Craniosacral Therapy (CST) works by helping the body’s natural healing mechanisms dissipate the negative effects of stress on the central nervous system. It is called “Craniosacral” because the work is centered around performing delicate manipulations on the bones of the head or “cranium” and lower spine or “sacrum”. Osteopaths William Sutherland in the early 1900s and John Upledger in the 1970s identified the craniosacral system as a functioning physiologic system. Their revolutionary work demonstrated that correcting imbalances and releasing trauma from this system could improve brain and spinal cord functioning and heal a wide variety of health problems.
The human body is an incredible machine, and each system within the human body plays a key role in overall health and function. The brain and spinal cord are key players in what is known as the central nervous system. This system might be best understood as the command center for the whole body, sending and receiving messages about how each system is working and what the body may need to regain and maintain proper function. The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by the craniosacral system, the membranes and fluid that surround these precious organs, providing them with the nourishment and protection necessary for survival in everyday life. In a sense, the craniosacral system might be considered just as important as the central nervous system it protects. This network of membranes and fluids has a direct impact on the overall health and function of both the brain and the spinal cord. By focusing on the craniosacral system, CST aims to benefit the central nervous system and, in turn, the entire body.
CST is a form of gentle touch therapy applied to the soft tissue that surrounds the craniosacral system, with generally up to no more than 5 grams of pressure. The basic mission of CST is to release any restrictions in the soft tissue that surrounds this crucial system. The restrictions in the soft tissue near the craniosacral system could essentially push against those membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. This may then lead to the distortion of the proper flow of the cerebrospinal fluid inside these membranes. You may think of the membranes as a garden hose, and the cerebrospinal fluid as the water that flows within that hose. When the garden hose gets bent or distorted, the flow of the water is compromised and often weakened. When such distortions result from soft-tissue restrictions, this is clearly not optimal for the health and function of the central nervous system, the body’s command center.
Like the pulse of the cardiovascular system, the craniosacral system has a rhythm that can be felt throughout the body. It is a natural physiologic rhythm, just like the cardiac and respiratory rhythms. Injuries, disease, stress or trauma anywhere in the body can cause restrictions in the free movement of the system. By monitoring this rhythm to determine the source of an obstruction or stress, CST helps the body to move in a more fluid and natural way while facilitating deep relaxation, increased vitality, and a profound sense of well-being. This is the reason why it is used to treat such a broad range of conditions, from chronic pain to medical issues that may have mental or emotional causes. By focusing on the body’s command center, CranioSacral Therapy aims to increase the body’s ability to heal and self-correct from head to toe, inside and out.
What to expect during a session:
In Craniosacral Therapy, practitioners learn to address craniosacral rhythms and flows with a series of practices referred to as listening, following, and unwinding. listening in Craniosacral Therapy means being able to observe what is without judgement. When we listen in this way, we listen with our hands, our ki, and our presence, not just with our head or ears. Following means that we are so connected with the structure or energy channel we are touching that we can stay with it as it moves. When we are following, we are in perfect synchrony: we do not judge, change, exaggerate, or resist the movement. In unwinding we can either allow our awareness to guide us in a particular direction, or follow the movement to its limit and then actively invite it to stay at the position (without returning or continuing on its repetitive loop) until a change occurs and a new form of movement unfolds.
As restrictions are released and the body begins to return to optimal functioning, many possible sensations may occur. The release may be felt as heat, pulsing, relaxation, or in many other ways. Because memories of trauma and injury are often stored in the connective tissue of the body, sometimes the release is accompanied by emotion or old memories related to the original cause of the restriction. When this happens, the patient and therapist work together to allow the expression of these patterns of tissue memory, often dramatically reducing the level of pain or dysfunction in the area involved.
SomatoEmotional Release (SER) is a therapeutic process that uses the concepts of Craniosacral Therapy to establishing a strong mind-body connection in order for the release of the discomforting side effects of trauma from the body, whether they were physical or emotional in nature. Joint research efforts by Dr. John Upledger and biophysicist Dr. Zvi Karni led to the discovery that the body often retains (rather than dissipates) physical forces, and often the accompanying emotional energy, triggered by physiological, psychological, emotional or spiritual trauma. The emotional symptoms that we experience during trauma remain unresolved as the body heals. In order for these remaining symptoms of trauma to heal permanently, a mind-body connection has to be made.
Tissue memory is one of the important concepts in SomatoEmotional Release. Muscle tissues and cells can store memories that are related to our traumatic experiences. When a particular muscle group is injured during an accident, a memory of that experience is formed in the affected tissue. This usually means that a small, unconscious contraction has formed in the muscle as a protective reminder of the painful experience. If the tissue memory is not appropriately released then the contraction will remain in the muscle as the injury heals, leading to future pain. This unconscious contractions is called “energy cyst”, an isolated concentration of negative energy. When the energy cyst is not released, they can spread strain to other parts of the body. A normal body can work around the cyst and carry on its daily functions. However, the cyst will continue to drain energy out of the system, preventing the body from reaching optimal health. Oftentimes, as the body weakens or tires, it can no longer afford the cyst’s demands for extra energy, and other health problems will begin to surface.
Human’s body seems to be of two “minds.” Part of it wants to maintain the status quo since life is still present and the body is working even though that work may be inefficient and painful - so why risk a change? This part can be called as “resistance protection.” Another part is striving for improvement, which means that the energy cyst must be dissipated, thus ridding the body of the need for adaptation and discomfort. During the therapeutic process of SER, therapist act as facilitators in cooperation with the part of the patient that wants to get rid of the abnormal energy cyst formation. In order to do this, therapists encourage the positive aspects of the body-mind and discourage the negative aspects. Therapists help patients express the energy cyst from their body by facilitating the body’s memory of the injury and thus ending the suppression.
My experience with a great deal of sessions supports the belief that each and every one of us has an intelligence inside that knows about what is going on in our lives. My Concern, as a healthcare practitioner, is that we make a connection with the part of you that knows the answer, and that those answers can be shared with us and used for the good of the total you.
What to expect during a session:
Subtle body work is combined with dialogue to assist the process of release and to gain insight as to how the held trauma is influencing the physical and emotional health. This work truly accesses and assists the body in healing that very powerful and basic “mind-body connection”, facilitating healing at the source level of the pain or problem. The majority of people enter deep states of relaxation that we can invite the Inner Physician to come and talk to us. Once we have made this contact with the Inner Physician, we develop a friendly rapport. Sometimes, an awareness or association of past trauma may arise during the course of a craniosacral session and the release progresses within the framework of the physical bodywork being done during that session. Or, as larger issues become apparent, several focused sessions might be helpful to fully and safely allow the trapped emotional energy to escape along the same pathway it took when it entered your body and to re-experience and resolve past traumas. When this happens, a patient should not try to suppress the pain or emotion, rather, with the support of therapist, they should allow the experience to unfold and move naturally towards a healing resolution.
While each person’s response to SER is different, common experiences include:
• Spontaneous memories of the trauma that led to the trapped emotions.
• The unexpected welling up of emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, frustration and guilt.
• A sense of relief, lightness, exhilaration and joy once the emotions are released.
This is an approach to trauma resolution that works with the body’s innate yearning to heal. Whatever the response, SER is a completely natural process that occurs when your body is ready to release the final residue of painful, trapped emotions. As modern humans, most of us have been conditioned to inhibit the natural process that helps wild animals release and recover from trauma. Animals in nature literally shake off traumatic vibrations and get on with their lives after an attack. We domesticated humans, however, repress fear, anger, and other paralyzing emotions associated with trauma. This embeds these emotions in our tissues, along with painful memories. Re-experiencing unconscious movement pathways through SomatoEmotional Release can open restricted tissues and liberate traumatic memories and energies. This helps us release pain and allows our tissues to become more resilient and adaptable. So we become healthier rather than more restricted.