Articles

HATHA YOGA & CHARACTER STRUCTURES

Author: Chantelle Kamycki

Chantelle Kamycki

How the practice of Hatha Yoga can be beneficial in Bodyfocused Psychotherapy

Bodyfocused psychotherapy is a therapy which combines several different streams of therapy in order to get a healthy balance between body, mind and soul. It makes use of Characterstructures, hypnotherapy, Holotropic breathing, Gestallt, Voice Dialogue, (active) meditation, Reichian focused bodywork and a few more.

Now I am very much interested in the theory’s of Wilhelm Reichs “ Musle Armouring” that was later on further developed  into the theory of “Characterstructures” by Alexander Lowen. It is a fantastic diagnostic tool which gives you a clear insight in what road the patient has traveled and which road should be taken from this point. 

In this essay I want to explain how I think that the practice of certain Hatha Yoga can be extremely beneficial in Bodyfocused psychotherapy. Because of limited time I will not be able to go as deep into the matter as much as I would like but I will give it my best.   

First of all I would like to give you an understanding of what this theory about Character structures says. It al started with the concept of Muscle armouring, discovered by Wilhelm Reich, an eminent psychiatrist and at one time the apparent heir to the position of Sigmund Freud. Reich found that the emotional disorders of his patients were to an amazing degree reflected in their body structures. In particular, patients with repressed feelings commonly had hard, rigid and permanently contracted muscles in certain areas of their body. All sorts of negative emotions seemed to be associated with specific muscles. Because these rigid muscle structures can be compared to the armour of a medieval knight, Reich then called the process of their formation 'armouring'. While the steel armour of the knight had the purpose of protecting him against physical aggression, the muscle armour serves to protect us against emotional suffering. 

Some may find it somewhat far-fetched that contracted muscles should have anything to do with how we feel. But we can easily observe ourselves that our muscles relax when at ease and becoming tense when we are apprehensive.  When we expect someone to cause us pain, such as sticking a needle into us or hitting us, we automatically tense our muscles and we may even hold our breath by contracting our diaphragm.

These are automatic body reflexes designed to diminish the expected feeling of physical pain. However, we may use the same mechanism if we want to diminish feelings for other reasons such as painful emotions.  As a young child we may have been afraid of being abandoned, so we tensed up and held our breath. Eventually we had to continue breathing but we did it rather shallow with contracted diaphragm and chest muscles. This is because of the fact that when emotions are not released in outward action, they will be solidify by causing muscle contractions, if not released in outward action. So the stronger the energetic charges of the emotion, the stronger the muscle contractions. Also other parts of the body may be more or less blocked off from the flow of emotional energies, and these parts will become weak and start wasting

Now when there is a repetitive fear response needed to us from pain, these muscle contractions may gradually become permanent. The child that feared abandonement may grow up having developed a narrow chest with weak lung functions or if only the diaphragm remains contracted, a barrel chest may result. In both instances breathing remains permanently shallow and the child is susceptible to lung infections and asthma. The advantage of the armoured chest or permanently contracted diaphragm is that we now do not feel our fear any more, it remains suppressed and subconscious. However, since everything we try to suppress eventually will find its way out, we might gradually develop other outlets of our fear, such as being afraid of heights or of public speaking, and so on.

This muscle armouring is not only helpful with fear but all other emotions we suppress for a longer period of time. Over time the armour becomes stronger and stronger with advancing age because we tend to repeat our behavior patterns over and over again. This then forms our character. Of course there are other factors that are involved in shaping our body such as nutrition and occupational muscle use. 

CHARACTER STRUCTURES

Wilhelm Reich believed that without suppressed feelings we would not have a character, as we know it. We would all be open, free and loving in our relationships and dealings with each other. Unfortunately not many of us have learnt to express our feelings in a proper way so there are many people with suppressed feelings. 

These suppressed feelings minimize or stops the free flow of feeling energies in our body which causes us to react subconsciously to these suppressed feelings instead of dealing with or seeing things like they really are (In the present) in our social interactions and life in general. 

Depending on the severity and nature of our suppressed feelings, Wilhelm Reich and his followers in bio-energetic and other forms of psychodynamic bodywork commonly have found five character structures: schizoid, oral, psychopathic, masochistic and rigid. We can have mixtures of two or more of these types but with one character type usually dominant. The following is a condensation of the works of Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen. The names used to for these characters are not to be mistaken for actual diseases as they just used to describe their armours. 

1.0 The Schizoid Character

The forming of the Schizoid shield the main emotional trauma occurred around the time of birth. This may have been a distressing time in the womb (illness of the mother or mother being abused), a distressing birth process or hostility from one or both parents towards the baby, commonly the baby was unwanted and it felt abandoned by the mother, either physically or emotionally. 

The baby deals with this by withdrawing into itself, closing itself off from the world. He will use this same technique later life even when there is not a real threat. This is because now the basic subconscious fear or anxiety is the feeling of being unwanted, having no right to exist, a psychological split between the desire to live in the physical world and a wish to withdraw into the spirit world.

