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Is Craniosacral Therapy like Reiki?

People often ask me whether craniosacral therapy is energy work. Craniosacral therapy uses light touch to make subtle movements in the craniosacral system, which is membranes and connective tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. We connect using intention. When you need to pick up your car keys, your mind, extremely rapidly, sets an intention to move your hand. That intention initiates a series of events that cause our movement to pick up the keys. When I place my hands on your cranium, it is my intention to connect with the skin first then connect deeper and deeper through the layers until we reach cranial membranes and the dura mater, which surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
I work extremely intuitively and my hands and the area where my hands are working, often become warm. Dr. Upledger’s teachings include energy techniques and I do often send energy into an area of the body where I am working. I wanted to take this opportunity to answer the question in greater detail, by describing the energetic mechanism I personally work with.
I use the chakra system, from Ayurvedic medicine, which aligns inexplicably with our endocrine system, to evaluate areas of imbalance. I also use my hands to connect energetically with the two extraordinary meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Du (governing vessel) and Ren meridians (conception vessel).
I personally experience the breath moving energy up and down through the chakra system. While on the table, our breath changes as we release tension. While working, my breath changes as I work energetically. I often take deep breaths while working which helps me to stay relaxed while moving energy through my hands and your body.
To summarize, craniosacral therapy, as I practice it, is a combination of energetic and mechanical bodywork.

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Craniosacral Therapy for All Ages, especially newborns

Dr. Upledger’s CranioSacral Therapy was rooted in the cranial osteopathy of Dr. Sutherland. Dr. Sutherland taught of lesions within the craniosacral system itself. Using the cranial bones like handles, we palpate the movement of the craniosacral rhythm. The rhythm moves through a normal physiological pattern of flexion and extension. When the bones do not move in that normal physiological pattern, when there is an irregularity in the pattern, we identify a “lesion” within that bone. We then release the soft tissue that is layered underneath or around the cranial bones to restore the bone to normal physiological movement.

Dr. Upledger’s later developments included fascial diaphragm releases. These diaphragms, like the respiratory diaphragm, are areas where soft tissue, held together by connective tissue, runs horizontally across the body. Releasing restrictions in these diaphragms release the connecting fascia throughout the muscles and around the spine and spinal cord, allowing the cerebrospinal fluid to move more easily from the occipital bone at the base of our cranium down to our sacrum at the bottom of our spine.

During a vaginal birth, the baby’s head is normally molded into an oblong shape to pass through the mother’s pelvis. I commonly find, in normal, healthy adults, craniosacral lesions with deep and complex restrictions layered around them. These old restrictions could have been released shortly after they occurred. Birth, even Cesarean birth, is one of our first traumatic experiences. Craniosacral theray can be given to every baby, soon after birth, to facilitate their body’s dramatic transition from liquid to air. I recommend continued craniosacral therapy throughout the child’s life, especially after a trauma. That could be a fall or accident, an illness, a surgery, an emotional trauma, like seperation or divorce, or any difficult transition.

Craniosacral therapy creates an opportunity for self-healing; for restoration and harmony. It is beneficial for alleviating pain but is more powerful when used as a tool for wellness and prevention.

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What I love about yoga.

Around the time of my twenty-fourth birthday, I was doing some energetic and consciousness exploration. I had just discovered massage and bodywork and it had instantly transformed me. I found energetic, emotional release. I had always been the kind of person with emotions constantly bubbling up, the pressure holding high and sometimes experiencing bursts of dramatic explosiveness. With bodywork, I felt my body differently. When I was receiving bodywork, I related to it differently. Sometimes when I experienced emotions gracefully while receiving bodywork, I heard clarity and wisdom about the issue that was the source of the emotion. My body started to talk to me.

As part of my exploration, I bought a yoga video and a candle and began a new journey. I didn’t have the discipline to practice each morning, as recommended. In fact, I began to experience huge quantities of resistance to doing the things I knew would transform me into the woman I wanted to become. I used the candle to begin a meditation practice. I had read in a book to stare at a candle flame with eyes open for five to ten minutes. As my mind quieted, the flame stilled. When I would think of the clock, the flame would flicker. Thus began a long-term, rocky and undisciplined, relationship with meditation and yoga.

Now, as a craniosacral therapist, I have the pleasure of working with yogis. What impresses me the most about yoga is their fascial glide. In other words, their connective tissue is well-lubricated and without restriction. The layers of fascia glide against the layers of muscle. Another note of interest is that they release energy cysts easily and efficiently. Energy cysts are areas of walled-off energy. The energy is from an external source and, for some reason, our body was unable to dissipate that imposing energy. Energy cysts sometimes consist of only emotional trauma while others are a combination of physical or emotional energy. Due to these differences, yogi’s craniosacral therapy sessions tend to move more rapidly and with slightly greater results than non-yogis.

