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“Weakness, inflexibility, and lack of coordination are often not due to structural or muscular problems but caused by a lack of process. When that process is actualized, we experience strength, flexibility, and ease in our movement and our mind. The Basic Neurocellular Patterns are an exploration of that process.” – Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
Movement is a language and the body is the instrument through which it speaks. It is a doorway into the body-mind relationship, at once the expression of that relationship, a way to assess it, and a way to balance it. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen is a movement linguist who has spent her life exploring and mapping the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of movement.
Basic Neurocellular Patterns: Exploring Developmental Movement is about human movement and its significance to our development and well-being. For over fifty years, Bonnie has worked with people functioning in a wide range of skills – from professional dancers to infants with severe neurological difficulties.
She has observed that the developmental patterns outlined in this book have a global influence on our physical, perceptual, emotional, and cognitive functioning. She named these movement sequences the Basic Neurocellular Patterns (BNP).
THE BASIC NEUROCELLULAR PATTERNS
The Basic Neurocellular Patterns (BNP) are a series of automatic movement sequences that normally emerge and ideally integrate through infancy. They have a global influence on our physical, perceptual, emotional, and cognitive functioning. The BNP shape how we bond, defend, learn, organize, and sequence information, and how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world.
Done in sequences, they can also form the basis for a deep and ongoing personal movement practice. Revisiting these patterns and exploring them as adults can be eye-opening, transformational, and life-changing. Who we are as a person has a lot to do with how we experience ourselves through movement.
The Basic Neurocellular Patterns progress from simple to complex as they develop in humans. There is a corresponding progression of movement in animals, from simpler to more complex organisms. Based on this correspondence, I have divided the BNP into two groups:
Prevertebrate Patterns, which appear in animals without a spine (vertebral column). I named these earlier patterns ‘prevertebrate’ because, developmentally, they precede the vertebrate patterns.
Vertebrate Patterns, which are found in animals with a spine.
In humans, each pattern in the progression underlies all the succeeding patterns and modifies each preceding pattern. This progression is not linear but occurs in overlapping waves—appearing, integrating into the next pattern, and then reemerging in the next level of complexity. They occur first as internal movement and eventually progress into external movement and then into locomotion (movement from place to place through space).
In this book, each of the Basic Neurocellular Patterns is viewed from the standpoint of normal development. They can be applied to anyone at any age of life to analyze areas of movement efficiency/inefficiency and to improve one’s movement proficiency.
If any pattern becomes overly dominant, it may prevent other patterns from emerging. By exploring all the patterns, weakened patterns can be strengthened and dominant patterns modified. This will allow the overly dominant pattern to integrate into the total matrix of development, thereby allowing more mature behavior to emerge.
The concepts and ideas expressed here are not given as absolutes but as reference points from which you can gauge your own experience. This book is a map only, derived from my experience and the experiences of others. For it to have meaning for you, you must explore it experientially yourself and gain your insights based on the consciousness of your own practice.
Initially, these patterns may seem quite simple, but to understand and embody them takes many hours of exploration—on your own and with others. Once embodied, the Basic Neurocellular Patterns allow us to enter more deeply into the fullness of our being and move through life with greater ease, flexibility, confidence, and understanding.
The Basic Neurocellular Patterns are:
Vibration is the underlying phenomenon of rhythmic condensing and expanding waves that permeate our universe. It is movement that condenses and expands rhythmically at the most basic level. It precedes life and supports all life forms. It is the substance of space.
Cellular Breathing is the expanding and condensing within a cell due to the exchange of gasses through the cell membrane. It is the first organic pattern.
Sponging is the movement of fluid through the cell membrane in both directions: flowing into the cell and flowing out of the cell.
Pulsation is the movement of fluids throughout the body, as the ebb and flow of the ocean within us.
Naval Radiation is radial movement of the limbs connecting to and passing through the navel. The limbs are the sex extremities: two upper limbs, two lower limbs, head, and tail (coccyx).
Mouthing is movement initiated by the mouth, which travels longitudinally through the body to the anus. It is the pattern that establishes a vertical axis from mouth to anus.
Prespinal movement is a soft, quietly flowing “spinal” pattern, which precedes and supports the bony, more solid, and contained vertebrate spinal patterns.
Spinal Yield & Push from the Head and Spinal Yield & Push from the Tail are condensing movement patterns, which develop strength and connectivity through the spine in relation to the earth and gravity.
Spinal Reach & Pull from the Head and Spinal Reach & Pull from the Tail are elongating movement patterns which develop lightness in the spine through a relationship with space.
Homologous Yield & Push from the Upper Limbs and Homologous Yield & Push from the Lower Limbs are condensing movement patterns. They develop strength and grounding through their relationship with the earth and with gravity.
Homologous Reach & Pull from the Upper Limbs and Homologous Reach & Pull from the Lower Limbs are elongating movement patterns that develop lightness and levity through their relationship with space.
Homolateral Yield & Push from the Upper Limb and Homolateral Yield & Push from the Lower Limb is the first asymmetrical limb pattern and occurs only as a yield & push pattern. Like other condensing movement patterns, it develops strength in relation to the earth and gravity.
Contralateral Reach & Pull of the Upper Limb and Contralateral Reach & Pull from the Lower Limb occurs only as yield and push pattern. It is the last of the asymmetrical patterns and develops strength in relation to the earth and gravity.
They can be used as the foundation for a personal movement practice and can be applied to:
- athletics and martial arts
- infant and child development
- occupational and physical therapy
- somatic movement practices
- somatic psychology
With this book as a guide, I invite you to enter your own world of movement experience. I have provided discussions of the patterns to give you a theoretical framework of ideas, insights, relationships, and correspondences – a context in which to explore your experience. The exercises outlined will help to guide your exploration of the patterns.
The many drawings not only illustrate a pattern or its correspondence in the animal kingdom, but also help you get a feeling for the pattern. The richness and subtlety of movement does not easily translate into words, so feeling is important in a book about movement.
The culmination of 55 years of research and 40 years of writing, this experiential textbook addresses human movement and its significance to our development and well-being. Included in its 430 pages are more than 400 illustrations and 80 explorations.
An index for this book was created after publication. You can download the index here.
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First Edition, 2018.
Paperback: 430 pages, 400+ illustrations, 80 explorations
eBook: EPUB format