In communications with others this type tends to intellectualize (they are very intelligent) and use impersonal language. The body structure is with elongated limbs and digits and weak joints, the body appears uncoordinated with right-left imbalances and often cold hands and feet. The energy structure is 'ungrounded' or 'airy-fairy' with frozen core energies. Schizoids tend to be rather spiritual and creative but in need of grounding and becoming an integrated whole. 

1.1.Bodystatus
Because of withholding energy from the perifheral structures of the body, to avoid making contact with the world, the body will often be narrow and contracted in an effort to hold together against the fear of falling apart. There will be a pervasive tension and stiffness throughout the body, with a frozen or wooden quality
The head is often large or with a large forehead, which is pushed forward, drooping down or off to the side (due to tension created at base of skull to sever the head from the body and feelings);
The shoulders would up (in fear), and arms hang like appendages. This is to prevent contact with others or violent acting out.
Feet are often cold and contracted; person is frequently “on their toes”, ungrounded, in the “fight or flight” position (curled, flexed and/or tight in the Achilles tendon);
Splits in the body are quite marked, most often between the upper and lower halves, but also between front and back and left and right sides, including the eyes, and between the head and the body (correlates to use of splitting defense);
Twisted spine (trying to get away from the threatening environment or parent that it also needs); person has particular difficulty with the “bow” position.
The breathing will be found to be very shallow, constricted breathing (cannot embrace life), and high-pitched or constricted voice; choke response is easily elicited if the person is asked to breathe deeply (or on roller);
The base of the skull, joints of the shoulders, legs and hips, the diaphragm, and the eye segment of the face are areas of severe chronic tensions.

1.2 The patient
A character type will come into the practice with issues of 

-trusting in the self, others and life                                                                                                                             -being poorly grounded with low physical energy levels.
- not being able to connect with others.                                                                                                                                         -Primal negative expression that needs release: “I hate you!” “I kill you!” (life force that needed to be suppressed because of fear of abandonment)
- Primary positive self-affirmation that needs assertion: “I have the right to be.”                                                                    -Physical pains such as twisted spine problems, stiffness in the body, neck problems or any other type of joint problems. 


1.3 Therapeutic approach
For this patient you need to establish an accepting, non-critical environment, understanding that trusting the therapist and the environment may take a long time. This is because the patient’s trust in people was badly hurt and they can get paranoid at times. 
Before teaching Asanas it is important to address proper self-care and one on one teaching will be better than group-lessons (until enough confidence is built). With this person it helps to tell personal anecdotes to relieve his highly developed judgment towards himself as being a failure.
Then the teacher should gradually guide the person into their body through breathing and grounding exercises initially. Be aware that touching or hands-on work must be very limited at first, nothing too penetrating or soothing. When you feel you need to do so, make sure you have their permission. Then help this patient to feel their feet on the ground, to feel energy in their body, to begin noticing the increasing aliveness.

1.4 Hatha Yoga practice                                                                                                                                

Preparatory movements                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Type 3                                                                                                                                                                             Inhaling: raise the arms from the sides and bring them to shoulder level (position 1). On exhale start turning to the left in the waist. Keeping both arms and shoulders in straight line, turn to the left as much as possible. At the same time keep the knees straight and the soles of the feel stuck to the floor. Inhaling come back to pos.nr 1. Then repeat in opposite direction. 

Benefit for this body type will be loosening the waist area and gaining flexibility.

Type 7                                                                                                                                                                              Bring both hands on the waist and bend the neck forward as much as possible. Chin should get fixed into the pit below the Adam’s apple. Then straighten neck and then bend it backward just so that its front side feels the strain. Straighten neck again. Then bend the neck to the left, creating pressure on the right side of the neck. Straighten the neck and then bend it to the right, creating pressure on the left side. Straighten neck again and bring both hands down in initial position.

Type 8 is the version where the neck is slowly rotated from the front- to left- to back- to right and then back- to left- to front again. 

Benefits for this body type lie in the loosening the neck, relieving the pressure in this area.

Type 11 and 12 are preparatory movement in which the wrists and knees are being slowly rotated to loosen and warm them up. 

Benefits for this type lie therein, since his joints will most likely be very stiff. 

All these (and other) preparatory movements will gently loosen up the joints, making it easier for the energy to flow through the body. And because this person usually doesn’t exercise, this will be a slow but good start. 

Asanas

Vrikshana. This is the Tree-position, which I chose because of the metaphor with an actual Tree. A tree is firmly grounded in the Earth. This is what the Schizoid charactertype also needs.                                                  This asana is performed in a standing position. On the inhalation you take both arms up above the head from the sides and join the palms at the top. You then lifte the heels and stand ont the toes and pull the whole body upward while you continue smooth breathing.                                                                                In this position the whole body, except the toes, will be stretched upward while the hands are pulled upward as much as possible. Maintaining the balance is the practice here. Throughout this position, smooth breathing should be continued, while focusing on one point in front of you. 

When releasing this posture, they inhale and bring both hands down from the sides on the exhalation.

