‘Stress’: who doesn’t have it? Everyone sometimes has had moments or periods of stress in their lives. Whether it’s due to too much work, or the large stream of information coming at you, your personal problems, health problems, or because you’ve experienced a loss or trauma. We have all to do deal with it at any given time.


But how do you recognize ‘stress’ or ‘trauma’ in your patients when, as a therapist or coach, you are confronted with their physical complaints or expressions of pain, sadness, helplessness? How can you as a therapist look beyond what your patient or client is telling you? How do you work in depth, so you can quickly reach the essence of the problem?


This week Inge came for an appointment. She’s been sleeping badly for a long time. The doctors found nothing and assume that it’s ‘stress’.

Inge tells me she would really like to get rid of the stress so that at least she’ll be able to sleep well again.

While she’s explaining, she’s brings her shoulders forward slightly and bending forward slightly.


You probably recognize this problem too in your practice? It’s very rewarding to watch the gestures clients make as they tell their story. It teaches us a lot.


Later in this blog I tell you why this is so educational.


Stress? But how do you recognize it?


Reading and interpreting a person’s body language is a useful tool. To learn to read body language, there are several theories available.


In my practice, I often use the theory of “Embryonic Movement” from Bio-energetics. This theory provides a good model for understanding the body and also for working with it to solve or improve a number of complaints.


The premise is that a baby before, it’s born, knows only one position: the stooped posture. In the mother’s womb the foetus is bent from the very beginning right up until birth. In this position, the baby feels safe and secure.


At birth, the baby unbends for the first time. The head descends into the birth canal and the baby is preparing for birth. Once born, the baby stretches out, opens its lungs itself and gasps for air and allows itself to breath for the first time (the Moro reflex). The baby begins his own life, begins to breathe and prepares for action. By reaching out to life …


Both the bent over posture as well as the stretching out movement are two universal movements.








These are the two movements that we as adults continue to make.


We sometimes need to pull ourselves back, to rest, to come to a halt. People look for meditation, consciousness, and catching their breath. We are looking for the experience of ‘Oceanos’. Calm, no rush, plenty of time and plenty of room to stop.


On the other hand, we also need the Moro reflex. We move, get on with life and live it to the full.


These two reflexes are in all of us. But sometimes you are out of balance. At those times we don’t feel good in our bodies and are experiencing discomfort and stress.


You can – to put it clearly- get out of balance in two ways.


  1. Too much in the bent over reflex: Oceanos.

Rest and cut off from life. You live as you were somewhere on a mountaintop in complete serenity. In the extreme, this is a form of passivity. People experience a feeling of paralysis and an inability to take action.


  1. On the other hand – a thorough Moro reflex

I see this more often in my practice. People are constantly in motion, hurry, hard work, seeking perfection etc.

Many people who are tilted to this side have too much action in their lives, and develop heart problems, shoulder problems, digestive problems, etc.



Now let’s go back to the example of Inge


When Inge bends forward, I first ask her whether she is aware of this gesture. She was not.


By asking her to repeat this gesture slowly, to make it a little bigger, etc, she becomes more aware of this gesture.


Above we explained the two movements from the theory of ‘Embryonic Movement’. My hypothesis is that the bent over gesture of Inge tells us something about her needs.

When I ask her again to truly complete this small movement, she slowly but spontaneously goes into in a foetus position.

In that position she experiences a lot of rest and relaxation.

For her it’s a real eye-opener that her body shows so clearly what it needs. It means that she can’t get around the truth: she is tired and she needs rest, security.


The careful naming and examining body language almost always has a relaxing effect.

Furthermore, it is of course necessary to discuss with clients what more they want to do with it.

Listening and understanding body language often helps people to take their bodies more seriously and to take care of themselves better.

What conclusion should we draw from this? It’s more than worthwhile to look closely at the body language and to encourage people to learn to recognize and understand the impulses of their bodies. By starting to work with those subtle movements, you can begin working on a deeper level, at the level of the body and the unconscious.


Clients usually find it enlightening to listen to their bodies in this way.


THE ULTIMATE GOAL in coaching and therapy.


The goal is to make sure that there is a balance in our lives between the pulling back and the going forth movements. There is time for rest as well as for action.


It’s not about that Inge will live somewhere on a mountaintop in Nepal or will stop working completely. But it is that Inge, in a well-informed manner, can make a choice for a healthier lifestyle. And if there is sufficient rest, and a little less action, the chances are that she will sleep better.


This theory about the ‘Embryonic Movement’ is just one of the models that will be discussed at the five-day training. We still work with other fascinating models and methods.


Do you want in your practice as a coach or therapist to learn how to really look at the language of the body?


If you want to learn how to use the methodology of the Bioenergetics “Embryonic Movement” for work on a very deep level with stress and trauma related symptoms, please sign up for the five-day training on body language.


TA experience is useful but not strictly necessary.

Inspiratie over Embodied Coachen in jouw mailbox?

Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden