Elsa Gindler

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Elsa Gindler (1885–1961) was a somatic bodywork pioneer in Germany.

Born in Berlin, gymnastics teacher, student of Hedwig Kallmeyer (who, in turn, had been a student of Genevieve Stebbins).

From her personal experience of recovering from an attack of tuberculosis (by concentrating to breathe with her healthy lung and rest the diseased lung) Gindler helped originate an entire school of bodywork, in close collaboration with Heinrich Jacoby.[1]

What Gindler had called Arbeit am Menschen (work on the human being) emphasised self-observation and growing understanding of one's individual physically related condition. Simple actions such as sitting, standing, walking etc. were explored, also in everyday situations.

This became one of the bases of body psychotherapy since many of the most influential body psychotherapists studied with her or "Sensory Awareness" with Charlotte Selver at the Esalen Institute around 1962. Other influential students of Gindler include Elsa Lindenberg,[2] the partner of Wilhelm Reich, Laura Perls, wife of Fritz Perls, and Carola Speads,.[3]

During the Nazi-period of Germany, Gindler used these investigations and experimental exercises with her students to covertly help people who were persecuted by the regime.[1] For her assistance to the Jewish population of Berlin, she was distinguished as a righteous among the nations and a tree was planted in Yad Vashem in her honour.

Students and Collaborators[edit]

Gindler's collaborators included

Several of Gindler's students went on to become influential teachers themselves:[4]

Gindler's student Charlotte Selver emigrated to the United States in 1938, and later became one of the first teachers at Esalen Institute where she would frequently credit Gindler. Through Selver's Sensory Awareness workshops at Esalen and elsewhere, Gindler's work indirectly influenced most of the somatic teachers in the United States.

Other names associated with Gindler include Sophie Ludwig (1901–1997) and Ruth Matter (1904–1995).


  • History of Esalen Institute
  • German Wikipedia article on Elsa Gindler (translation requested)


  1. ^ a b Knaster, Mirka (1996). Discovering the Body's Wisdom: A Comprehensive Guide to More Than Fifty Mind-Body Practices. Bantam. pp. 188–245. ISBN 9780307575500. 
  2. ^ See: Store norske leksikon (The Norwegian Encyclopedia): http://snl.no/Elsa_Lindenberg (Retrieved 3. June 2014).
  3. ^ Carola Speads (1978). "Ways to Better Breathing." Healing Arts Press, Rochester. VT.
  4. ^ Geuter, Ulfried; Heller, Michael C.; Weaver, Judyth O. (2010). "Elsa Gindler and her influence on Wilhelm Reich and Body Psychotherapy". Body, Movement & Dance in Psychotherapy – An International Journal for Theory, Research and Practice 5 (1): 59–73. 

External links[edit]

in German:

in English: