Movement Therapy: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Approach

A INTRODUCTION to Movement Therapy

Movement Therapy started in the late 1940’s in America. Mark Starks Whitehouse, in the 1950’s, established the technique.Further in conjuction with the physical medicine and rehabilitation, it additionally offers a comprehensive approach, and it is patient centralise treatment. Basically, based on the concept that the mind, body, and spirit are inseparable and interconnected to heal the patient. Meanwhile, it involves movement anyone can use this therapy who wants to connect with their body or needs relaxation.Movement is the first language that we learn as an individual, starting from intra uterine life. Furthermore, makes a person functional, expressible, and to initiate developmental patterns. Currently, it is used for the evaluation and the treatment.

Benifits of Movement therapy

Generally helps to increase or improve self-confidence, self-awareness, attention, self-esteem, focus and communication. In addition, reduces or eliminates stress, fears, anxiety, sadness, chronic pain and depression. Altogether, helps to increase the quality of life.

Cure to Diseases or conditions :

  • Hemiplegia: Paralysis of one side of body.
  • Trauma
  • Cancer
  • Fibromyalgia : A rheumatic congenital disorder characterised by pain, stiffness, and localised tenderness.
  • Parkinson’s : Neurological disorder characterized by bradykinesia tremors and rigidity. However, the effect is generalised.
  • PTSD : Post-traumatic stress disorder-Psychiatric disorder results from failure to recover from trauma, generally childhood trauma.

Some more relevant diseases

  • ADHD : Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder-Psychiatric disorder generally found in children.
  • Autism : a developmental disorder with varying degrees of severity, generally impairment of communication and interaction are present.
  • Anxiety : A mental health disorder characterised by a feeling of dread or unease caused by the anticipation of danger.
  • Cerebral palsy : A non-progressive congenital movement, muscle tone, or posture disorder with abnormal brain development.
  • Vertigo : Sudden spinning movement results due to head movement.

How to Become a Movement Therapist ?

In order to become a movement therapist, one must have knowledge of different dance forms and movement. In addition to this, knowledge of psychology.

Undergraduate studies in any field related to it. A master’s degree or PG diploma is necessary. Training and internship are in the course time.

These are a some masters courses through which one can become a movement therapist.

  • Msc – musculoskeletal
  • Msc – physiotherapy
  • MA in drama and movement therapy
  • Music therapy

Some certificate courses are also available.

To apply for a job, you should first register yourself as “Dance Therapist Registered (DTR)” or “Academy of Dance/Therapists Registered (ADTR).”


  • Delhi-based Creative Movement Therapy Association
  • Women’s Christian College, Chennai
  • Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  • Delhi’s Shristi Centre of Performing Arts and Institute of Dance Therapy
  • Pune’s Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts


  • Italy’s ART Therapy Italiana
  • Israel Academic College of Society and the Arts
  • Apollo Education and Consultancy in China
  • German-based European Society for Authentic Movement
  • Russian Institute of Practical Psychology and Psychoanalysis
  • Australia’s International Dance Therapy Institute



In this one person follows the another person. This practice helps build empathy and connection with one another. It can help build cooperation and understanding.
For example –  One person  follow the another when he leaps or lag the  movement.
In addition , the performance of  the task can be changed accordingly.

Movement metaphors

Metaphors basically includes the person to dance in the ways as they feel. Just express it out what they feel through the movement. Generally the use of props can extend the metaphor.

Hence,  celebrate the accomplishment, work through confusing emotions, or perform meaningful interactions between you and the another person.
For example- In general, learn to express particularly that  feeling with a movement like rage with high energetic movement.


Jumping is a way to bring more impact to your movements. Depressive people tend to have decreased vertical movements. Further practice moving in all direction. In addition with all this the use of music can exaggerate the effect
For example- skipping, step up and down on stepa, trampouline.
As there are many other ways like just moving fingers, laughing, running, crying, shake or vibrate your body. Do whatever you feel like doing. As a matter of fact it is according to specific patient, like how they are feeling.


