Yoga Poses for Grief

THE BASIC REICHIAN POSTURE: LYING ON ONE’S BACK

Going from psychoanalysis to body psychotherapy, Reich kept one constant variable: the patient is, more often than not, lying down on his back on a couch. Yet the therapist is now sitting next to the patient and even sometimes invites a visual contact.

When I speak of the basic Reichian posture (see Figure A.3), I refer to the following position:

1. The patient is stretched out on his back.

2. The patient has bent his legs so that the feet are flat on the support surface.

3. The insides of the legs and feet do not touch.

4. The feet are parallel and separated almost the width of the shoulders.

5. The “correct” distance between the feet and the pelvis is determined in yoga poses this way: ask the individual lying down to lift and drop the pelvis several times. A proper placement of the feet is the one that facilitates this movement; an improper one inhibits this movement.

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6. The position does not aim at comfort. It even seeks to render the tensions of the body perceptible to the patient and the therapist. A dialogue on the location of these tensions is sought. Therefore, the therapist does not immediately ask the patient if he wants a cushion or invite him to choose the position he wants. The slight gap between the legs and the parallel position of the feet may make the tensions on the inside of the thighs more tangible. Reich relates these tensions to the fear of sexual pleasure.

I have not found any text in yoga poses which Reich describes this position. I have reconstructed it from discussions with individuals who worked with Ola Raknes (e.g., Gerda Boyesen, Bj0rn Blumenthal), and with Eva Reich. This posture is also compatible with all of the cases described since 1933. This was Reich’s default position; he sometimes observed someone standing or conversed with a patient who was sitting down.

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