Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral Therapy is among the most nurturing of therapies and owes its popularity to the effectiveness of its gentle touch and method of deep listening.


It was developed from discoveries about the body’s physiology, which revealed that underlying the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems could be found the more subtle, rhythmic motions of the craniosacral system, expressing ‘life force’ or vital energy throughout the body.

By tuning in to the craniosacral system, the therapist can perceive the unique way in which someone’s life force is being expressed, in terms of its quality, symmetry and motion. These impressions allow the therapist to assess the health and vitality of a person and to identify disturbances which may have arisen due to physical injury, illness, mental stress or emotional trauma. This may be recent or long past.  

Facilitating the integration of trauma can help the body return to a healthy, balanced state, eliminating many superficial symptoms as deeper releases take place. 


How can the body hold trauma?

To understand this, it helps to know a little of the triune (three in one) nature of the brain’s evolution: the ‘reptilian’, ‘mammalian’ and ‘primate’ levels of functioning.

The brainstem is the innermost and most primitive level, which is all about our core survival. If we perceive an overwhelming threat about which we are helpless, this reptilian layer will instruct the body to freeze, or collapse. This is also known as the immobility response.

Next, we have the ‘mammalian’ level, or limbic system. This is where our experiences are catalogued and memories formed, using our bodily sensations and emotional input to ‘colour’ the recollections. We can make considered assessments of situations. Huge amounts of potential energy can be generated for use by the muscles in a ‘fight or flight’ response if the sympathetic nervous system is activated.

The part of the limbic system called the hippocampus is thought to be key in terms of implicit and explicit memory. Implicit memory in the very broadest sense can be thought of as fragmented thoughts, bodily sensations, or primed responses that we cannot relate to a specific past event and, if recalled, may seem to be happening in present time; explicit memory is where we have a conscious recollection of a past situation. The hippocampus allows us to form those explicit memories, although its functioning may be affected by alcohol, certain sleep medication, and also extreme emotional states, such as rage or terror.

The cortex is the outermost ‘primate’ level. This has the most sophisticated level of functioning and is involved with social engagement, attachment and bonding. This higher level of the brain allows us to communicate our thoughts and emotions.  

When the brain suffers stress or injury, the more refined level of functioning is lost and one of the lower evolutionary levels will dominate, resulting in sympathetic arousal/‘fight or flight’ activity, or a collapse/freeze shutdown. These responses to being ‘under attack’ are intended to last for just a short time, but may persist in cases of severe or chronic stress or shock.

Communication between mind and body exists by way of the nervous system and being in a state of ‘unresolved threat’ will bring about increasingly uncomfortable sensations in the organs and muscles of the body.

Moving towards resolution

Through empathetic resonance – being fully present and open to feeling the client’s bodily sensations or emotions herself - the therapist can help the client become more aware of what they are holding, and gently guide them towards a more integrated and resourced state. Often, this will involve bringing awareness to the parts of the body that have been ‘braced’ against expected impact, for example, or to muscles that have been primed to react, but their intended action never completed.

A gentle process called fascial unwinding may be used by craniosacral therapists to support muscles or areas of the body in releasing this ‘blocked’ energy, using deliberately slow, controlled movements. This can be profoundly therapeutic. The interconnected nature of fascia and its ability to reflect the cranial rhythm throughout all of the body’s structures makes it valuable in terms of both craniosacral diagnosis and treatment.  




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