Diana Heil, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Marion Rosen knew what she wanted to do from the time
she was 22, but she had to be patient. Before she left Nazi Germany, a
Munich woman trained her in an experimental healing technique. The
combination of massage, breathing exercises and Jungian psychotherapy
fascinated her. But when Rosen moved to the United States in 1940,
nobody was interested in bodywork. She became a physical therapist
Much later, in the 1970s, the sister of one of Rosen’s
patients asked to learn the Munich technique . And that was the
beginning of Rosen’s pioneer work in somatic healing.
Patients cried. Some pulled up suppressed memories. Pains disappeared
and people became unstuck in their relationships. One patient changed
over time from being a stern and sour person to being an open and
“So it was observing this process that brought
Method) about,” she said in a telephone interview last week
from her home in Berkeley, CA. “It is like it is a straight
way into their subconscious.”
Deep relaxation is key. The patient lies on a massage table. The
practitioner touches the tight spots, watches the patient’s
breath, listens to what the patient says and witnesses the
“At the heart of the Rosen Method is the belief
that chronic muscle tension comes from the suppression of feelings.
When adults deny their feelings, they become stuck in a holding pattern
that causes chronic pain and leads to unhealthy emotional patterning in
relationships. This also limits the fullness of breath,”
Libby Gustin wrote in Massage & Bodywork magazine.
Today, Rosen Method Bodywork Centers exist in Australia, Canada,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Russia , Sweden, Switzerland
and the United States, including Santa Fe. The revolution is quieter
here than in Europe.
“I think it’s not a quick fix. And in America, we
like the quick fixes,” said Susan Emmet Reid, a local yoga
instructor who has been going to Rosen sessions for 10 years.
She said she could never return to traditional talk therapy because the
body doesn’t lie. Her husband and son have used the Rosen
“We become more aware of what’s happening in our
bodies because there’s a witness, there’s a
hand,” Emmet Reid said. “The moment awareness
begins there is change.”
In one session, Emmet Reid said she realized she had been suffering
heartache, and a chronic pain in her shoulder vanished .
Rosen believes the method brings people to the point of possibilities .
often, people don’t even know how much they know, or what
want or how capable they are. By not having to hold back, they come in
touch with that,” she said.
It also can cure asthma, migraine
headaches, heart problems , weak immune systems and psychosomatic
illnesses, according to case studies in her latest book.
all these years, scientists may have found the secret power behind
Rosen’s dabbling: a hormone . “I didn’t
know that actually a hormone
was being formed through our touch,” Rosen said, referring to
Swedish study about the effects of light touch.
suggests that people who talk about their feelings have a better
functioning immune system than people who hold them back.
The Rosen Method is hard to compare to anything on the exploding market
of bodybased therapies.
than doing something to them, we wait for them to have something coming
out of them. And I think this is the big difference,” she
Deep relaxation is key to the Rosen Method.
The patient lies on a maaage table. the practitioner touches the tight
sports, watches the patient's breath, listens to what the patient says,
and witnesses the body's response.
At age 90, Rosen has seven decades of work to inform her
opinion about the healing properties of touch. She describes her work
as unlocking protective layers through touch, observing a
patient’s breath and talking to the patient. The touch is
lighter than massage. The talk is more visceral than psychotherapy .
Rosen continues to see patients for half the day in her private office
and has no plans to retire.
“I’m only going to be 91 so it will be a while yet.
As long as I can do it, I will do it because it gives me so much. It
gives me a joy to see people become themselves, to see people sort of
opening up like flowers and understanding who they are. This is a
wonderful process to watch.
“Anyway, when I go to work and I’m tired and
I’m grumpy and I really don’t want to do anything,
I work on the first person and I feel better and by the time the
morning is over I feel great.”
She could have grown up to be a bitter woman. Her method helped unlock
Rosen’s childhood was short on affection. She had a distant
mother and a father who was gone to war. She can’t remember
her mother bathing or dressing her. For a time, a governess filled the
void, then left with no explanation .
Rosen felt like an outsider in her own family.
When Germany fell to Hitler’s control, she became an outsider
in her own country . Her gentile friends abandoned her. So did her
boyfriend. And the universities , the movie theaters and the
restaurants shut Jews like her out.
She had a fresh start in the United States, but life fell below her
expectations. “I always wanted to be married and have
children, many children ,” she said.
About 55 years ago, Rosen was married briefly to an alcoholic.
“I wanted him to stop drinking . Of course, he
couldn’t ,” she said.
The couple had one daughter.
Through the method she developed, Rosen came to accept her life as it
“I felt more and more certain of myself, comfortable with
myself. I may even say I felt happy. I felt good about my
life,” she said.
She considers the Rosen Method a psycho-spiritual approach to healing.
Though both parents were Jewish , Rosen was brought up Lutheran because
her mother believed in Jesus. These days, Rosen is drawn to Hinduism.
Patients often tell her they feel connected to something beyond or
connected to God. That makes sense to Rosen.
“When you breathe, when the diaphragm is working, if it works
at it’s best, you really have to let go. You have to
surrender to the movement, the breathing movement within your body. And
then you come to that place of surrender,” she said.
“This surrendering is letting yourself be guided.
There’s a bigger power that comes with the letting
This summer, Rosen will train her niece in the method.
From the Sante
Fe New Mexican, May 30 2005.