Important Note: Bothmer Therapy is currently in the process of being recognised as Anthroposophical Body Therapy by the Medical Section at the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland. The procedure is expected to be completed in September 2023.
The Bothmer Movement exercises offer us a unique way of movement. Experiencing movement and space with the help of these exercises can lead to new possibilities in diagnosis and therapy.
Bothmer Movement in Therapy
"Educating is gentle healing - healing is dramatic education"
The knowledge of the healthy precedes the recognition of the pathology. The knowledge of the healthy movement-development is fundamental to the recognition and treatment of any divergence.
The Bothmer Movement exercises provide us movement experiences, which in turn enable us to diagnose and to treat in a unique spatial way, because the structures of the higher bodies are reflected in the movement pattern of the child and adult.
In Bothmer therapy we use complete Bothmer exercises as well as parts of the exercises, which lead us into a process. Physiotherapeutic techniques are used as well, but are applied in a different way, through a transformed understanding of movement. They are focused on the processes behind the physical symptoms and create their beneficial effects out of this. In the therapeutical work we can create new exercises and techniques, based on our understanding of movement, gained through Bothmer Movement.
Shortly after the first Waldorf School opened in Stuttgart in 1919, Rudolf Steiner noticed the bad posture of the pupils. He pointed out the need for a physical education program, which should be developed based on anthroposophy. He found that Fritz Graf von Bothmer was the suitable teacher for this job. Bothmer was the one, who was given the task of devising the sport curriculum lessons based on the spiritual science of anthroposophy for the Waldorf School. Thus, he created the gymnastics exercises in the classroom, together with the children as well as in consultations with Rudolf Steiner. The goal of the exercises is to support the harmony of the soul-spiritual and the physical in their development.
“Physical exercise as education”: Physical exercise, which is at the same time education, and thus offers people valued education for body, mind and soul (freely quoted from Bothmer, 1931) At the Waldorf School, in addition to the Bothmer gymnastics exercises, games, apparatus gymnastics, sport based games as well as sports are part of the PE curriculum.
During his school holidays Bothmer regularly taught in Dornach. Marie Steiner hired him to work with actors. There Dr Ita Wegman encountered Bothmer gymnastics. She recognized the huge therapeutic potential of the movement. She would have liked to have Fritz v. Bothmer work at her therapeutic clinic in Arlesheim. Unfortunately Fritz von Bothmer did not have enough time for this work. See also: Bothmer’s Biography.
Basis of Bothmer Gymnastics
The foundation of this gymnastics is the image of man, as it is understood in anthroposophy: the physical body, the oldest, most evolved part of our being, which is animated by the living, differentiated by the soul, seized, transformed and changed by the individuality, the “I”. The physique of man is called to the centre of the attention in a special way. It is essential to develop an understanding of that the physical body creates/builds an entity (device), created of extrasensory force-organism filled with matter. This force organization is addressed in the Bothmer gymnastics in a special way. “ … its element is the spiritual, which created the body and speaks from him as will.” (Fritz Graf von Bothmer, 1924.)
Furthermore, the organism of movement should be considered as a whole, all-encompassing entity: the age-specific, physiological movement-processes as well as the origin of human movement are necessary part of it.
This brings us to the surrounding space; the counter space, as it is called in projective geometry, out of which healthy movement becomes possible at all. Using the body with movement coming from the periphery, where, following the laws of space, everything originates from the surrounding, is fundamental to Bothmer gymnastics. This way, the forces of the will, which are inherent in movement, are brought to the consciousness. The everyday space is extended into the surrounding space.
"Man determines space … His consciousness distinguishes the difference between the dimensions, giving them meaning and measure. His consciousness is the centre, it determines directions and it is woven into the encircling sphere. " (Bothmer)
The qualities of space: the front-back, right-left, top-bottom, as well as heavy-light, centre-periphery are all very different and have a formative, shaping function in the development of the body and thus have an effect on the whole person.
Bothmer gymnastics is a tool, which helps us to perceive and to include these forces of space and those dimensions into our movement (into ourselves) as well as lets our movement be shaped by them. In an actual therapeutical situation this set is the basic requirement, so the therapist working together with the patient, is able to find a healing method.
A simple example to illustrate how to work from the periphery: when you want to make a basket-throw, you first inwardly connect with the goal, with the basket. While doing this, the movement-image of the optimal trajectory will arise in you. While executing the throw, you try to send the ball on its optimal path: this is then a purposeful physical movement, which has moved from the periphery into the movement.
