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Dr. Norman Allan, Ph D.
CranioSacral Therapy is comprehensive technique, good for almost anything, but difficult to define. A friend called it "the membrane's edge" between mind, body and spirit, and that's where it excels - where mind, body, and spirit meet. Created by osteopath Dr. John Upledger, CranioSacral Therapy is composed of five or six separate pieces, and to explain it we had best describe each piece in turn.
The CranioSacral rhythm: In the early nineteen seventies Dr. Upledger was observing an operation on one of his patients. The patient had a tumour in the spinal canal. The surgeon asked Dr. Upledger to hold the "dural tube" to one side with forceps. The dural tube is a membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. The space between it and the spinal cord is filled with cerebral spinal fluid. (It is from this space that fluid, the cerebral spinal fluid, is drawn in "spinal taps".) Through-out the operation, while Upledger was holding the dural membrane aside, he observed a rhythmic pulsation in the dural tube. This pulse has a frequency of 6 to 12 cycles per minute, that's roughly two seconds in and two seconds out. The discovery of this rhythm intrigued Upledger. He reasoned that as the pulse is hydraulic (occurs in a water-like medium - water being incompressible), one should be able to find the rhythm all over the body. And indeed one can. Later he theorised that the rhythm is generated by the secretion of the cerebral spinalfluid deep in the brain.
To find the rhythm have a friend lie on their back. Sit at their head, and cup the back of their head in your hands. Feel for subtle movement. It is very subtle movement we are feeling for, so just allow yourself to sense absolutely anything that is there. Any movement you feel accept as real (for the moment) and just go with: echo it. Later, when you are confident of finding and feeling the rhythm, you can challenge and question it. To find it, however, first expect and accept it.
The CranioSacral rhythm is used primarily as an indicator. Where the rhythm is blocked, this is an indication of a physical or energetic blockage. Also, the rhythm turns off whenever we go into even a light meditative trance. By this I mean, when we are in the "alpha" brain-wave state (or deeper) the cranial rhythm stops. When we become alert again (and go into "beta" state), the rhythm turns back on. When we are doing any significant healing, we go into a light trance. We can use the rhythm to monitor a patient state or, by inducing a "still point", we can use it to relax them.
Cranial movement: The cranial rhythm is only the first of the several pieces that define CranioSacral Therapy. A second piece comes directly out of "Cranial Osteopathy". The bones and sutures of the skull move. Where those movements are blocked, the restrictions can be sensed and corrected by gentle mechanical and energetic means.
Unwinding the connective tissue: A third modality is called "fascial unwinding". This is a sort of no-force Rolfing. When we lay our hands on the body we create a slack in the tissue. Any tension or contracture in the tissue will tend to take up, to pull in, that slack. If we follow any movements we feel, and then take over the holding for the body, we give that tension the opportunity of releasing. When we take over this holding function it is as though the body can then say to itself, "I don't have to do this any more," and can let go. So in this manner we can unwind old tensions in the tissues.
The Dural Tube: The Dura, one of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, adheres to the bones of the skull. Gentle traction of the skull can therefore be used to unwind restrictions in the dura and the dural tube that surrounds the spinal cord. This can be of great importance in some conditions.
"SomatoEmotional Release" represents a fifth aspect of CranioSacral technique. By exploring which movements the body accepts and which it resists and then asking the body to move in the direction of least resistance, we can often induce spontaneous movement. Then, sensing any position in which the cranial rhythm turns off (recall that this will be a "significant position"), we may hold the body in that significant posture and facilitate release of stored traumas. Upledger calls these stored physical and emotional traumas "energy cysts". Release of these locked up energies sometimes brings subtle and sometimes profound change.
Dialoguing and Imaging: Accompanying all these modalities dialoguing and imaging can be used wherever it feels appropriate. The images used in CranioSacral should be the patient's own, and not, as a rule, the therapist's. In practice I find that 60% of us visualise easily, and when this is the case imaging can be a powerful healing tool.
Visceral Manipulation: There are many other modalities and methods that can be employed along with the above major CST techniques. One that I use extensively is Visceral Manipulation. The visceral organs each has its own characteristic movement. We store our emotions and our traumas in the organs, again as contractions, restriction of movement. Which brings me to two generalizations:-
Repression: First, whatever we wish to forget, we file in the body as a tension, a contraction, and then ignore it. Eventually those tensions will accumulate and develop into physical symptoms.
When those tensions are released, the material filed becomes free-floating again. Problems buried in the past can now be resolved with our maturing resources and understanding.
The Body's spontaneous agenda: Finally, the key to CST is gentleness. The patient comes in with a conscious and an unconscious agenda. If we respect the patient, listen to the patient and to their body, if we follow the body, or when leading ask for a response with the gentlest of requests, we can facilitate the patient in accomplishing the healing that they intend at the levels of body, mind, and spirit.
Dr. Allan, D.C. Ph.D., is researcher and a practitioner of Alternative Medicines including CranioSacral Therapy. For more information: phone 416 928 9272
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