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What is Rhythmical Massage Therapy?

Rhythmical massage therapy (RMT), as indicated by Dr Ita Wegman, is a manual body-centred  treatment process; it aims  to strengthen life forces and resources, by means of general rhythmising or gentle deep soft tissue releasing techniques. It is based on the complementary medical principles of anthroposophical concepts. Anthroposophical medicine (AM), emerged from the collaboration between the scientist and spiritual researcher Rudolf Steiner and the physician Dr Ita Wegman, it is an extension of the methods and knowledge of conventional medicine, whilst it builds on this and incorporating insights that extend from anthroposophy.

In conventional medicine people are often reduced to an understanding and acting on their physical body where often a broader understanding of both the person and the disease are then lost. In AM human, psychological and spiritual needs are considered; in this way, both illness and health appear in a new light and are subsequently understood as processes in which not only the physical body but also the life forces are involved. The diagnostic and therapeutic measures are adapted to the individual presentation and needs of the patient, they are thereby not only based upon and following rigid standards. The anthroposophic understanding of nature also opens a wide range of possibilities for using the healing powers of mineral or plant matter in very specific ways. In AM Drs and therapists are familiar with and master a wide range of complementary treatment methods.

RMT was developed at the beginning of the 20th century by Dr Ita Wegman and Dr Margarethe Hauschka in the context of AM; their starting point was Classical Swedish Massage, (founded in the 19th century by Per Henrik Ling). Swedish massage to this day forms the common foundation of most massage methods used in western medicine.  Wegman and Hauschka together developed the guiding principles and the early practical and written elaboration of RMT as an independent method, as well as a curriculum for teaching it. Since then, 100 years since its creation, the therapy has spread and developed worldwide.

It is a frequently prescribed treatment method in anthroposophic medicine, whilst also often being chosen in terms of self-referral by many clients. Many clients appreciate and recognise differences between numerous methods, by its differentiated movement-touch sequences. Qualities that work more with the attributes of levity and buoyancy as opposed to gravity and pressure, notwithstanding the fact that the whole person is being considered and worked with, unlike as is commonly the case of only treating the symptom(s) and presenting location. People who have experienced RMT have spoken of a lasting sense of subtle transformation, self-empowerment and personal growth in understanding their strengths, weaknesses and improved self-motivation.

RMT refers to the various bodily rhythms and the rhythmically organised manner in which the hands are employed; it is carried out with direct hand to body contact. The RMT qualities and techniques employed are designed and customised during the therapy process., with a particular emphasis on suction and warmth. The breathing and heart rhythms are those closest to consciousness within the organism.  RMT enables a lasting strengthening of the body’s own rhythms. The effects range from improving sleep-quality to regulating blood pressure and normalising metabolic processes.

The basic techniques of effleurage, kneading (one and two-handed) and friction, also utilising varying lemniscates (figure of 8 movements) are carried out in a differentiated rhythmic manner. The enlivening rhythm is found in both the massage strokes, as well as the treatment composition as a whole, it is supported by a mildly suctioning touch quality that loosens the tissue from the depths to the periphery. Depending on the given situation the treatment process can range from vigorous to gentle, local or punctual to extensive, slow or livelier. Qualities include binding, releasing, breathing, relaxing, warming, revitalising.

The necessary space for the organism’s responding is enabled in the post-treatment rest period, where the stimuli from the treatment continues to have resonance and effect. The patient is encouraged in this rest period to lie in quietude, whilst warmly and comfortably wrapped, this is often described as being gently cocooned.

The experiences range through uniting, unifying, enveloping and warming; stimulating and supporting the breathing processes, promoting, supporting and strengthening uprightness.

Depending on the clinical picture, the treatment is customised, different areas of the body are massaged; it is not limited to the location of the symptom or illness. As a rule, work is carried out directly on the skin (there may be exceptions) with the client lying down (prone and or supine) partially undressed. The dignity, warmth and respect for the client is maintained at all times, in that there is continual use of towel-covering techniques ensuring only the body part being treated is exposed. Treatments in a sitting position are also sometimes implemented.

The effects of RMT can be seen and experienced physically above all in the modification of rhythmic processes: breathing deepens, cardiovascular activity and the waking/sleeping, circadian rhythms are re-regulated; the internal organs and the autonomic nervous system are stimulated, the lymph flow is rhythmised and quickened via the subcutaneous tissues. These are processes and indicators of increased vitality. On a psychological level, body perception, awareness and body image are regulated, thus supporting the ability to recover a greater sense of well-being and raised quality of life. RMT is an intensive albeit gentle sensory experience, enabling a renewed sense of self, experiencing this differently or in a new way, all the while feeling supported and warmed within the body throughout the treatment process.


                         “A bridge is formed between the physical and the non-physical leading to  

                                             a deeper appreciation of what it is to be human.”     Anon.



This article was kindly supplied by Aoine Landweer-Cooke, joint course leader for the Rhythmical Massage Therapy Training; more information about Rhythmical Massage Training can be found here.