Vrikshasana is found useful to get rid of strains built up during the practice of Asanas. Now because of the usual strains that are found in this particular bodytype, this will be a good Asana to release these strains, ground this person and balance them out. This asana is also good because it doesn’t have any precaution and thus it is good to start out with. 

Cleansing

Neti or Nasal Cleansing is the cleansing appropriate for this type. Regular practice of Jal Neti  helps to reduce anxiety, depression and other  conditions affecting the mind. This is the main goal in having this type practicing Jal Neti. Apart from that, Jal neti helps to remove the accumulated nasal mucus and the pollutants from the nasal mucosa. It removes obstructions from the nostrils and helps to create proper air flow through the nostrils. It also improves the secretion and functioning of the nose, throat and ear. It opens up the inner ear and eustacion tubes as well as the nasopharynx, thus improving hearing and preventing ear infections. 

Lukewarm water along with a small amount of salt in it, is put in a neti lota or pot. Stand with legs apart and then tilt your head in one direction, place the nozzle of the neti lota in the upper nostril and allow the water to flow in. Adjust the angle of your head to allow the water to flow out from the lower nostril Avoid the water entering into the throat. Then repeat procedure in other nostril. 

Jal neti should not be practiced if patient suffers from nasal bleeding, burning or irritation in the nose. 

Pranayama

Because this bodytype has got a very shallow breath, we should practice also Pranayama. Pranayama is the process of controlling the Prana. Whereas general breathing is about inhalation and exhalation, pranayama adds retention of breath (called Khumbaka) as well. The retention of the air will increase the level of prana (energy) in the body and regulates the flow of pranic energy though out the body. The selected Pranayama for this type is Bhramari (Humming Bee Breath)

In this Pranayama you make a sound like a humming bee on the exhalation.  Because of its proven usefulness in removing stress and mental problems like anxiety, depression and anger, this should be practiced daily by the patient.

2.0 The Oral Structure

The next phase in our development is the period in which we are totally dependent on the mother and normally breast-fed. We are depending on her for nourishment, attention and love. Without this we cannot survive and with just a little of this our normal emotional development will be interrupted. The feeling of abandonment and not being able to take care of ourselves is deeply rooted in this system. This can happen due to neglection, death of the mother or other reasons that she could not fulfill the physical or emotional needs of the baby. 

When the child has to become independent before it is ready, insecurity will also be deeply rooted. And in order to survive it will also develop the tendency to cling and grab, and has a decreased natural aggressiveness with an increased inner need to be taken care of. There is a subconscious fear of being left alone, not getting enough or what one wants or needs. The inpidual feels deprived and empty and does not want to take responsibility. Resentment is common and a forced show of independence easily crumbles under stress.

The oral personality has experienced many disappointments and rejections and feels a strong need for warmth and support from a mothering partner. In later life s/he may become bitter because there was never enough to be satisfied, 'the world is unjust'.

2.1 Bodystatus

The oral body type is generally underdeveloped, often looks tired and collapsed, has an underdeveloped muscle structure and may look immature. It usually isn’t that armored but it is soft and weak.  Their neck is often long and reaching forward (looking for nourishment). From a side view we can see a question mark from head to neck/ spine. Shoulders are rolled forward, collapsing chest and causing shallow breathing (negating the need to take in); 
Lips are often thin (holding against reaching out), jaw is clenched (against rage) and there are frequent dental problems or other physical problems around the mouth and throat; chin may be pulled in (against swallowing) or jutting out (determined not to need); in some, mouth may be very large, showing a lot of teeth (aggression, for biting); teeth may be pushed out due to an extensive period of thumb-sucking in childhood. The eyes will most often have a longing and pleading look (maybe you can give me what I need?);
Hands, feet and pelvis (points of contact with the world) are immature-looking, undercharged and often very small; arches in feet may be fallen and knees locked (making this person a “pushover”); feet and legs are not experienced as offering good support;
The energies are mainly in the head with a good intelligence, while the body energies and emotional energies are rather subdued..

2.2 The patient

This patient will come into the practice with tender pain in between shoulder blades (collapsed will center) and in lower back (premature self-support) and chronic lower back problems.                             Also the whole body is often in pain, with frequent injuries or illnesses (lower back, knees, respiratory) that take a long time to heal, due to its lack of self-support.
Also chronic areas of tension: jaw, shoulder girdle, between the shoulder blades, lower abdomen and lower back, root of the neck (all of these to prevent crying, reaching out or the expression of aggression), and in the back of the knees. Because of a general undercharge in the body this patient can complain about tiredness. And because of its body inability to hold energy, he can suffer from (manic) depressions also. Their predominant negative core beliefs are that they shouldn’t need anything or else they will be abandoned.                                                                                                                                            Generally his life problems revolve around shortage of love, money, happiness, health, energy. The main task in personal development is to give up playing the victim and learn to trust that the universe will provide

2.3 Therapeutic approach

This character type needs you to loving assertiveness. His energy will be a draining one since he is coming to you hoping subconsciously that you will fulfill his needs. This type also has the tendency of trying to merge his energy with “the other” (because of unfulfilled symbioses with the mother).  You therefore need to be fully grounded and not be sucked in the role of ‘helper’. You have to teach him how he can take care of himself bringing him into contact with his own strength. That’s why you need the assertiveness to be able to set your own boundaries and bring him in contact with his own boundaries. 