  • Movements are not specific
  • Should help a person deal with an illness (physical or mental) or a disability
  • prepare for life challenges
  • Make them functionally independent
  • The aim is to enhance the person’s cognitive, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing
  • Movement should be rhythmical



Yoga is a holistic approach to treat chronic pain, cancer, promote mental health and postural awareness, spinal condition, and in cardiopulmonary and Neurological rehabilitation.
There are large variety of yoga and all of them are basically based on these fundamental philosophy:

1. Asana—physical poses
2. Pranayama—breathing techniques
3. Meditation
4. Advice for ethical lifestyle
5. Spiritual practice

Various styles of yoga used commonly

1. Ashtanga- A vigorous style that requires exertion equivalent to a gym workout.
2. Bikram- A fixed sequence of 26 poses taught by an instructor with verbal instruction and physical example. Bikram yoga requires a room generally at 105°F.
3. Vinyasa- An athletic style uses a continuous flow of movement through a series of poses which synchronizes as, one breath per movement.
4. Hatha – Slow pace practice that focuses on flowing breathwork in static postures, in contrast to heavy breathing movement flows more commonly found in Vinyasa or ashtanga.
5. Iyengar – intensely focuses on proper form and precise bodily alignment of poses.
– Yoga improves physical fitness and cognitive function, and may serve as an effective treatment in addition with many medical and psychiatric conditions.


Pilates is low-impact exercise based on movement.


  • Concentration – keeping full focus and attention on the movement
  • Centering – activation of trunk muscle
  • Control – proper recruitment of muscles and in series.
  • Breathing – synchronised with movements of exercise
  • Precision- Focuses on the bodily alignment and emphasizes proper technique
  • Flow – smooth rhythmical movements

Stimulates body awareness, muscle recruitment, body alignment during movement, and posture awareness and control and stabilizes the core muscles during movement. While, pilates uses isokinetic exercises with resistance to strengthen deep muscle groups.


In contrast to yoga there are 2 major forms of Pilates –

Mat Pilates

This uses body weight as resistance and the equipment only is mat.

Reformer pilates

This uses machines which made of combination of springs to offer resistance. For this method one should know the function of machine and get familiar with it.

Pilates improve pain, function, psychological health, and kinesiophobia in people with disability, low back pain, breast cancer rehabilitation, physical fitness and fall prevention in seniors. As well as pelvic floor muscle function.


Tai chi is a Chinese, meditative, martial arts practice which gently strengthen and relax the body as well as mind. It is a system featuring coordination of movements, meditation, and purposeful breathing.
Basically based on the concept of QI. Qi , it is energy source thought to be present in every individual which maintains the bodily function. However, when the QI is blocked or disturbed and disrupted, it results in pain.
Basically, the focus is to unlock the QI.
This is done by generating improved functional capacity, balance, stress reduction, and enhancement of peacefulness, healing, including life-expectancy.

Characteristics of Tai chi

Circular – circular movement promotes dynamic stretching and balance.
Relax – achieved by deep breathing avoid exertion.
Calm – keep mind calm to stop excessive overfluous thoughts to focus on movement
Continuous – to make the rhythm
Intent – focus on movement
Energy – Try to produce movement with less effort and maximum efficiency and biomechanically correct.

Tai chi may apply to a wider range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbance, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and immune disorders.
Also, prevent falls in elderly and treats chronic pain.


Qigong uses the “mind” (or concentration) to coordinate breathing and smooth movements that promote the circulation of Qi.
Improvements in sleep disturbance, depression, fatigue, pain, and QOL. In addition, this may even reduce the inflammatory response that causes progression of cancer.


The somatic learning method. Series of sensitising body and perceptual feedback to choose between favorable and unfavorable positions. Hence, increases health condition.


  • Awareness – Group class and learning through verbal cues.
  • Functional integration
  • Individual lessons with practitioners learning by gentle touch/manipulation from an instructor to manually guide movements


Eye movements are used to relax the patient.
Some conditions which can be treated by eye movements are PTSD,Trauma, panic attack, bipolar, anxiety and ADHD.
Rapid or slow eye movement are used.
Lateral (side to side) movement are purposefully done .