It is worth mentioning another important topic of movement therapy: the importance of the motoric nerves as sensitive nerves in experiencing movement. That means; the connection of our individuality coming from the surrounding space to the physique in movement is a process of perception. Following this idea further, one can understand its significance in our social environment. Because, if in a given situation my reaction is a result of my understanding of the target and the whole picture, then such an understanding will have a healing effect on the social life and relationships.
R. Steiner points at the ideal image of the human movement, which should be the example for the teacher and/or therapist and which one aims to become by practising. It is, basically, the keynote of healing. Being healthy is the ultimate goal that therapeutical work has to achieve.
Fritz v. Bothmer: "The essence of this movement schooling (respectively therapy) is to use the play of forces at work in the human movement in such a way as to evoke the ideal picture of the greater man living in infinite space, according to which the finite and limited human body will adopt itself and grow." The human physique becomes the vessel of the soul-spiritual. Individuality shapes and differentiates it. So this special gymnastics supports all higher bodies in their process of healing.
Bothmer Gymnastics as an Extension to Physiotherapy
Spurred on by their experience in the daily dealing with the patients, many physiotherapists are looking for something in addition to their well-founded conventional medical education.
Should this addition be based on anthroposophy, Bothmer gymnastics is a valuable extension of traditional medical training. Just like for medical specialists the subject-specific anthroposophical training.
During the four years of the training, a sense of movement can be acquired, which can then serve as the basis for a new form of understanding and application of the conventional physiotherapeutic techniques. Practically seen: new paths can open up in therapeutic situations, the problems can be looked at from new points of view.
Areas where Bothmer Gymnastics is used
Nowadays Bothmer Gymnastics is utilized in addition to the field of education also in self-education / personal development, in artistic and social areas, as well as in therapy. Bothmer movement therapy is practiced in clinics, in independent doctors’and therapists’ offices. The main areas of work are curative education, paediatrics, orthopaedics and psychosomatic therapy. Some examples for the problems it can be used for:
- physical pain
- mental blockages
- psychosomatic complaints
- posture and movement problems
- eating disorders
- cardiovascular complaints
- to be continued …
Other areas, where Bothmer gymnastics is used, which we can only list here, are: drama, speech, eurythmy, anthroposophical training centres, manager training, working with the employees in factories, etc.
And of course at the Waldorf schools. However, there is a shortage of trained Bothmer teachers, so unfortunately Bothmer Gymnastics is not represented in all Waldorf schools.
Interdisciplinary Work with other Methods
The co-operation with other therapy methods: e.g. with curative eurythmy, rhythmical massage as indicated by Ita Wegman, various medicinal baths, body wraps and compresses, etc. has provided very good results. Equally, Bothmer gymnastics in collaboration with curative education and/or social therapy helps to initiate valuable healing and developmental processes. Simultaneous treatment periods or a meaningful succession of the different therapies, depending on the needs of the individual patient, can be very effective. Similarly, the effect of the medicaments used in the therapy, can be supported and/or strengthened by Bothmer gymnastics.
As to the different approaches of eurythmy and gymnastics, shall this remark of Steiner be enough: “the gymnast could be compared to and architect and the eurythmist to a sculptor.” (Steiner)
Bothmer Gymnastics Training
Organisation: Bothmer Movement International
- Usually a 4-year-long, part time basic training. (see: www.bothmer-movement.eu)
- Building on this basic training there is an optional part time 2-year therapy training
- All our courses are offered internationally, as needed
- A list of current courses, as well as further information available at www.bothmer-movement.eu
Organizational forms (national professional associations):
- Bothmer Gymnasts are members of Bothmer Movement International.
Within this union the following groups are at work:
- a professional association for the professionals working with Bothmer
- a teachers’ group for the Bothmer instructors
- a group for therapists. Those who work with bothmer therapy have joined this group. This group offers a space for them to exchange about subject related questions, internal trainings and research.
A list of the international Bothmer therapists will be provided shortly.
- Count Fritz von Bothmer: Bothmer Gymnastics Exercises, 1994 Rudolf Steiner Press Bristol
- Soulways, The developing Soul-Life Phases, Thresholds and Biography, by Rudolf Treichler, 1996, Hawthorn Press
- Space and Counterspace, An Introduction to Modern Geometry by Louis Locher-Ernst, 2003 Awsna