2.4 Hatha Yoga practice

Preparatory movements

For this type we want focus on himself and his strengths and abilities. Therefore I would suggest Suryanamaskar as preparatory movement. Suryanamaskar is  a series of 7 asanas which are practiced in 10 movements in which you salute the sun. It can be done as exercise when done fast and as asanas when the postures are maintained. It would be a very good exercise at first and gradually built up to maintaining the postures for a longer period of time. This would help this type to focus on his body and what it can do, apart from all the other benefits Suryanamaskar provides. The psychological side-effect  may be obtained from the fact that he has to bow for and salute to an energy that provides us the energy to live. He might start seeing things in a different, greater perspective. 

Asanas

We want to ground this person and built up the physical strength in his body, legs first to built a good foundation for him to carry himself and be grounded. For this purpose I have selected Veerasana.

Veerasana (Warrior pose) improves the strength and blood supply to the joints, stretch abdominal muscles and maintaining a proper balance. Strength in both arms and legs is slowly built up.

In this pose you step the left leg forward at a maximum distance from the right leg. Then you bend the left knee at a 90 degree angle and place the hands on the knee, palms joined together. Then exhale and while inhale raise the joined hands up over the head, let the neck fall back so the gaze is towards the ceiling and arch the spine backwards. Continue to maintain the asana, breathing normally.                      Releasing the pose you slowly straighten the body and the neck, lowering the arms back down so the hands rest on the knee. Then straighten the knee and release the hands. Then restore the left leg to its place and return to standing position. Practice on opposite side.                                                                      Slowly increase the maintaining of the asana. If you set the standards too high he will be reconfirmed in his core belief that he “cannot do it”, and will give up.                                                                             Precautions are 

Cleansing

Kapalbhati is the cleansing recommended for this type. Since Kapalbhati strengthens and exercises the muscles of the respiratory system and also increasing the efficiency of the lung capacity, it will be very beneficial for this type whose chest is deflated/ collapses due to a very shallow breathing. It is also very good because it removes distractions and energizes the mind. It strengthens the nervous system and brings a state of lightness and clarity to the mind. Because this type finds it hard to decide on what he wants the latter is a very good reason to practice Kapalbhati.

Process: Sit in any comfortable sitting position with the hands on the knees. Relax the body and breath naturally to bring awareness to the breath and abdomen. Inhale deeply and exhale with a forceful, but never straining, contraction of the abdominal muscles. The next inhalation will occur passively as the abdominal muscles relax and expand. There shouldn’t be any effort. Continue with the active exhalation and passive inhalation. If necessary have a break and breathe naturally and then continue.                      The duration of this practice should be, again, slowly increased to capacity and strength, generally but especially with this type.            

                                                                                                                                                                                           Precautions are when you would exceed 120 repetitions per minute. This is not advisable. Those with heart problems, high blood pressure and lung problems should only practice this technique under expert guidance. When dizzy, the practice should be stopped and then normal breath would be continued. Pregnancy is a contra-indication for this cleansing. 

Pranayama

Same as with the schizoid type, anything that increases the breathing capacity is good to practice, since both these types suffer from very shallow breathing. Ujjayi- pranayama or Victorious breath is particularly beneficial to this type due to its mind soothing and strengthening capacity.                          This Pranayam is done with inhalation via nostrils then performing Bandhas and exhaling through both nostrils. During inhalation and exhalation a typical sound (Ujjayi-sound) should be created by compressing the epiglottis in the throat. It is similar to hissing sound but created in throat with lips closed.                                                                                                                                                                       Since this Pranayam lowers the blood pressure, it should not be practiced when having low blood pressure.  In this case Bhramari is more preferable (see pranayam for schizoid type)

3.0 The Psychopathic type  

The psychopathic structure is formed in early childhood one or both parents manipulated, seduced, sexualized, or otherwise used child (covertly or directly) for their own narcissistic purposes; parents instilled in the child an image of how they wanted the child to be in order for the adults to feel good about themselves.  The child then tries to live up to expectations of which it knows it can never live up to. This way the ‘achiever’ is born. The sad thing is that the real reward of being loved for who you are without having to perform first, is never gained.                                                                                       Other factors are that the parents may have used the child as a buffer or weapon against each other or there was a role reversal in which the child was maneuvered, often with sexual overtones and promises of love that were never delivered, into being the pseudo-spouse or pseudo-parent to a parent ; the child was expected to be more than he or she was to that parent (“Mommy’s little man”; “Daddy’s little princess”).
Also when one or both parents competed with the child, feeling threatened by the child’s real or imagined accomplishments, and sadistically exploited the child’s weaknesses to humiliate, control and diminish the child’s self-confidence. 
Deep inner feelings of inferiority are covered by superficial feelings of superiority and contempt. This person develops the belief: "I am right, you are wrong", a need to win and does not take defeat easily. Inwardly the psychopath feels the need for others but fears appearin

g to be dependent or even look like a victim. Pleasure comes second to conquest and control. Needs are fulfilled by making others need him or her. The will is the predominant mental function.

