Who doesn’t need eurythmy? A help for delinquents, crises and businesses

November 2012

An interview with Olaf Koob (doctor), Noemi Böken (eurythmist) and Beatrix Hachtel (eurythmy therapist).

© Charlotte Fischer

Erziehungskunst | Mr Koob, why is the subject of “eurythmy” important? 

Olaf Koob | In science there is the concept of the “neglect” of biological rhythms. This has an effect on human health, on the heart, circulation, waking, sleeping and digestion. Every form of rhythmical movement has a beneficial influence on the activities within the body.

EK | Ms Böken, why don’t pupils always like this subject?

Noemi Böken | Because often the bridge to everyday life is missing. This bridge, which must be built by the teacher, is not always simple to find unless the foundations of eurythmy have been internalised to such an extent that one can find the direct everyday reference in almost every exercise. With the younger children you don’t necessarily have to discuss it, but it should be a reality so that the child perceives this connection through the eurythmy teacher. With the older pupils you have to keep reflecting on it. It is nice if you have a class 11 or 12 which is prepared to ask questions of eurythmy and to enter into a kind of individual dialogue with it through active doing.

Beatrix Hachtel | The difficulties arise mostly in middle school. At this age, when everything is in flux, the pupils experience some movements as being of an intimate nature. Then they want to know: What is that? Why are we doing it? The lessons have to tackle that. If we don’t succeed in communicating an experience of what the exercises teach us in concrete terms, it is just meaningless “prancing about”. But the greatest handicap is that doing means overcoming something. And getting a grip on one’s will is difficult. But no deliberate movement – and that is what eurythmy movements are – is possible without control and guidance by the will.

EK | Ms Hachtel, why do Waldorf schools offer eurythmy therapy?

BH | Waldorf schools have always provided learning support. Previously we were primarily concerned with prevention and treating constitutional weaknesses. That included permanent pallor, postural difficulties, sleep disorders, lethargy or hyperactivity. Today we are concerned mainly with “new” illnesses such as AD(H)D or dyslexia. But tooth displacement, for example, can also be treated more quickly with eurythmy therapy than with conventional orthodontic methods.

EK | What is the difference between eurythmy in education and eurythmy therapy?

BH | Eurythmy is art and eurythmy therapy is therapy. To the untrained eye the boundaries can be unclear on occasion but a key difference is that in eurythmy I am expressive and bring to expression what I feel – what lives in the music or language. And in doing so I perceive the others. In eurythmy therapy my focus is inward: how does the sound movement act on me? That only concerns myself. The exercises are modified to make them stronger. Their effect is directed at myself. You notice relatively quickly that the exercises are working.

OK | As long ago as when I was a student I enthusiastically read the book Körpererziehung bei Goethe (Goethe’s physical education) by the sports physiologist Carl Diem, where he describes all the different sports practiced by Goethe: dancing, climbing, fencing, skating, caving ... – but at the same time he was always observing the changes in his soul life. Hygienic eurythmy and artistic eurythmy are skills which reunite the soul entity in human beings with their physical entity and that has a vitalising effect on our soul life right into our mental mood. Harmonious forces live in language and song which, when they become visible, can create a balance in the observer.

EK | Movement supports the development of synapses in the brain. What makes eurythmy particularly important in that respect?

OK | The harmonious combination of nervous and sensory activity with movement, as we have it in dancing but also in hiking, has been disrupted through our modern lifestyle. This fact is called Gestaltkreis (Gestalt circle), a term first coined by the doctor and psychiatrist Viktor von Weizsäcker. This Gestaltkreis is no longer present when driving a car or watching television because sensory activity has become one-sided to the detriment of movement. Conversely in any movement without sensory activity, where it is just a matter of moving, like in jogging for example, the movement pole is overworked in relation to perception. That also includes body building which is only concerned with exercising the muscles.

The synthesis of perception and movement is increasingly neglected today and there is a real disconnection of the soul entity from movement. We might also describe it as mechanisation leading to a stiffening and hardening of the muscles and even psychological problems. We are now familiar with the influence of movement on brain formation. Science refers to it as “psychomotility”. The more skilfully small children learn to move their limbs, the better the nerve connections in the brain develop, which in turn control and make the thinking and movement more skilful.

EK | Ms Böken, are eurythmists healthier?

NB | Eurythmists are not necessarily healthier but they are more sensitive and so illnesses, if there is a disposition for them, manifest more strongly.

BH | An American researcher wanted to prove in a study that eurythmists grow older because they practice a vitalising profession. He compared the lifespan of about a hundred anthroposophists with a hundred eurythmists and eurythmy therapists. The result was depressing and in fact threw a light on the question why the teaching load of eurythmists in Waldorf schools is less than that of the other teachers: eurythmists and eurythmy therapists live a clear 10-15 percent shorter lives than ordinary anthroposophists. The few eurythmists who have grown very old mostly work in adult education, have partners or receive funding, or at least have no financial worries. Almost every eurythmist who has done other work or taught another subject has a story to tell about that: nothing is as draining as teaching eurythmy in school.

EK | Ms Böken, you work in Asia as a eurythmist. How do Chinese managers or prisoners in Bangkok benefit from eurythmy?

NB | I have been teaching there for seven years. That is how it came about that I worked in a juvenile prison and with teachers in one of the largest elite schools in Thailand. But recently I have been working increasingly with managers both in Thailand and in China. Asians think very pictorially and eurythmy is a pictorial language. In Asia I don’t have to explain eurythmy to an Asian manager. Every exercise speaks for itself. So I was once asked to train managers under the heading “managing and being managed”. They learnt astonishing things which they were able to apply directly in their daily work.

EK | Eurythmy celebrates its one hundredth birthday this year. What is your contribution?

BH | Our joint impulse is to give eurythmy as a whole a higher profile because we are convinced of and enthusiastic about its effect – be it in a social context, in education or therapy – through our daily experience. But that also requires a lot of explanatory work. We are artists by profession, not writers. In the past a lot of the presentation of the public image was left to pupils, also because there is still a very conservative attitude to photos and films. One consequence of that is that YouTube is full of grainy videos taken on mobile phones of lessons for which no permission has been sought. Eurythmy is made to look ridiculous. That is what we intend to tackle now. We want to go public with the project “Why do eurythmy?”, which was developed in collaboration with the Association of Waldorf Schools, in order to present this subject in its proper light.

NB | Explanatory work not in the sense of missionary work, that has been tried too often, but in the sense of people being able to experience it for themselves. It is fantastic to observe what happens between people when they do eurythmy with one another. With a bit of skill you can set social processes in motion and thus practice social competence.

BH | We know today that eurythmy is far more than an art: it is a way to help transformation processes which can be used in almost any situation, everywhere in life, in order to initiate positive developments. We hope that this potential can be rediscovered because there is a need wherever you look.


cynthia , Kuwait, 09.04.13 10:04

Regarding teaching Eur. in schools. I taught for 17 years then switched careers. People who saw me after a couple of years said I had grown younger. That is how drained I was teaching Eurythmy in schools.

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