Gerda Alexander (1908-1994), the founder of Eutony, assumed that we carry the “body image” as a basic endowment from the beginning of our life. It is altered or partially deleted by events such as injuries or pain. However, it is also possible to work on its recovery. Eutony stimulates you to deal with your own body’s perceptions. This can lead to a deepening or refinement of the body image. A refined body image affects the whole person, his or her personality, his or her way of life. Current research in neurology has repeatedly confirmed that good self-perception and self-confidence are rooted in physical perceptions.
In addition to the exercises on the floor and in movement and rest, there is another level on which Gerda Alexander has worked with the body image: the so-called body image test, working with clay, whereby a human figure is created with closed eyes. In the case of the modelages, it is not anatomical correctness or artistic pretensions that are important, but one’s own interpretation: the person who has created a figure gives it a subjective meaning when looking at it and thus has the opportunity to recognize new aspects of him- or herself in the shaped figure.
Gerda Alexander:”It is about developing a holistic picture of the body, which is essential for one’s own expression, for one’s own demarcation in space. If this is not clear enough, you cannot find an appropriate attitude towards yourself or the outside world.”
The body image test has been adopted as a technique by many professions, such as psychotherapists.
My experiences with Eutony in 1981 made it possible for me to live almost without back pain after my leg amputation. Here are two examples:
- In my work with an Eutony therapist, I was able to learn how to feel and perceive the ground through my leg prosthesis and what kind of surface I am walking on.
- When I was in class with Gerda Alexander in Copenhagen, we spent a lot of time with skin perception. When I was working with my partner on drawing the body outline of my legs, I was able to tell exactly where the thin bamboo stick was touching, lying on my back and without looking at it, even on the prosthesis.
The fact that I was able to deal with my body image so early after my leg amputation gave me a tool to rebuild my relationship with this changed body. For me, the concept of body image had something like an inner authority. I could work with it and turn to my body image when I didn’t know what or how to do something.
From my experiences I distinguish different levels of the body image:
- a physical, structural level: here you can perceive tension or well-being. For example, a tense back when someone is sitting down and does not place his feet flat on the floor.
- a functional level: this is where weaknesses and strengths of activities are revealed. For example, someone with hay fever will have different activities at certain times of the year than a person who does not have allergies. A person suffering from pain sees himself/her in the world differently than someone who is used to having everything under control and achieving goals.
- a social level: this is about how a person encounters the world, how involved and supported a person is in his or her everyday life. For example, someone who is married with a comfortable living standard and has a lot of recognition feels different than a single person with a part-time job who is barely making ends meet.
- a spiritual or spiritual level: is there an elementary trust in living contexts, a feeling of security in a larger whole, – or does a person feel alone, on his own and separated from all life around it? Or something in between? This basic feeling of oneself and the environment influences how one shapes one’s life.
All these levels of the body image overlap and influence our actions, whether we are aware of it or not. Life is a dynamic process. To adjust our inner attitude to the current situation is our subject in Eutony. By paying attention to our body, we can get to know our strengths and weaknesses better. We are increasingly in a position to deal with imbalances appropriately and lead a more satisfying life. The body image is the foundation on which we can expand and it take with us on our way into the world.