Early workshops with Tovi in the mid 1980s.
Origins of Holistic Pulsing
by Tovi Browning in
Holistic Pulsing was developed in New Zealand by Tovi Browning in the 1980’s. It has its origins in Trager bodywork, named after Dr. Milton Trager, an American dancer, acrobat, boxer, naturopath and physician. He noticed that specific rocking and kneading movements produced an undulating rhythm throughout the body which seemed to relieve a number of physical conditions. Where the undulating rhythm stopped or changed, some form of tension or rigidity was blocking the natural flow of movement, which he could then release.
Curtis Turchin began using the rocking movement developed by Trager, naming it ‘Pulsing’. He added aspects of Reichian-style bodywork, derived from Reich’s theory that hidden painful emotion is stored in the body musculature and organ tissue as contraction. He included some of the bioenergetic techniques of Alexander Lowen and the emphasis on lengthening and expanding from Mathias Alexander. Turchin’s Pulsing entailed a set pattern of working, commencing with the head and neck, moving down to the feet and toes and back up the body, finishing with the head and neck again.
Both Trager and Turchin used what they called ‘hooking up’ or ‘plugging in’, a way of connecting with the universal life force and the client’s energy fields. This produced a shared meditative state and increased the emotional, physical and energetic awareness of the practitioner. For Trager, ‘hook-up’ also enabled him to reach the client’s subconscious mind - in his belief the key to releasing physical and emotional holding patterns.
Tovi Browning, a graduate of the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy, trained in Pulsing at the Open Centre, London, in the late 1970’s. She moved to New Zealand in the early 1980’s and established an osteopathic and naturopathic clinic in Auckland where she combined Pulsing and her other skills with very positive results. She realised that, as well as working with the bone, muscle and tissue of the body, Pulsing also affected the water of which we are 80% composed, and the qualities of water could be used as a powerful healing analogy. As a trained cranial osteopath, she noticed that Pulsing worked with the rhythms and pulses of the body, particularly the cerebrospinal fluid, in a similar way to Craniosacral Therapy. Instead of ‘hook up’ Tovi talked about the two-way process - the flow of energy and parallel process between practitioner and client in the deeply expanded awareness which comes from being totally aware and present in a session. Through her training as a Gestalt therapist, she integrated dialogue and psychotherapeutic ideas with the physical techniques to develop what is now known as Holistic Pulsing.
She wrote 'Gentle Miracles', a self-help book and text on the philosophy and technique of Holistic Pulsing (Browning, 1990). A second book, 'The Power of Softness', expands on the previous one. (Browning, 2004).
The early years
Tovi ran many large workshops throughout New Zealand introducing Holistic Pulsing (see side photos from some of these workshops). She was a dynamic teacher and encouraged lots of movement and expressive sound, including belly dancing, to get students moving their bodies fluidly. In 1990 Tovi led a Diploma level (practitioner) training in New Zealand and then went to live in Australia where she continued to train practitioners and teachers. After spending time in the UK and Italy, Tovi returned to live and work in her home country, Israel. She died in 2016.
When Tovi left New Zealand, and Roberta Skye was invited to teach throughout New Zealand, and then Europe. See Roberta's interview at: https://holisticpulsing.org.nz/roberta-skye.
HP Guild is born
In 1991 the first ever Ripples newsletter (which continues to this day) was written by a keen group of practitioners. They met regularly to share experiences and determine the future of this new modality.
In 1992, a group of New Zealand graduates from Tovi’s Diploma course set up the Holistic Pulsing Guild as a support network, a way of being accountable as professionals and to develop a training programme. In 2005 the Holistic Pulsing Guild became solely a support network and professional association. Holistic Health Training NZ Ltd (www.hht.co.nz) now trains practitioners. This training is listed on the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) framework (2008). Other workshops are offered within NZ by different practitioners. Holistic Pulsing has also been included in some Massage Therapy trainings as an adjunct therapy.
In 2022 the Guild celebrated its 30th birthday! Like its primary element water, Holistic Pulsing continues to flow, change and develop. Practitioners and students are encouraged to join the Guild for networking and support, to enhance skills, and to meet at the yearly three-day Retreat and the Annual General Meeting and professional development gathering.
References : Browning, T. (1990). Gentle miracles: Holistic pulsing. Auckland, New Zealand: Global Embrace. Browning, T. (2004). The power of softness: Holistic pulsing. [Toronto, Canada]: Inanna Publications.