Eye movement desensitisation & reprocessing – EMDR

The bilateral stimulation (BLS) used in EMDR, focus on as the person access painful memories along with unwanted thoughts.
This helps dim the intensity of memory, allowing space to process it without an overwhelming psychological response.
The traumatic memory will start to be desensitized and will be less emotionally distressing.
EMDR is an eight-phase treatment method.
1. History taking
2. Client preparation
3. Assessment
4. Desensitization
5. Installation
6. Body scan
7. Closure
8. Reevaluation of treatment effect

It takes generally 6-12 sessions.

Side effects

  • An increase in distressing memories.
  • Eleviated emotions or physical sensations during sessions.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Vivid dreams.
  • The surfacing of new traumatic memories.


The neurological rehabilitation technique which emphasizes on the forced movement of affected side by restraining of unaffected side.
Mainly, in Cerebrovascular accident cases or stroke and cerebral palsy ( hemiplegia ) treatment. The neuroplasticity is treated with this method.


Improvement in impaired side

Improve quality of life
Improve extent and quality of movement
Helps to promote ADLs – activity of daily life
Initiation of movement


Basically, based on the protocol of exercise that the induces rhythmical movements, promote coordination and improve functional ability of a person.


This technique focuses on movement and mind body coordination. The therapist perform the movement or manipulation and patients, feels  the therapist is moving his hands on their body. Induction or Initiation of  self awareness, self esteem, self knowledge in the person.
Generally, used to promote relaxation and reduce the pain and stress.


The most common way of movement therapy which is generally used for treatment. Dance/movement therapy can aim to treat an individual, couple, family, and group sessions by observing and assessing clients and their own movements, using verbal and nonverbal communication to create and implement interventions that will improve the emotional, social, physical, and cognitive integration of an individual.


The form of physical therapy used to promote social, mental and physical well being through exercise in any person. In order make them functionally independent.


This is  basically the manipulation technique which done to release the muscle.
In addition to the treatment, therapist break the trigger point and adhesions. It is a form of physical therapy.
For examples – myofascial release, deep friction massage.


John epleys is the scientist who basically designed series of movement to bring back the crystals that were lodged in semicircular canal into utricle.
Eg. Walking is simple and very effective way to improve symptoms of vertigo.


It is basically the technique which focuses on correcting the impaired body movement. It is generally done for sudden and persistent pains from:

Tense and painful muscles triggered by emotional stress
Working from home with poor ergonomics (neck, shoulder, wrists and back pain)
Muscle pulls, strains and other sports injuries


At first, the assessment is done, to know where and what is the cause of pain

Then tests are done to know the state and efficiency of muscle or the group of muscles.

Then reatment is planned accordingly.

In addition to treatment, the corrective methods are used to find the compensation movements that induces pain. Finally, the reinforcement of movement and retraining of new muscle action is done. And home exercises are prescribed. 1 session is about 50-60 minutes.


Cranial sacral therapy (CST) is also referred to as craniosacral therapy. This is hands on technique that relieves compression in the bones of the head, sacrum and spinal column.
The non invasive technique uses gentle pressure on the head, neck, and back to reduce the stress and pain due to compression.
The idea of techhnique, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system can be normalized. This removes “blockages” from the normal flow, which enhances the body’s ability to heal.


It is a form of physical therapy used to treat stroke patients generally and cerebral palsy patient.


Pattern should developmental in character
Pattern promotes functional independence
When the motion is lost the reflex pattern in synergy to bring back the movement.
Stimulus should be appropriate and adequate to generate the reflex pattern.
Proprioceptive stimulus helps to spread the response.
Voluntary isometric contractions
After eliciting the movement correct the pattern
Reversal patterns taught
Break the task

Six phases of recovery

  • Flaccidity
  • Spasticity appears
  • Increase in spasticity
  • Spasticity decreases
  • Complex movement combinations
  • Spasticity disappears

Normal function returns after this. At last, we can say that the movement timprovement quality of life and  improve the way of living and it can also helps to relieve the daily stress at some extent.
In addition it is an innovative and creative way of treatment and it generates the interest of patient generally without any extra counselling. Additionally, it improves the level of self awareness, self esteem, attention and communication.
Henceforth, this is one of the effective and efficient technique that one should opt for.

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