3.1 Bodystatus
In general the upper half of the body is overdeveloped and the lower half underdeveloped. The chest is wide but the pelvis narrow and the legs weak. The main energy flows are centered in and around the upper body and the front of the head. Armoring is particularly marked in the chest, diaphragm, legs and shoulders. Arms tend to be immobilized and away from the body (due to the inflated chest and severe shoulder girdle tensions)                                                                                                                                                            This way the body is “designed” to serve the purposes of dominating or seducing in order to ‘survive.

3.2 The patient

The psychopathic type will usually come in a later stage of any illness because physical illnesses are often not felt since the suppressing of feelings is his core survival. When he does come in he will most likely suffer from problems in the hips, prostate, pelvis in general, or the heart.
The spine may be twisted or fused and immobile and chronic areas of tension will be found at the  base of the skull, shoulder girdle, chest and rib cage, including the diaphragm, waist and abdominal muscles (which are often hard and clenched to pull sexual energy away from genitals) and pelvic area.                   Life problems usually revolve around his dissatisfaction of things not going his way and he wants to fix that.                                        


3.3 Therapeutic approach
As a therapist you need to develop the capacity for empathy and compassion because this type constantly test you on knowledge and capacity in various areas by competing with you.                                                                                                                                                                               Become aware of the feelings of emptiness from trying to “win”, “be right”, “be on top”, “get revenge”, “have it my way”, etc., when the real desire is to be able to trust. Therefore be totally honest, set your boundaries and do not enter into any competition. 

3.4 Hatha Yoga practice

Preparatory movements

This type has a lot of energy but is usually not flexible. Therefore I would suggest Suryanamaskar again as preparatory movement. As explained before Suryanamaskar is  a series of 7 asanas which are practiced in 10 movements in which you salute the sun. It can be done as exercise when done fast and as asanas when the postures are maintained. It would be a very good exercise to loosen and lubricate joints and stretch the muscles. The psychological side-effect may be the same as for the oral type with the accent slightly different. This inpidual finds it hard to bow to anyone and therefore bowing to something greater might increase his humility just a little. 

Another preparatory movement is “Grinding the Mill” as preparation for the asana that is to be practiced after this. From sitting spread the legs apart, straighten the arms in front and clasp the hands. Slowly rotate as if grinding a mill. Repeat in other direction. 

Asana

All forward and backward bends will be extremely good for increasing the flexibility in spine and hopefully eventually making the mind more flexible as well. Still, for this type I chose a twisted pose         “ Vakrasana Type 1”  which will also increase the flexibility in the spine an stretches the muscles of the back side of the body from head to ankles. It also improves the flexibility of the lumbar region, the hips and thighs.                                                                                                                                                              Taking the position.                                                                                                                                                      You bend the left leg at the knee and place the left heel near the thigh, keeping the sole of the left foot firmly on the ground. Then place left hand and right hand on the ground near the right thigh with the fingers of both hands facing each other. Then twist the trunk of the body and the neck to the right, keeping the spine erect, looking back over the shoulder. Continue to maintain the asana, breathing normally.  The right leg should e straight. Turn tot the right side in the spine, turn shoulders and head to the right. They should not bend. Buttocks should not be lifted off the ground.   Don’t overstrain the knees.                                                                                                                                                                                To release the position turn the neck to the front, restore the hands beside the body, then straighten the left leg and return to the sitting position. Practice from other side.                                                           The duration is 2 minutes. 

When patient suffers from serious spinal column complaints this asana should be avoided. Also after recent abdominal surgery, hernia or prolapse, during pregnancy or menstruation, it should be avoided.   

Cleansing

There are many different cleansing techniques in Hatha Yoga, but Vaman Dhouti is the one I would recommend for this bodytype. As this bodytype has a tendency to hold up, meaning also putting tension on the abdominal area and blocking the free flow of prana. Since Vaman Dhauti helps to increase the efficiency of the abdominal muscle, thus this cleansing technique will help them release the tension in this area, unblocking the abdomen so the prana can flow freely to the lower regions of the body. 

The process of Vaman Dhauti is started by drinking two glasses of lukewarm water with salt added to it (to prevent the water from being absorbed by the body). 6 to 8 Glasses should be consumed and one should continue drinking until the stomach feels full and heavy. It is important that the water is taken in fast. After this the urge to vomit will occur. Then lean forward and put the index, middle and ring finger of your right hand in the mouth. Rub gently at the base of the tongue near the throat and induce vomiting. Try to empty the stomach completely.

Pranayama

Since this type has a lot of blocked energy and heat in the upper body, one of the cooling breaths would be best practiced by this type. Sitkari is one of the cooling breaths and this is done by opening the lips while keeping the upper and lower teeth touching each other, then inhaling through mouth with a hissing sound, then performing Kumbhaka (holding of breath) with bandhas and then exhaling through the nostrils. The air passing via tongue cools the blood, lowering the temperature of the blood. This type of Pranayama removes excess heat in the body and the diseases like acidity, hypertensia etc. This Pranayama harmonizes the secretions of the reproductive organs and al the endocrine system also. It helps improve digestion, lowers high blood pressure and purifies the blood. Only precaution is when having a cold or upcoming cold.


