, space and energy as it learns to travel through space and interact with objects for sensory stimulation. Each movement development pattern gives rise to new perceptions that are associated with psychological and behavioural patterns. The perceptions and experiences gained from one pattern in turn influence the infant’s actions and ability to smoothly progress to the next developmental movement stage. This developmental process is both universal and uniquely individual. If an infant hasn’t gained the full integration and experience of an earlier movement pattern before progressing to the next one this can lead to movement issues, imbalances in the body systems, and psychological distortions of perception and organisation. It is possible to go back as an adult to re-experience these patterns to address any imbalances and bring about fuller integration of the body and mind.