What is it?
Cranio-Sacral Therapy is an exceptionally gentle yet extremely powerful form of treatment, which engages with the deepest inherent healing forces within the body in order to enable integration of the whole body-mind.
The human body has a powerful inherent healing potential, but this potential can be compromised or depleted by injury, disease, trauma and stress. The forces of nature, both within and outside the body, have a natural tendency to reintegrate and restore healthy function. Quantum science demonstrates that this potential arises from the electromagnetic and other forces which pervade the whole universe, which are the basis of physics, chemistry and biology, which permeate all living beings, our environment and the whole matrix within which we exist, and which are responsible for generating life, growth, health and healing. These forces are expressed in the body as rhythmic motion.
CST engages with these forces in order to enhance the body’s natural healing ability and to restore health and integration of body, mind and spirit. It can enhance health in any circumstances - from new born babies to the elderly, from birth patterns, injury, illness, severe trauma, and all the many stresses and strains of life, both physical and emotional, often resolving issues that are not helped by other means. It is a profoundly transformative process.
What does it involve?
Cranio-Sacral treatment is most often carried out with the patient lying down, fully clothed, in a quiet and peaceful environment. Treatment involves a very gentle touch of the practitioner’s hands. This light contact may be taken up on the Cranium (head) the Sacrum (tail-bone) the feet, the trunk, or any other part of the body as appropriate. Treatment is generally experienced as a profound relaxation and reintegration which may pervade the whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally, often accompanied by a feeling of lightness and ease.
How does it work?
The cranial concept originates with the work of William Sutherland, who first identified the rhythmic motion of the cranio-sacral system and who devoted his life to developing a deeper understanding of the forces that govern our lives and our health.
When we rest our hands very lightly on the body and engage on a subtle level, we can feel rhythmic motion being expressed throughout the body, as if the whole body were gently breathing – not just the usual breathing of the lungs, but a more gentle, subtle, rhythmic motion.
The body is a coherent living matrix (Oschman – Energy Medicine - the scientific explanation 2000) guided by biodynamic forces. The natural world is guided by forces and rhythms which surround us and permeate us. The rhythmic motion which we feel in the body is a reflection of a natural force (described by Sutherland as the Breath of Life) which is present throughout nature and which perfuses all living things. It is an indication of our aliveness and a reflection of our vitality. The presence of this rhythmic motion has been clearly demonstrated on film (Seifriz 1954).
It is this natural force which determines the orderly progression of life, growth, development, health and healing and which restores and maintains balance and integration – whether in an acorn, enabling it to grow into a magnificent oak tree, or in a human being, enabling our progress from embryological development and throughout life.
Everything that happens to us – every injury, every illness, every tension, every trauma – influences this underlying vitality and its rhythmic motion, creating disturbances to its fluent expression.
When a Cranio-Sacral Therapist tunes in on a very subtle level, he or she can engage with these inherent forces, facilitating an interaction between the disturbed forces within the body and the integrative forces in the surrounding matrix. This interaction enables the patient’s system to respond to the therapist’s gentle contact through the Inherent Treatment Process (the body’s natural potential for healing) addressing and resolving any disturbances and resistances to the natural flow of health, thereby re-establishing a more settled, balanced, integrated state where the underlying vitality which maintains our health can be expressed freely, and where the body-mind can consequently function more smoothly and fluently on all levels.
Penetrating to the deepest levels:
The Cranio-Sacral system and its motion are subtle. In order to engage with them, the Cranio-Sacral therapist needs to use an extremely light touch – barely a touch at all, simply being there with their calm quiet presence. Cranio-Sacral Integration is therefore a very gentle therapy. It is through this unimposing gentleness that the body is able to open up (secure in the knowledge that it is not being threatened) enabling the Cranio-Sacral process to penetrate to the deepest levels of our being. Cranio-Sacral Therapy is therefore a very profound therapy, reaching levels which are not generally accessed by other more physical or more invasive means (which might induce the body’s protective mechanisms) and is therefore able to connect with and enhance the underlying health deep within, accessing the root causes of severe and profoundly debilitating disease - as well as relieving less severe conditions.
There are various approaches to Cranio-Sacral Therapy. The terms Biodynamic and Biomechanical are sometimes used to describe them.
Cranio-Sacral Integration appreciates and integrates the whole spectrum of approaches. It is firmly founded in Biodynamic principles - engaging with the most profound inherent healing forces within the body and with the deeper tides and rhythms of life - and also incorporates other resources in order to maintain a thorough grounding in anatomical and physiological principles.
A Biodynamic approach can be very effective in appropriate circumstances. A Biomechanical approach can be very effective in appropriate circumstances. An Integrated approach, incorporating both Biodynamic and Biomechanical principles as well as a wide range of other processes, provides a more comprehensive range of resources, enables a highly effective response to each individual according to their needs, and enables each practitioner to develop a broader perspective.