One of my great mysteries in life is how yoga works. Recently, I’ve learned much about the physical poses, or asanas, of yoga and how they affect us physically. Yet there are two other components that bewilder me, the energy and the awareness. If you’re not familiar with yoga, it originated in northern India over 5,000 years ago and is first recorded in the Vedas, a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Through yoga, many of us learn the energy system taught in the Vedas, the chakras. The chakra system is useful in learning our own energy awareness and our interactions with the energy of others. My question is whether the asanas affect the chakras more intentionally than other forms of exercise might, explaining why so much energy is released easily by yogis.

The witness, or the phenomenon of awareness, may be explained through meditation more than the asanas but I’m not sure. Over the thousands of years, Saints, gurus, and mystics have developed, sharing their wisdom and teachings with us. Whether it is through teachings or the poses, somehow, while practicing yoga, people develop a higher consciousness. It may be a sense of experiencing our minds differently. We may become more aware of what we are thinking and have a new source of awareness that can guide our thoughts back to the present. How does that work?

I had lunch with a friend today and was discussing this and she reminded me that anecdotal medicine is still good medicine. If it works, what does the why really matter? She emphasized that our current culture spends an enormous amount of time and energy rationalizing scientifically how things “work.” Craniosacral therapy is very much an anecdotal treatment, despite its scientific evidence. It works miraculously well for some and not so much for others.

In regards to the physical, yoga has some faults. To simplify, joints are made of connective tissue, cartilage, and fluid and those tissues must remain lubricated. The muscles around the joint must also be strong enough to move the joint without allowing the weight or force to “sink” into the joint. Some yogis have joint damage from asanas being attained and held through flexibility rather than strength. Yoga can also cause repetitive stress injuries, especially if the joints aren’t being well-maintained. Many yoga poses, or asanas, cause compression of the vertebrae of the neck and lower back. Some poses are known to cause serious shoulder injuries. Headstands, which shouldn’t be done at all, caused neck injuries.

When I was ill several years ago, I had become more sedentary than I was accustomed, was on medications, and hadn’t received any bodywork in a while. I developed tendonitis in my right Achilles. The podiatrist told me I would never be able to walk barefoot and pain-free. I returned to craniosacral therapy and yoga. I began a disciplined, once a week, practice at a local studio. I developed an increase in my intermittent low back pain. The teacher would tell me not to let my belly fall while in Cow Pose and I would realize I didn’t have the abdominal strength to do as she meant but the yoga class did not provide the strengthening I needed.

Soon thereafter, I discovered a new studio, a new teacher, and a new method of yoga. LYT yoga (pronounced “lit”) has been developed by a physical therapist to make yoga physiologically sound. Strength is the foundation of the pose, not flexibility. I think because of all the fascial gliding, I have not tightened or lost any flexibility but, rather, it has improved while I have strengthened. I’ve been practicing LYT yoga with Motivity with Joi once or twice a week for about a year. The changes to my body are profound. I’m still experiencing the magic of the physical, emotional and energetic nurturing I feel with every practice. LYT yoga includes teachings about how we “spill” energy through our weakness. This teaching has been very effective in improving my belly strength and control.

For videos of Joi’s teachings, check out her YouTube Channel.

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The nerves don’t touch the bones.

I am given the fortunate opportunity to discuss vertebrae frequently, as small talk. Spine issues are so common that when people find out I’m a massage therapist, they start telling me about their vertebrae, and of course their discs.

vertebra[ vur-tuh-bruh ]

noun, plural ver·te·brae  [vur-tuh-bree, -brey], ver·te·bras.Anatomy, Zoology.

any of the bones or segments composing the spinal column, consisting typically of a cylindrical body and an arch with various processes, and forming a foramen, or opening, through which the spinal cord passes.

Herniated Cervical Disc

I was chatting with a new friend last week and she was explaining her understanding: the discs between two vertebrae are bulging and pinching a nerve which causes her pain and numbness. In her case, in her neck and radiating down her arms.

I found myself, again, trying to explain simply how light-touch bodywork can affect soft tissue and alleviate that pain and numbness. The nerves don’t touch the bone. The nerves are wrapped in layers of connective tissue, called fascia. The fascia is made of elastin and collagen mostly and has a silly putty type of stretchiness to it. When you stretch gently and hold, the tissue will change to maintain the stretch. The lack we can add to the fascia around the nerves can relieve the restriction enough to diminish the pain and numbness.

This fascia, connective tissue, wraps around layers of fluid which wraps around layers of nerves. It also wraps around individual muscles, individual layers of muscles, and individual filaments of muscles. The fascia wraps around organs and all of this fascia indirectly connects to each other. This explains why a restriction released in one area of the body can affect a symptom that seems unrelated.

In summary, the nerves don’t touch the bones. The nerves are surrounded, and protected, by the craniosacral system, which consists of the fascia, membranes, and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Even if the disc is herniated, or bulging, and pressing on the nerve, that soft tissue and fluid can be rearranged without pressure.