What is the Craniosacral Therapy?
Craniosacral therapy (CST) is an extremely gentle treatment, allowing the body's innate healing power to restore the natural balance of the body. It calms the nervous system, releases restriction of the muscles and bones, and promotes the flow of energy throughout the body.
People come for Craniosacral therapy with musculoskeletal problems, digestive conditions, psycho-emotional issues, support for pregnancy and babies, and many more. Clients usually experience deep relaxation during the session and feel refreshed and energised.
With calm presence, the practitioner uses an exceptionally light touch and tunes into the subtle rhythmic motion of the body. The treatment encourages the self-healing process allowing the body to unwind naturally.
Who is it for?
Craniosacral therapy is a safe and gentle treatment suitable for anyone from babies to old people.
It primarily engages with the whole person and helps to enhance the body’s innate healing power.
People come to craniosacral treatment with a variety of conditions such as:
Sacroiliac joint pain
Psychological and physical trauma
I use an integrated approach incorporating the biomechanical (more structural) and biodynamic (more energetic) approaches of Craniosacral therapy, adapting the treatment according to the patient's needs at the time.
Although I may not necessarily use these skills in Craniosacral treatment, my understanding of posture (from the Alexander technique), and the innate wellbeing (from the Three Principles) provide me with broader perspectives on mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. With these skills, knowledge, and experiences, I can help you reconnect with your wellbeing.
After a series of Craniosacral sessions, some clients move on to have Alexander Technique lessons or Three Principles - wellbeing coaching sessions with me. Some people alternate the sessions each time or have a combined session. It is all up to your individual circumstance and preference. You can customise the sessions according to your needs.
The heart of all my practices is mindfulness. It is the essential quality that underlies all the practices I do and fundamental to my approach whether in the Alexander Technique, Craniosacral Therapy, or the Three Principles – wellbeing coaching.
What happens in a treatment?
During the treatment, I place my hands very gently on your body and listen to see where the restriction, disturbance, and imbalances are. The body has its natural rhythm and powerful healing potential. By tuning into it, the body gradually unfolds and balances itself. Craniosacral therapy is an extremely subtle work but can have a profound effect on the body and mind, integrating the whole person.
Please wear loose-fitting trousers and bring a clean pair of socks.
Please give at least 24hours notice if you need to cancel your appointment. Missed appointments or cancellations of less than 24hours notice will be charged for the session.
How does Craniosacral therapy work?
Tides of the body
The body is always moving even when it is at rest. Our bodies are constantly in motion to keep us alive. There are movements of breathing, circulation of blood and lymph, and digestion, etc. But there are even subtler movements, wave-like motions that are always present. This is called ‘Tides’ in Craniosacral therapy. There are different levels of tides, faster and shallower ones to deeper and much slower tides, just like the tides in the ocean - the surface waves to the deeper currents. Maybe you can feel this subtle movement if you rest your hands very gently on someone and listen carefully.
From Cranium to Sacrum
The brain and spinal code are surrounded and protected by layers of membranes. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is contained within the membrane, and brain and spinal code are bathed in this vital fluid. The fluid moves within the membrane and the membrane itself moves along with the cranium and the spine down to the sacrum, expanding and contracting ever so slightly in a wave-like pattern. A craniosacral therapist tunes in to this subtle motion and palpates with an extremely light touch.
Allowing and following
The craniosacral therapist engages with the patient’s energetic field and gently places hands on the body. As the body expresses the subtle motions, expanding and contracting, the areas of restrictions and compressions in the body also become apparent. The therapist doesn’t try to release those restrictions by manipulating or massaging the affected areas but simply stays with it, allowing the body to express whatever needs to be expressed. The therapist listens with their hands and whole being, waiting patiently for the body to unfold itself.
It is like being with a disturbed or tantrum child. If you put resistance and try to stop the child with force, you give something to push against and the emotion may get amplified and continue longer. Even if you might be successful, the build-up of energy gets buried within. But if you offer nothing to push against while gently holding the space for the child to express their emotion safely, the child’s pent-up energy gradually runs its own course and dissipates. Because the child’s wisdom self regulates and returns itself to calmness if stopped getting stimulated and agitated.
The body acts in a similar way. But the key is the calm presence of the practitioner. It is not a disengaged and disinterested state but a wholehearted engagement with the patient while providing the space for the patient's body to unfold
The body has amazing healing potential and self-correcting power. As the therapist holds spacious awareness, the patient’s body gradually settles down and the nervous system becomes calm and balanced. It’s as if the gentle waves of healing energy wash through the body and flush out the trapped energy and tensions, like waves wash over the sandcastles left on the beach and return it to its natural state. Craniosacral therapy facilitates the body to heal itself. It is powerful because the therapist doesn’t DO anything to the body but allows the process of self-healing to take place by waking up the wisdom within the patient.
It may sound too good to be true. But as the ancient Daoist master, Lao Tzu said, ‘The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid.’ (Tao Te Ching).
Autonomic nervous system
The autonomic nervous system regulates our breathing, heart rate, and other vital functions in our bodies. As the name suggests it functions automatically without having to think about it.
Broadly speaking, the autonomic nervous system has two opposing divisions:
Sympathetic nervous system
Parasympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. It uses energy and prepares the body for action.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response. It calms the body down and promotes digestion.
They work together to maintain the optimal balance of the body.
Overstimulated sympathetic nervous system
When we are in danger, the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight or flight) becomes activated. It prepares our body to fight or run away from the threat whether it’s real or imagined. It increases heartbeat and breathing rate and shuts down the digestive system to give us the energy to act.
In our modern lifestyle, we are often under stress mentally and physically from work, school, relationships, and many other factors. When we are stressed, the sympathetic nervous system gets activated to cope with the situation.
However, if the stress is ongoing, the sympathetic nervous system becomes overstimulated, causing an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system.
The body continuously produces adrenaline putting it in a constant state of alert, depleting energy and nutrients.
The overstimulated sympathetic nervous system can cause many associated problems.
High blood pressure
Increased muscle tension
Anxiety, Panic attack
The sympathetic nervous system affects your heart, hormones, muscles, digestion and mental health. So you don’t want the sympathetic nervous system to be ‘on’ all the time. You need the parasympathetic nervous system to be able to calm you down when the necessary action is taken to deal with the situation.
How Craniosacral Therapy can help the Autonomic nervous system balance.
During Craniosacral therapy treatment, I often place hands gently on the areas where sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves are located, or on their pathways where they tend to get restricted, such as the joint between the back of the head and the neck.
This produces a calming effect on the sympathetic nerves and stimulates the parasympathetic nerves. As your system starts to settle down, your mind begins to quieten, and the muscles gradually start to unclench.
You may feel you are sinking deeper into the couch, experiencing warmth or a nice buzzing sensation in your body. You may also feel the energy flowing through your body or you are suspended in the energy field. Your muscles may start to twitch. That is a sign that your muscles are releasing, and your body is reorganising itself, gradually balancing the autonomic nervous system.
The History of Craniosacral Therapy
Craniosacral Therapy developed out of osteopathy. Andrew Taylor Still (1828 –1917), the founder of osteopathy, was a physician but became disillusioned by the medical practice of the time, especially the use of some chemicals such as mercury chloride which caused more harm than good. He dedicated his life to studying the human body and developing the method of manipulating the musculoskeletal system. He thought that the body’s natural healing potential could be enhanced and heal itself if the blockage had been removed. He looked for an alternative approach for treatments and advocated preventive medicine, treating the whole person rather than purely focusing on specific symptoms.
Although his idea was not accepted by the medical profession at the time, his method gradually gained popularity and he established the world first osteopathic medical school, The American College of Osteopathy.
Still’s student, William Garner Sutherland (1873-1954) was studying at The American College of Osteopathy. He noticed the suture (fibrous joint) of the skull was similar to the gill of the fish, and he thought that perhaps the whole of the skull is mobile rather than static. At the time, it was commonly believed that the 22 bones of the skull would fuse in adults and stay immobile (apart from the lower jaw).
Sutherland experimented on himself to see if this was true. He created a special helmet that restricted the movement of the bones in the skull, thinking if the bones were fused and immobile there should not be any problem. Apparently, he almost lost consciousness when he experimented with it. This proved that the bones in the skull were in fact moving. Also, he realised that the sacrum which was connected by the dural membrane through the spine was also moving together. From this discovery, Sutherland went on to develop a much gentler form of treatment, Cranial Osteopathy.
He identified subtle tide-like motion in the body which was different from breathing and circulation of the blood. By tuning into this rhythmic motion, he discovered that the body’s innate healing power naturally arises and releases the restrictions of the body and restores balance on its own.
An American physician and osteopath, John E. Upledger, noticed the regular movement of the dural membrane which surrounds the spinal cord while assisting a neck surgery. In the late 1960s, when attending a course run by Sutherland’s students, Upledger learned the movement of skull and sacrum that were connected by the dural membrane. This confirmed his previous experience.
At Michigan State University, he formed a team of scientists to investigate this phenomenon and proved Sutherland’s discovery; the skull and sacrum were moving together connected by the Dural membrane along with the cerebrospinal fluid that is contained within it.
Upledger continued to develop his work and focused on the release of fascia and membrane. He also simplified the technique in order for it to be available for people other than osteopaths and named it ‘CranioSacral therapy’.
Now Craniosacral therapy has spread all over the world with different styles and emphasis. But all the approaches are rooted in the initial discovery made by Still and Sutherland.