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Front Psychol. 2015 Jan 12;5:1424. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01424. eCollection 2014.

Bodywork as systemic and inter-enactive competence: participatory process management in Feldenkrais® Method and Zen Shiatsu.

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1
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna Vienna, Austria.

Abstract

Feldenkrais and Shiatsu enable somatic learning through continuous tactile coupling, a real-time interpersonal dynamic unfolding in a safe dyadic sphere. The first part of our micro-ethnographic study draws on process vignettes and subjective theories to demonstrate how bodywork is infused with systemic sensitivities and awareness for non-linear process management. Expressed in dynamic systems parlance, both disciplines foster metastability, adaptivity, and self-organization in the client's somato-personal system by progressively reconfiguring systemic dispositions, i.e., an attractor landscape. Doing so requires a keen embodied apperception of hierarchies of somato-systemic order. Bodyworkers learn to explore these in their eigenfunction (joints, muscles, fascia), discriminate coordinative organization in small ensembles, and monitor large-scale dynamic interplay. The practitioner's "extended body" reaching forth into the client's through a resonance loop eventually becomes part of this. Within a bodywork session, practitioners modulate this hierarchical functional architecture. Their ability for sensorially staying apace of systemic emergence allows them to respond to minute changes and customize reactions in a zone of proximal development (dynamic immediacy). They stimulate the client's system with a mix of perturbing and stabilizing interventions that oscillate between eigenfunctions and their coordinative integration. Practical knowledge for "soft-assembling" non-linear synergies is crucial for this (cumulative local effects, high-level functions "slaving" the system, etc.). The paper's second part inventorizes the bodyworker's operative tool-box-micro-skills providing the wherewithal for context-intelligent intervention. Practitioners deploy "educated senses" and a repertoire of hands-on techniques (grips, stretches, etc.) against a backdrop of somatic habits (proper posture, muscle activation, gaze patterns, etc.). At this level, our study addresses a host of micro-skills through the lens of enactive cognitive science.

KEYWORDS:

bodywork; dynamic systems theory; embodied coregulation; enactive and extended cognition; expert skills; synergies; systemic process management

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