4.0 The Masochistic Character type

This child was severely domineered or smothered by the parents and usually the mother in particular. Their love was totally conditional. The mother may have been self-sacrificing and the child was made to feel guilty whenever it was resisting and trying to assert itself. Feelings of being defeated, trapped and humiliated are very common to this type. To survive this suffering the real feelings were held inside and creativity suppressed. Much anger, hate and resentment is hidden underneath a submissive and polite appearance.  The parents also couldn’t deal with his childlike liveliness or the childlike problems. Liveliness would have been shushed and so would sorrow.                                                                                             Eventually this inpidual will complain a lot and will also dwell on the negative side of things. By subconsciously provoking others s/he may be given an excuse to become angry, to let of steam, but generally the outward attitude is to please others. The energies and emotions are internalized. To become free, the masochist needs to express feelings and become more assertive.

4.1 Bodystatus
The body is typically shortened, with overdeveloped muscles and may be heavily built with a short neck and waist. The shoulder muscles are usually enlarged to bear the heavy burdens. Tensions are strongest in the neck, jaw, throat and pelvis. The pelvis is usually pushed forward because of the pulling in  of the buttocks which are also squeezed together. The waist is short and thick, encased, compressed and collapsed (from pulling in and down from the top and up and in from the bottom to control impulses to let out); in women, hips and thighs are often thick and heavy; in men, the abdomen often like balloons. Inhalation will be obstructed by the abdominal compression which affects the whole diaphragmatic segment, making exhalation difficult and hindering all of the organs in the area; masochist very often have a reversed breath. 
Also there is anal and genital tension and spasticity (causing acute suffering and inability to freely experience pleasure) as the whole pelvic floor is contracted;
Expression in the eyes is one of suffering, often combined with compulsive smiling.

4.2 The patient                                                                                                                                                                This type will come in with chronic physical ailments of the throat and colon/anal region, such as sore throats, colitis, constipation and hemorrhoids, and digestive problems. Life problems revolve around assertiveness and heavy burdens (which he usually takes on himself since the assured that if he doesn’t do it, no one will…)

4.3 Therapeutic approach

This type will not easily be helped. He will ask of you to help him but with a deeply underlying conviction that he can’t be helped; his problems are too heavy and he couldn’t really burden you with it. So he never really takes in actual advices. Also know that this person puts itself constantly under a high pressure, so any ‘advice’ will just be more pressure added to him and gives him reason to quit therapy and to reconfirm his conviction;  “ I cannot be helped I must deal alone. ’

4.4 Hatha Yoga

Preparatory movements

Type 2 and 3 will be very good to loosen the waist and prepare for the asana.                                                  In type 2 you inhale while raising both arms from the sides until they are parallel with the floor. Then exhale bend forward and twisting slightly place the left hand on the right foot, grabbing the big toe. Keeping the right arm straight above and gaze to the right hand. Then Inhale and straighten up and keep the arms parallel to the ground. Then repeat on other side.                                                                                In type 3 you inhale bringing both arms from the sides until they are parallel with the floor. Then exhaling slowly while twisting to the left side in the waist and keeping the arms parallel to the floor.  On inhalation return to the front.  Then repeat on other side. 

Asana

The asana that I have chosen for this type is the Halasana (Plough pose). Because this type has a lot of tension in abdominal area as well as neck and shoulder area and cannot speak out properly, I thought it would be helpful to increase the tension there through the asana so that the effect afterwards will be that actually will be able to feel relaxations in these area. (Sometimes if you can’t relax a muscle you should try to tighten it even further and then loosen it before you can feel relaxation there, this is the effect I’m going for here)                                                                                                                                                      Now, other benefits of this position are that it improves the function of the abdominal organs, particularly the pancreas which stimulates the secretion of insulin. And the breathing movements of the diaphragm help to massage the abdominal organs which will very good for this stuck up type.                   It also improves the tone and strength of back muscles as the back is folded, as well as the leg muscles and abdominal muscles and removes the rigidity of the back muscles. Spinal nerves benefit also as do the thyroid, parathyroid and pituitary glands.                                                                                                             

This asana is done from supine position. 

You exhale and while inhale you slowly raise the legs to a 90 degree angle from the floor.  Then exhaling raise the waist and hips, taking the legs over the head, keeping them suspended above the ground. After exhaling fully, lower the leg further down and rest the toes on the floor. Keep the toes stretched and breathe normally. Make sure you don’t bend the knees or move the neck or overstrain it while in chin lock position. Keep the legs straight with toes vertical on the ground over your head. Put arms straight with palms on the ground and chin resting against the chest.  Getting out of the position you exhale and inhale while you lift the toes up from the floor, keeping the legs straight in the knees. Cointinue inhaling and slowly lower the spine back down to the ground, keeping the legs at a 90 degree angle with the floor. Exhaling slowly lower both legs back to the supine position.                                                                                                                                                                         Duration is 30 seconds. 

