By Ellen Asherah, Certified Massage Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, Reiki Master Teacher
Do you experience headaches, chronic tension, neck or lower back discomfort? Is your mind overly busy? Is your nervous system on overload? Do you find that it is hard to relax, move into a calm state or to sleep at night? Do you experience depression or anxiety? If you answer yes to any of these questions Craniosacral Therapy may be a helpful solution for your self care. Craniosacral Balancing is a subtle yet profound form of body work in which gentle adjustments remobilize restrictions to the small but vital movement of the bones of the cranium, spinal column and sacrum which float in rhythmically flowing cranio-sacral fluid. Because the central nervous system resides in these areas, Craniosacral Therapy serves as an effective and gentle reset to the central nervous system, bringing an increased feeling of peace and well-being along with improved brain and body systems functioning. Glands such as the pineal and pituitary benefit from Craniosacral Balancing. Blood and lymph circulation are also enhanced by these methods.
This realm of therapy evolved through the work of a number of osteopaths such as Dr. William G. Sutherland and Dr. John E. Upledger. Increasingly, massage therapists are training in and incorporating Craniosacral Therapy into their practices due to the versatility and effectiveness of the modality. In my own practice I find a variety of ways to incorporate Craniosacral Therapy into massage, hypnotherapy and Reiki sessions. Often clients come to me with extreme muscle tension or mental/emotional stress, requesting deep tissue techniques. While the deep techniques address the soft tissues and give the client a feeling that something is happening because the deep work feels so intense, I find that most of the time it is the Craniosacral Therapy techniques that I weave into the sessions that actually relax the client in a more profound and efficient way, working from the inside out. Because only a light touch is used this modality is very good for clients who are in an especially sensitive or frail state, where a pressure-oriented massage treatment would be too extreme. Craniosacral Therapy techniques can be combined with other massage modalities within a session, according to the client’s need in the moment, adding another dimension, both energetic and physiological to the massage treatment. As blockages to the craniosacral movement are freed, and circulation of fluids (cranio-sacral, blood, lymph) is enhanced, the flow of Chi (the Traditional Chinese Medicine term for the vital life force energy of which all is comprised) is likewise freed of constriction and set flowing, promoting health and balance.
Headaches, migraines and hypertension can often be relieved with craniosacral therapy. In fact, it was when a craniosacral balancing session dramatically relieved and reduced my chronic headaches that I became convinced of the value of this modality as an effective treatment for headaches, and as an extension, mood and brain functioning. While we often think of our skulls or craniums as one single unit, actually the cranium is made up of many bones which move very slightly while floating in cerebral-spinal fluid. Just as the heart beat and the breath have a rhythm of expansion and contraction, so does the cerebral-spinal fluid. The brain, the spine, the sacrum, and the central nervous system all move and flow with the craniosacral tides. Interestingly, the density of the cranio-sacral fluid parallels that of the ocean, pointing further to the potential for this kind of work to rebalance the body systems to the natural rhythms, both within and without, physical, chemical and energetic.
There are many possible causes of “adhesions” or stuck stagnant tissues in the cranium and cerebral-spinal column, and these adhesions are not uncommon. When adhesions are gently freed from the cranial bones decompressions can occur resulting quite literally in more space for the brain, better blood, lymph and oxygen flow, and the ability to flow unobstructed with the general craniosacral tide. Many headaches can be relieved in this manner. Also, various areas of the brain can function better after treatment. For example, adjustments to the sphenoid bone can enhance the pituitary gland functioning, as the pituitary actually rests on the sphenoid, and is the ruling gland of the endocrine system. Craniosacral sphenoid adjustments can also aid in eyesight as the sphenoid bone contacts the optic nerve. Headaches due to eye strain may be relieved in this manner. The temporal bone is another example. When proper fluidity is restored to the temporal bones a host of symptomology can be addressed including headache, dizziness, ear and hearing problems, TMJ inflammation, epilepsy and even dyslexia.
Craninosacral Balancing techniques are very effective for neck pain, especially when the occiput (base of the skull) and the atlas (the first vertebrae) are compressed or misaligned. This common restriction pattern can place pressure on a variety of cranial nerves, impairing the function of the nervous system and inhibiting focus, vitality and the ability to relax and shift out of hypertension. Decompression through these techniques can create space between the occiput and vertebrae and promote proper alignment. In fact, adhesions and restrictions up and down the spinal column can be gently freed through this process of unwinding and can facilitate spinal realignment, relieving back pain. The position of the sacrum (base of the spine) is also realigned and decompressed during a craniosacral session, serving to relieve lower back pain due to misalignment which also affects the hip joints (sacro-illiac joints). Through craniosacral therapy the direct connection between the brain, spine and lower back becomes clear. We all know that water and other fluids conduct energy (such as electricity) and that energy moves quickly through liquids. It is with the same speed that energy can move up and down from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, describing what in Vedic tradition is called the flow of Kundalini energy. Thus freeing blockages through craniosacral treatments effectively serves to free the Kundalini energy (and the chakras or energy centers of the body) while enhancing physiological systems.
There are a number of ways in which craniosacral therapy can help alleviate depression, anxiety and hypertension. When adhesions are mobilized blood circulation and oxygen circulation increase and consequently alter the brain chemistry which has a direct and beneficial effect on mood and emotion. It is well known that brain chemistry is directly related to emotion and behavior. As the brain and central nervous system utilizes nutrients from increased flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid, the brain chemistry rebalances and mood and emotion automatically shift. In working with the spine, sacrum and bones of the cranium, and especially the deep bones in the core of the cranium, Craniosacral Therapy techniques effectively reset the nervous system by bringing the craniosacral rhythm to a still point. Temporarily inducing this “stillpoint” to the craniosacral cycle of filling and emptying of cerebrospinal fluid, gives the nervous system an opportunity for rest and self correction. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the reset of the nervous system brings with it a profound shift into a calm and peaceful state often referred to as a parasympathetic shift. Tension, depression, anxiety, anger can all shift into more positive and balanced states of being through this parasympathetic shift, where the unconscious mind is led from fight or flight mode into a balanced state of well-being. This process can bring peace and calm to a formerly over-busy mind. As the nerves are soothed and calm is restored, a proper climate conducive to healing and balance is created. Receiving craniosacral work is relaxing. The work is subtle because mostly it is very small micro-movements that are being used, as the movement of the bones as a result of craniosacral filling and emptying are very tiny movements. While it may at first seem that not much is happening from the receiving end, often the recipient moves into a very deep, almost sleep-like state as the reset takes effect.
I am available for Craniosacral Balancing sessions, either alone or combined with therapeutic massage, hypnotherapy, Reiki and/or sound and vibrational therapy, working with each individual’s specific needs and goals. I am located in Middletown, California (Lake County, Norhtern Califonia).You can reach Ellen Asherah: email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out my website at: www.ellenasherah.com.