Part 1 of an interview by Mahabha with Moumina Jeffs and Agni Thalgott
Q: What is Body Reading?
Moumina: Well, look at this picture of singers Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Adele from the Guardian newspaper in the UK.
Anyone looking at it has a natural intuition that how these three celebrities look – the shape of their body, their posture, their facial expression – somehow says a lot about their personalities. What Body Reading does is make that intuition clear and precise.
Agni: We’re all of us all the time unconsciously picking up messages from people’s bodies; the Body Types and Body Reading work makes that innate ability conscious. For the person learning, it’s about opening up their ability to read the map of the true person. Once we start to teach it, most people find it easy.
Q: So what do these pictures show?
Moumina: To answer that, we’d like to talk about the main Body Types we teach, first developed by psychoanalyst and student of Freud, Wilhelm Reich, in the 1920s. He was the first to observe a connection between body energy and the psyche. He identified five basic character structures that develop in the first five years of life, based on chronic unconsciously held muscular contractions that arm against overwhelming feelings.
First, we want to warn you that the names are rather shocking! The same terms can be used to describe severe pathology or sexual deviance but it’s important to know that in this context they refer to perfectly normal feelings of perfectly normal people.
They come originally from psychoanalysis and we continue to use them so that people who want to read about them in books, can. We also teach the less clinical names taken from Ron Kurtz’s The Hakomi Method somatic therapy.
Agni: Here are the five basic ones, plus some of the subtypes, with the Hakomi names in brackets:
Schizoid – (sensitive/withdrawn)
Oral – collapsed (dependent/endearing) and compensated (self-reliant)
Psychopath – (tough/generous) and (charming/manipulative)
Masochist – (burdened/enduring)
Rigid – (industrious/over-focussed) and (expressive/clinging)
Q: Those names do sound like we’re all very disturbed!
Agni: Well, they’re just describing specific ways we learnt to protect ourselves when we were small from experiences that were too much for us.
Q: Does that mean that everybody belongs to a body type?
Moumina: Everyone has a unique body and psyche but there are certain defense patterns visible in the muscle and bone development, posture, the way we look at the world etc. The Body Types describe these. Everyone has a main body type, or is a combination of two.
This work though, is not to label us. To recognise the body type is like finding the key to a hidden map that, once you learn to read it, guides you to parts of yourself that have been closed off.
Agni: For us, Body Types and Body Reading is not only about seeing the damage, but about meeting our lost treasures; healing splits in the soul and recovering un-lived parts of our essence. For a meditator, it is relaxing and liberating to understand your body type.
Q: Can you give us some examples?
Moumina & Agni: Let’s go back to the pictures. If we take just one element, like the person’s relationship to the world around them, Beyoncé seems to be very present but artificially perfect. Lady Gaga seems to belong to another world, while Adele looks ready to serve.
So, from these impressions we can tell you our hunches about what body types they belong to. We’re including other famous people to illustrate all five main types.
Andy Warhol – Body Type: schizoid (sensitive/withdrawn)
Warhol’s art was unique and creative, but entirely in his own frame of reference, with a disconnected, almost alien quality. Movies that lasted 20 hours … nothing that had any obvious connection … and all coming from a place that only he could see. This is typical of the schizoid type; on the inside they live withdrawn in their own isolated space. Underneath the withdrawal is a buried terror, and when this can be met and integrated, it can transform into a profound trust of life.
Lady Gaga – Type: combination of schizoid and compensated oral
[Both withdrawn and at the same time overly self-reliant]
Through a mental brilliance divorced from the body she is able to project herself as a superstar. If you watch her dance her intense energy doesn’t match her un-coordinated body. She shows different sides that don’t fit together – mass appeal pop-songs going with an off-beat persona. These traits are all characteristic of the schizoid.
Barack Obama – Type: compensated oral (self-reliant)
Obama appears very strong, and has good ideas and mental clarity but is unable to sustain his vision with real strength and to put his ideas into action. It is terrifying for compensated orals to admit they have needs. But when they do, they find a nourishing strength and spaciousness inside themselves. They come into contact with a remarkable capacity to merge with their surroundings and stay free at the same time.