After getting out of this position the Matsyasana (Fish pose) should be practiced to balance out the pressure to the chest and thyroid area. In this position the person takes any crossed legged meditative position he’s comfortable in while laying in supine. Then with the support of the elbows the head is raised and the neck curved backward. Now the top of the head is put on the floor creating an arch in the back. Hold the toes of the feet with opposite hands and continue normal breathing. This then will create a nice stretch to the front of the body which will be very beneficial to this type too as all stretches will be good for this one.             

However this should not be preformed by people suffering from high blood pressure or brain diseases. Menstruation and pregnancy are contra-indication too.     

Cleansing                                                                                                                                                                                       Here also Vaman Dhouti is the one I would recommend for this type. As this type has the tendency to hold back on his emotions and thought, he contracts the abdominal area to do so. This way he puts a lot of tension on the abdominal area and blocking the free flow of prana. Since Vaman Dhauti helps to increase the efficiency of the abdominal muscle, this cleansing technique will help them release the tension in this area and help him also lose some of the emotions he’s got trapped inside him. 

The process of Vaman Dhauti is started by drinking two glasses of lukewarm water with salt added to it (to prevent the water from being absorbed by the body). 6 to 8 Glasses should be consumed and one should continue drinking until the stomach feels full and heavy. It is important that the water is taken in fast. After this the urge to vomit will occur. Then Then lean forward and put the index, middle and ring finger of your right hand in the mouth. Rub gently at the base of the tongue near the throat and induce vomiting. Try to empty the stomach completely.

Another good alternative or additive would be Agnisar Dhouti. 

Pranayama

This body suffers from a lot of tension. The body has a lot of energy but is blocked all over. So any pranayama that helps release this tension would be very good and get the prana flowing again would be very good. With this goal in mind I’ve selected the Bhashrika (Bellow’s breath) which is a vitalizing type of pranayama which is considered as the most powerful one. It is reenergizing and increases the prana. It also reduces the weight and brigs overall health to all the systems. It affects the nervous system and makes it stronger. But if practiced wrongly it can result in many problems related to the nervous system.                                            In this the lungs operate like the bellow, fast inhalation and fast exhalation, followed by inhaling through right nostril and performing kumbhaka (retention of breath) with bandhas (energy locks) and exhaling through left nostril. Simple variation of this pranayama is 1 cycle of fast breathing (about 25 to 49 rounds with both nostrils in halation and both nostril exhalation) followd by long and deep inhalation through right nostril and long deep exhalation through left nostril.                                    

5.0 The Rigid Structure

When a child reaches the age of 4-5 it realizes that it is a male or a female for the first time. It then wants to share this discovery with the world around him. The parent of the opposite sex becomes highly interesting because of the differences. In this vulnerable phase, this type has felt its sexuality rejected, especially by the parent of the opposite sex. Sexuality at this age may mean innocently touching or playing with the sexual organs which is strictly forbidden by the parent, and a longing to be close to the parent of the opposite sex by being touched and cuddled remains unfulfilled. The child deals with this perceived rejection by developing a rigid muscle structure that makes it easier to suppress the feelings of wanting and longing.                                                                                                                                                   Another cause could be that the parent of the same sex strongly encouraged the child to express that parent’s repressed sexual feelings. For example the mother dressing daughter up in “sexy” outfits or the father encouraging son to be a “ladies’ man”. Or that parent inappropriately confided in the child about the details of the marital relationship;
When the parent of the opposite sex was significantly absent from the child’s life during the 3rd to 5th year of life (due to work, illness, death or porce, etc.) it may also lead to developing this structure.

Growing up the rigid inpidual will hold back, remain controlled, holding back the expression of feelings and will not dare to surrender in fear of being deeply shamed or guilty again. Pride does not allow him or her to reach out to fulfill his or her needs; instead this type prefers to manipulate to get what it wants.

While there is a high degree of outer control and success in the social and physical world, the rigid person tries to protect the inner vulnerability and is afraid of getting hurt. A strong ego is used to avoid letting go of inner feelings. A common complaint is that s/he does not experience strong feelings.

The energies remain on the periphery while the core is contracted. The body is well balanced and appears energetic and integrated. The inpidual needs to open up and share all feelings.

5.1 Bodystatus  

Though the body is generally integrated and harmonious, with body parts proportionate, there is often rigidity and excessive uprightness in the posture. This will show in a rigidly held straight back and neck which would correlate to pride. The pelvis is pulled back, while the chest is pushed out with exaggerated authority or seductiveness (“You can want me, but you can’t have me.”) Chronic areas of tension: the long muscles of the body, inner thigh muscles, vaginal muscles in women.
Face wise in men, the face may be sharply masculine and very hard-looking; in women the face may be doll-like. Walking or gesturing tends to be sexual and flirtatious, or very businesslike.

