History of the Rosen Method
Marion’s Early Life
Born on June 24, 1914, in Nuremberg, Germany, Marion Rosen grew up in a family that enjoyed travel, sports, friendship, and a happy social life. Raised in a country home with gardens and nearby woods, Marion was an active child who loved to ski, swim, play tennis, and dance. Her early years of support, delight, and ease began to change as German politics shifted. She and her family began to experience the hardship and anxiety that the Jewish community experienced as Germany’s social and political landscape radically altered in the 1930s.
In 1936, when Marion was 22 years old, she began studying touch therapy with Lucy Heyer in Munich. Lucy Heyer was trained by Elsa Gindler, one of the leading innovators in body-oriented therapies in Europe. Lucy was also the wife of Gustav Heyer, a physician in the circle of Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, and other leaders in the budding field of psychotherapy. During her apprenticeship, Marion worked with many patients undergoing psychoanalysis and drew on touch therapy as a way to access unconscious memory, feelings, and past events that had been forgotten or suppressed. This early experience would later inform her unique forms of bodywork and movement.
Marion eventually left Germany in the late 1930s, landing in California after a stay in Sweden. While in Sweden, she studied physiotherapy and continued that study in the U.S., becoming eventually licensed as a physical therapist. She set up a private practice in Oakland, California. As well as having her physical therapy practice, she taught weekly movement classes to women who wanted to stay active and healthy as they aged.
The Rosen Method
In the mid-1970s, she was approached by Sara Webb, the daughter of one of her movement class regulars. Sara asked to be trained in the work Marion had learned with Lucy Heyer. Marion eventually said yes, and an apprenticeship began. As Marion and Sara’s work progressed, their clients found that they could access feelings related to specific life experiences that had long been put away. As muscle tension relaxed and released, their emotional selves became more available. Peoples’ lives began to transform as closed-off parts of themselves opened up.
In this initial period, Marion’s reputation as a practitioner with a unique skill in accessing body-based memory grew. Her practice transformed from being mostly referred physical therapy patients to clients seeking personal experience of this newly evolving somatic approach.
In 1980, Marion began her first professional training program, co-taught with apprentice Louise Barrie. The twelve-student group met weekly over two years to observe demonstrations, engage in hands-on learning, exchange sessions, and share ongoing experiences of change. Over time trainees began to build clientele, giving sessions on a regular basis and developing practice management skills. Students also attended weekly movement classes taught by Marion or Sara.
The name Rosen Method was chosen when Marion felt her first students had learned the fundamentals of her way of work. In 1983, the Rosen Institute was created by Sandra Wooten as a permanent structure to support the growth of Rosen Method. New groups of students formed, and weekly trainings began to attract a broad range of students from many different backgrounds and careers: massage therapists, psychotherapists, nurses, physicians, teachers, small business owners, physical therapists, artists, social workers, and many others.
The first place Marion taught outside of the U.S. was Stockholm, Sweden. She gave a five- day workshop at Axelsons Gymnastiska Institut, the largest bodywork training center in northern Europe. After the workshop and personal experience of Rosen Method, school founder Hans Axelson began promoting the work throughout Scandinavia in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Rosen Method courses became very popular there, with many practitioners and teachers completing the training.
Graduates of the initial trainings created the first two U.S. centers outside of Berkeley, on the East Coast and in Santa Fe. Rosen Method trainings currently take place in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Mexico and across the US in California and cities on the East Coast. As Rosen Method continues to expand, emerging centers are being fostered in Israel, the upper Midwest of the U.S., the Netherlands, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Books have been written about Rosen Method Bodywork and Movement by Marion and other authors from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the U.S., and Australia. Many have been translated into multiple languages. In some countries, locally based Rosen Method Professional Associations (RMPAs) work within the community to promote Rosen Method. RMPAs provide continuing education opportunities, lobby for legislation related to somatic methods and alternative health care, publish newsletters, and maintain websites, among other activities.