Basic Neurocellular Patterns: Exploring Developmental Movement


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Tom says, “I am so happy to see that Bonnie – one of the true innovators of bodywork – has finally shared her system in an organised fashion. Here is the underlying body language – the reflexes that build into patterns that build into individual expression – and what happens when these pathways to maturity get diverted, detoured, or stopped.

Most methods proceed from the idea of ‘body as machine’; Bonnie has named her book well, because she proceeds from two ideas: 1) We are a cellular collective, and we each have to build ourselves from a single cell. Bonnie identifies the benchmarks of the growing cellular self moving out into the world from conception to adulthood, and 2) We are reaching for full self-expression through movement and voice, and Bonnie lays out how these blocks to full expression can be relieved through re-establishing these instinctual movements within your clients or students.

Bonnie marries cellular requirements with developmental movement to adult biomechanical issues. This is not an easy path to take on – it’s requires subtle perception and inventiveness – but Bonnie has just made it easier by cataloguing the language and stages of, well, exactly: Basic Neurocellular Patterns.

I am devouring this book. Its insights will inform and enlighten any bodyworker with both the simple wonder of animals in motion and the complex intricacy with which it plays out in human form.

“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

The Basic Neurocellular Patterns (BNP) form the underlying words and phrases in the language of human movement. The BNP have a global influence on our physical, perceptual, emotional, and cognitive functioning. They 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.

Although the BNP normally emerge and ideally integrate throughout infancy, revisiting these patterns and exploring them as adults can be eye-opening, transformational, and life changing. With this book as a guide, Bonnie invites you to directly experience, embody, and integrate your own developmental movement patterns. In doing so, you can come to know and use this work in deep and meaningful ways with yourself and with others.

This book includes the following:

  • Parallels between animal movement and infant developmental movement
  • Progression of development from internal movement to external movement and locomotion
  • Exquisite drawings to help you get a feeling for the patterns
  • Step-by-step exercises to guide your exploration of the patterns
  • How to use the vertebrate patterns as a framework for your personal movement practice
  • Applications to yoga, dance, sports, music, vision, touch, teaching, aging, psychophysical processing, meditation, and prayer.

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.

Her book, 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 BNP normally emerge and ideally integrate through infancy and can have a profound effect on an infant’s development — how it bonds, defends, learns, organizes and sequences information, and relates to itself, others and the world. 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.

With this book as a guide, Bonnie is inviting you to enter your own world of movement experience. She has 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 she outlines will help to guide your exploration of the patterns. The copious 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.

In the developmental work, as in all aspects of Bonnie’s work, the place to begin your study is through your personal experience, embodiment, and integration of these principles and body-mind relationships. In doing so, you can come to know and use this work in deep and meaningful ways.

Burchfield Rose Publishers, 2018; Paperback; 430 pages, 400+ illustrations, 80 explorations


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