5.2 The patient

 There is little capacity to bind energy with armoring, so this person is prone to the development of psychosomatic symptoms that appear and disappear without any apparent physical cause (vertigo, fainting, loss of vision, skin rashes, allergies, hyperventilating, heart palpitations, paralysis, etc.). Very often they consider illnesses as failure and do not easily come for help, especially  for mental or emotional problems. This type is prone to neuroses due to the lack of flexibility in approaches to life’s tasks and relationships.

5.3 Therapeutic approach

It is not uncommon for this type to fall in love with their therapist. Be aware of that and stay clear from engaging into any seduction from their side.                                                                                                       Normally in body focused psychotherapy we would work on getting them to relax and let go of their set ways of doing and thinking and their urge to stay in control. This way they may become aware of and open up to the true depth and beauty of the self that exists beyond the superficiality of appearances and performances. To get them to acknowledge and experience the different aspects of the personality, opening the lines of communication between them, while establishing identification with the adult self. But since these types almost never go into therapy, yoga would be a fantastic alternative for them.

5.4 Hatha Yoga 

My guess is that with developing flexibility in the body, particularly the back of the body and neck and the tensor and flexor muscles. Apart from developing natural sensual movements rather than exaggerated gestures of sexual “come on”, they will hopefully learn to loosen up mentally and emotionally as well. 

Preparatory movements

Grinding the mill- movement to loosen up the waist for 6 times to each side.  (for description see PM for Masochistic type)                                                                                                                                                            Then from sitting spread the legs apart, bend forward and touch the right foot with the left hand looking over the right shoulder, repeat 6 times on each side.                                                                                          

Asana

Since we want to develop flexibility in the body, particularly the back of the body and neck, I’ve chosen the Paschimottanasana (Full Forward Bend) for this type to practice. It stretches the muscles of the back side of the body from head tot the ankles while it contracts the muscles of the anterior part of the body. It also improves the flexibility of the lumbar region, hips and thighs and is therefore very beneficial to this type.  All forward bends would be beneficiary to this type as these poses get you to turn inward. Twisted poses are also recommended since they help you see different ways and go more easily with the flow.  Also backbends would be super for this type to practice as it opens up the thorax and thus the heart region.                                                                                                                                                                  Getting into the pose.                                                                                                                                                          First you inhale. Then on the exhalation grab hold of the big toes or feet with corresponding hands. If feet cannot be grabbed, then ankles or calves or even knees are ok.  Then exhale out completely and fold forward from the waist while keeping the back straight, try to rest the forehead on the knees (which should be straight at all times). Continue to maintain the asana while breathing normally.                       Duration is 30 seconds.                                                                                                                                              Getting out of the position.                                                                                                                                      You exhale and while inhaling you raise the head. Then release the hands and return to sitting position. 

Precautions are for people who’ve got slipped discs, sciatica or just had abdominal surgery.  With this body type you should remind them to be gentle with themselves and not to push it to the limit because they are perfectionists.

Cleansing

For this type I chose the Jalneti cleansing. Since this type has very fixed views on things and Jalneti helps increasing the awareness of Ajna Chakra, I think it could be help this type seeing things in a bigger perspective.  In case of blocked nostrils or prone to nose bleeds this should not be practiced.                                                                                                                               Voman Dhouti (as recommended before) would also be very good for this type as he finds it hard to surrender and let go of control. 

Jalneti procedure.                                                                                                                                                          In a jug mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 500 mils of warm water. Fill the neti pot with water. Usually the neti pot holds 125 ml. Bend the knees and place one hand on the knee. Tilt the head to the side and insert the spout into the upper nostril. Keep the  mouth open and breathe naturally through it. The water will naturally flow of the lower nostril. Sometimes a little water may flow down the throat or face. In that case adjust the position of the head. Everybody is different and when the correct position

Pranayama

Because of its relaxation quality I chose Ujjayi as pranayama for this type. This Pranayam is done with inhalation via nostrils then performing Bandhas and exhaling through both nostrils. During inhalation and exhalation a typical sound (Ujjayi-sound) should be created by compressing the epiglottis in the throat. It is similar to hissing sound but created in throat with lips closed.                                                                                                                                                                       Since this Pranayam lowers the blood pressure, it should not be practiced when having low blood pressure.  In this case Bhramari is more preferable (see pranayam for schizoid type). 

Conclusion of how Hatha Yoga can be beneficial in Bodyfocused Psychotherapy.

Let me start with saying that writing this essay has given me a deeper understanding of the completeness of Hatha Yoga. I under stand more than before that it is foremost a lifestyle which is meant to prevent illnesses to the body and mind. It is, as Dr. Profulla Dorle said, a way of normalization.  However, being a bodyfocused psychotherapy it has been fun trying to find out how I can help my clients help themselves by doing Hatha Yoga. Of course there’s a book load more to write and study on this subject but since time and sources were limited which is why I only gave one example of Asana, Cleansing and Pranayam.  

Nevertheless I can conclude that Hatha Yoga can be uttermost beneficial in bodyfocused psychotherapy. It helps “melting” the physical armour by having them go with in, open up, strengthen and see different ways, just by focusing their body and mind. I think it is “Very nice, very nice”

“The views expressed above are solely those of the author. Yogapoint.com may or may not agree with these statements.”

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