Overview of Cranio-Sacral Integration:
In order to understand cranio-sacral integration, we need to think on a quantum level. The body is not just skin and bones, muscles and fluids. All of these structures are composed of cells, of molecules, of atoms, of subatomic particles, in constant motion and interaction.
The body is a coherent living matrix, an integrated cohesive mass of particles and waves bound together by electro-magnetic and nuclear forces, existing within the wider matrix of the universal field around us and the biodynamic forces within that fluidic field.
These forces of nature determine the natural process of growth, development, health, healing, balance and integration, from embryonic development and throughout life, providing the body with an inherent ability to heal itself.
These forces are expressed within the body as rhythmic motion.
By engaging with these forces we can enhance their potential for healing and integration.
In order to engage with these subtle forces and rhythms, we need to establish our own profoundly therapeutic practitioner presence - a calm quiet meditative presence, simply being there in stillness.
In order to enable the patient’s optimum responsiveness, it is helpful to establish a settled, grounded and receptive state in the patient.
Through establishing appropriate levels of light contact, spacious attention, and profound tissue awareness, we can engage with the subtle quantum levels of being which constitute the matrix.
This can be experienced as a fluidic field surrounding and incorporating the body.
Within this field, subtle impressions of quality, symmetry, and motion will become apparent.
Disturbance to health will manifest as variations in quality, symmetry and motion, thereby revealing the source of any dysfunction.
The therapeutic process is guided by the inherent forces within the matrix – the inherent treatment process – the body’s natural tendency to heal itself.
This process can be enhanced by the practitioner’s therapeutic presence and informed awareness.
By settling into profound stillness, we can connect with deeper levels of consciousness.
Through this profound stillness we can engage with the most profound levels of being.
This can lead us to the deepest levels of healing.
Within quantum physics it is now well established that there is a universal field (Higgs 1964) within which everything exists and interacts - every galaxy, star, planet, solid object, living being, molecule, atom, subatomic particle - guided by the electro-magnetic and other fundamental forces which underlie all interactions throughout the universe.
In cranio-sacral integration, we also recognise a universal field, a unifying matrix within which life on earth has come into being, and each one of us exists as an individual matrix within this wider matrix. Just as in the oceans, sea creatures exist as individual creatures within the oceanic matrix, so we, as human beings, exist as individuals within the universal energetic matrix that surrounds us. We are formed embryologically, developed, maintained and sustained by the biodynamic forces within that field, and every cell, atom, and subatomic particle within our body is an integral part of that wider field.
The body is a coherent living matrix (Oschman – Energy Medicine - the scientific explanation 2000) - a mass of subatomic particles bound together by electro-magnetic and nuclear forces. This coherent living matrix exists within and interacts with the electro-magnetic forces in the surrounding universal energy matrix guided by the biodynamic forces which surround us and permeate us. It is these natural forces which determine the orderly progression of life, growth, development, health and healing and which restore and maintain balance and integration – whether in an acorn, enabling it to grow into a magnificent oak tree, or in a human being, enabling our progress from embryological development and throughout life.
The therapeutic process:
The body has the ability to heal and re-integrate itself through its own inherent treatment process. The body’s natural tendency is to reorganise, reintegrate, realign and heal, in response to the biodynamic forces within the surrounding matrix. When a Cranio-Sacral Therapist tunes in on a very subtle level, he or she can engage with these inherent forces, facilitating an interaction between the disturbed forces within the body and the integrative forces in the surrounding matrix. By engaging with the biodynamic forces expressed within the body, the Cranio-Sacral Therapist can enhance their potential for healing and integration, enabling reorganisation and reintegration of body, mind, and spirit, thereby re-establishing fluent function
Cranio-sacral integration is not specifically treating conditions; it is engaging with the whole person, re-integrating the fundamental matrix, establishing underlying health and vitality through which the body itself can resolve symptoms, conditions and their underlying causes, encouraging overall integration of structure and function.
The cranio-sacral system:
The cranio-sacral system is the individual matrix - not just the anatomical structures which make up the physical body, but the whole energetic matrix or fluidic field within and around the body, within which the body forms, develops, exists, and functions - incorporating the whole person and their response to the environment within which they are living, the whole body-mind complex within the context of their life.
Anatomy and Physiology:
Detailed knowledge of anatomy and physiology are fundamental to cranio-sacral integration. The physical body is the aspect of the matrix through which we experience day-to-day life, the physical medium through which life is expressed. Informed anatomical knowledge enables the practitioner to connect more effectively to the body through their attention and to become aware of significant fulcrums, tracing patterns of imbalance to their source, or surveying through the body for focal points of disturbance. The practitioner’s informed awareness plays a significant part in the therapeutic response.