Q: So what do Barack Obama and Lady Gaga have in common?
Moumina: Well, they look completely different but our hunch is underneath that they both have strong oral elements. They both need love but find that hard to admit it to themselves, and let love in. The big difference is that Lady Gaga is getting a kind of substitute love from her fans, while Obama is playing strong and denying his needs. Both have a very armoured relationship to their unmet needs.
Agni: Orals didn’t get their needs met as children and they feel a hole of deep need inside themselves. They may be aware of that, or it may be quite unconscious. Either way, it is very painful to feel that neediness and terrifying to reveal it to others. Feeling there is not enough in the world for them, that they will never get what they need, and that reaching out will not avail them, orals collapse and give up.
The collapsed-oral type is then driven to fill this inner lack with substitutes for the warmth and safety they missed as a small child. Compensated orals go a stage further, and deny and bury the feeling of collapse: “I’m OK! I don’t need anything. I never ask for help!” They look strong, but under pressure that strength doesn’t hold.
Simon Cowell – Body Type: psychopath (tough/generous)
Dominating and rarely showing much empathy, his criticisms are made all the more wounding because backed up by excellent judgment. But when a psychopath recognises his need to be on top, and allows his vulnerability, his big heart will be included in his relating and will transform him into a true leader graced with penetrating clarity.
Adele – Body Type: masochist (burdened/enduring)
Adele has the stocky body typical of masochists, and an appearance that would just blend into the background – masochists doubt themselves and don’t dare project their presence. Out of loyalty they serve and take on the burdens of others. When Adele begins to sing, however, an incredible creativity and richness of human emotion is revealed, also typical of masochists.
Beyoncé – Body Type: Rigid (industrious/overfocussed)
The Guardian article mentioned above describes Beyoncé as ‘shiny and mechanised’ and ‘sleek, blank and unknowable.’ This is typical of the rigid type, constantly driven to achieve and be perfect. Also typical is that she’s naturally at home in her body, full of a juicy physical energy. When the rigid type learns that it’s safe to let-go and stop ‘doing‘ all the time, their alluring aliveness also relaxes to reveal a heartful joy.
Q: What is the relationship between Body Types and Body Reading?
Moumina: Body Reading is an essential skill if you want to use this knowledge of Body Types to help free people’s truth. It’s the missing link between character types and how they show in the body.
Agni: Reading the theory gives you an intellectual understanding of the work. But when you have a Body reading, supported by other people in a group, your body speaks without interference from the mind. Then you meet the real fundamental issues it wants to reveal.
Q: How do you do a Body Reading?
Different people have different primary sense systems. Some see things more clearly, some feel, while others have a kind of knowing – we include all learning styles in a Body Reading.
Agni: If you look meditatively at a person’s bare legs, for example, you can somehow picture their surroundings when they were a child. Were they safe? Were the legs supported? Did they have a playful time or did they have to tense up and stand tall to hold it together?
You can see clearly where the muscle tension is. In Rolfing or Rebalancing you’d know exactly what to do with that structure to support it to relax. In Body Reading, you’d also notice perhaps a sense of fear in the legs. So, you have a muscular structure and simultaneously an emotional pattern that fits to it.
Q; Why do you teach this work?
Agni: My body has been my teacher. I wouldn’t know how else to teach all I’ve learned from Osho in any other way that through the body.
Moumina: It’s the same for me; Body Types crystallises something. Mediation is my concern and my body is the passage way; the body possesses such a wisdom. As my skills have developed through practice and meditation, I can now somehow transmit that liberating intelligence to others.
Moumina is the former Director of the Centre for Transformation at the Osho International Meditation Resort, India. She’s been leading transformative groups across Europe, South America, India and Japan for 29 years.
Agni is a specialist in Neo-Reichian emotional release work and the Reichian Body types. She’s been leading international groups in Mystic Rose meditative therapy, Star Sapphire Energy Work, Childhood De-conditioning and Tantra for 18 years.
Photo of Simon Cowell (wax work) courtesy of Flickr/cliff1066TM