Bioenergetics is typically a term used in the field of biochemistry and cell biology relating to the energy flow through living systems. The primary aim of Bioenergetics as science is to describe how living organisms obtain and transform energy in order to carry out biological work.
Be that as it may, it’s not exactly what we’re going talk about in this post. We’ll look at the work of Alexander Lowen (1910 – 2008) who developed Bioenergetic Analysis (often simply called Bioenergetics or Bioenergetics Therapy), which is a form of Body-Oriented Psychotherapy (also called Mind-Body Psychotherapy or Body Psychotherapy).
As a student of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, Alexander’s work was heavily influenced by Reich’s Vegetotherapy, his concepts of Vital Energy flow, and his ideas about a person’s creation of an emotionally restrictive Muscular Armor, also called Body Armor, Emotional Body Armor, or Character Armor.
This Body Armor then is basically seen as a somatic defense mechanism, that is, a means of acquiring emotional survival and security in a family, environment, society, and/or culture that denies and suppresses body related feelings and sensations, such as sensual and sexual pleasure and joy.
On the website of The Alexander Lowen Foundation, Bioenergetics is described as “… a way of understanding personality in terms of the body and its energetic processes … and a therapeutic technique to help people get back together with the body and enjoy the life of the body to the fullest degree possible.”
Bioenergetic Analysis therapy starts with looking at the important bodily functions, such as breathing, motility, emotions, posture, gestures, and expression and tries to see if, why, and how these functions are restricted and how and where in the body these functional restrictions create a structural, defensive Body Armor and inhibit the person (i.e. patient) to function “normally.”
The therapy then combines analysis of personality and character with a range of bodywork techniques (such as Breathwork, touch, and/or massage) and physical exercises (such as stretches, movements, dance, and postural work) to recognize and release chronic muscular tension (the Body Armor), which is considered an essential step in overcoming feelings, behaviors, and attitudes that inhibit living happily and to one’s fullest potential.
In fact, it’s not so much the therapist who heals the patient, but the patient who recognizes their body-mind inhibitions, learns how body and mind influence each other, and then subsequently works on helping both body and mind to release their restrictions and blockages.
Lowen’s Bioenergetic Analysis therapy has had quite some influence on the sexual dearmoring healing practices in the Sacred Sexuality aka Neo-Tantra movement, notably in relation to its so-called somatic or embodied therapies, such as is the case in Tantra Massage, Yoni Massage, Lingam Massage, Genital Mapping, and Sexological Bodywork, among others.
Although the outcomes of research on the topic vary somewhat, Bioenergetic Analysis in particular and Body-Oriented Psychotherapy in general seem to be effective in treating psychosomatic disorders, chronic pains, emotional and psychological trauma, anger management, depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.