The central nervous system (CNS) is enveloped in a triple membrane (the meninges) the three layers consisting of pia mater (inner layer) arachnoid mater (middle layer) and dura mater (outer layer) forming a reciprocal tension membrane system extending from the cranium to the sacrum. Within the cranium, the intracranial membranes form infoldings of membrane – the falx cerebri, the falx cerebelli and the tentorium cerebelli - which partially subdivide the cranium. The whole reciprocal tension membrane system including the intracranial membranes plays a significant part in maintaining the integrity of the system.
Cerebro-spinal fluid is contained within the membranes, bathing and protecting the brain and spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid is formed from arterial blood, circulates within the ventricular system (deep inside the brain and spinal cord) and in the subarachnoid space (the space surrounding the brain and spinal cord, between the pia mater and the arachnoid mater) and drains into the venous blood. It is continuously renewed, and provides oxygenation, nutrition and removal of waste products from the central nervous system.
Fascia forms an interconnected sheath emanating from the membrane system to envelop every structure in the body – bones, muscles, organs, blood vessels, nerves – from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, providing structural continuity and interconnection throughout the body.
Fascia holds our physical structure together, penetrates deep into the internal structure of cells, provides an essential communication system throughout the body, with a vast sensory nerve supply and profound connections with the autonomic nervous system. It transmits forces, injuries and restrictions throughout the body, retains memories of injury and trauma, and carries emotional tensions.
The acknowledgement of cranio-sacral motion and engagement with this rhythmic motion is a feature which is distinctive to cranial therapies. Within the cranial field, three principal rhythms are identified – the cranio-sacral rhythm, the middle tide and the long tide. Although these rhythms have identifiable rates, they are more meaningfully perceived as states of being, the longer rhythms reflecting deeper states of being and consequent deeper levels of healing. Engaging with these rhythms, the practitioner may, from time to time, perceive shifts to a deeper level. At the deepest level lies a state of being which is beyond rhythmic motion, a state of dynamic stillness where the deepest healing occurs.
An individual’s state of health is the accumulation of everything that has happened to them. The role of cranio-sacral integration is to re-integrate and re-establish the underlying health which has been distorted and depleted by this accumulation. The essential function of treatment is to provide the therapeutic space within which the system can express and release its accumulated traumas, tensions and restrictions, thereby enabling the restoration of underlying mobility, integrity, health and vitality.
This is enabled by establishing the therapeutic presence within which engagement with the cranio-sacral system can develop, and allowing the spontaneous evolution of the inherent treatment process in accordance with the fundamental principles of cranio-sacral integration
Cranio-sacral integration requires the development of a high degree of sensitivity. Through this sensitivity, the therapist can engage with subtle levels of being. The patient’s whole life story is held in their system ready to be read. Whatever the circumstances, the condition, or the symptoms, the cranio-sacral process simply involves engaging with the system on this subtle level and allowing the system to reveal its story. Through subtle variations in quality, symmetry and motion, the body will reveal whatever is relevant – injury, trauma, restriction, blockage, shock, disease, tension, emotion – thereby allowing the source of disturbance to be identified, allowing it to be expressed, to rise to the surface, to be released and resolved through the body’s natural, inherent potential for healing and balance.
Shock and Trauma:
Shock and trauma accumulate in the tissues, the cells, the matrix, the energy field, the mind, and the heart, as the body’s natural reaction to the injuries and stresses of everyday life. They wear us down and prevent us from functioning effectively, both mentally and physiologically. They are the underlying cause for the majority of heath disturbances. Release of shock and trauma is fundamental to cranio-sacral integration, as a means of establishing a basis of healthy function. Nothing else engages with shock and trauma in this way. Their release is essential to health and healing.
The cranio-sacral system and its expression are subtle. They are not likely to be noticed through casual superficial observation. In order to engage with the system, the practitioner needs to develop an appropriate state of stillness, spaciousness and peacefulness – a therapeutic presence – through which he or she will be more receptive to the subtleties of the cranio-sacral process.
Engagement with the subtle expressions of the cranio-sacral system is essential to the process. Cranio-sacral integration is not a matter of applying techniques on a mechanical superficial level. It is an interaction
Through engagement, the practitioner will become aware of quality, symmetry and motion – the individual characteristics of the person, any imbalances or asymmetries, movement in many different forms (vibration, pulsation, rocking, swirling, etc) including rhythmic motion. These are the guiding elements which will enable the practitioner to make a comprehensive diagnosis and enable appropriate response and treatment.
The cranio-sacral process (inherent treatment process) is stimulated and enhanced by the therapeutic presence of the practitioner and by allowing the natural tendencies of the body to be expressed.
Suitable for all ages:
Cranio-sacral integration is suitable for anyone, whatever their age or state, newborn to elderly, whatever their condition – acute pain, chronic ill health, or simply maintaining wellbeing. Cranio-sacral integration is concerned with enhancing underlying vitality - and can therefore be of benefit to anyone. The profound process of overall integration of body and mind, and establishing underlying health, will tend to eliminate symptoms and underlying causes whatever the situation, and can enable profound changes. Cranio-sacral integration transforms lives.