What Is CST?
(In a nut shell…)
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle hands-on, non-manipulative therapy that powerfully accesses the body’s ability for self repair. The therapist’s touch is light and non-invasive as they facilitate the release of deep tension and restrictions. It is based on the work of Dr William Garner Sutherland an osteopath who developed an approach to Osteopathy known as ‘The Cranial Concept’. His original concepts have been refined and extended over the last 100 years to become the Craniosacral Therapy of today.
Now for the longer version:
(you may want to make a cup of tea first!)
I need to kick this off by saying that after 2 years of training and 5 years of clinical practice I am less able to give a precise description of this work and what happens than ever before! Despite that, I have come to trust it and no longer need to explain it to myself but as I often get asked about it, this is the clearest I can be for now. Here are some fundamental beliefs of mine:
First of all, I deeply believe that the body has an incredible ability to heal itself. I respect this inner intelligence and am primarily interested in it when I work with my clients. It is mainly expressed through movement. We are constantly in motion – good health is teeming with it – and biodynamic craniosacral therapists are trained to pay attention to it.
“It’s supposed to be a professional secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. We doctors do nothing. We only help and encourage the doctor within. We are at best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.”
– Albert Schweitzer (winner of the Nobel peace prize 1952).
Second of all, I believe less is more. After years of doing deep tissue massage (and getting pretty good results of a type), I am now convinced that the less the therapist “tells” the body what to do, the more the inner intelligence can get on with healing.
Thirdly, we all desire recognition. I mean unconditional recognition that allows us to be who we are without judgement, blame or a sense that we have to change. The best relationships in the world are ones that allow us to express ourselves and support our higher good.
Fourthly – we are energetic beings. We are humming with it. Many cultures have words to describe this energy force: for example Chi/ Qi (Chinese), Prana (Indian), Mana (Hawaiian/ Maori), Ki (Japan), The Force (Star Wars!) – all of these describe the life process or flow of energy that sustains all living beings and links everything together.
“We live at the threshold of a universal recognition that the human being is not mere matter, but a potent, energetic field of consciousness.”
Last but not least, I believe that there aren’t divisions of health within us. We talk about mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health because it can be helpful to describe how we are feeling something. However our body/mind encapsulates all of these aspects at once and what affects one aspect simultaneously affects the rest because they are all part of the same thing.
So, what do these have to do with CST?
These are all important in the recipe for an effective CST session.
In my biodynamic practice, I am not focusing on dis-ease or symptoms. I am listening for expressions of the inner intelligence and how it is resonating through my client. There is a skill to this as the body expresses itself through specific rhythms that can be felt with training. I touch with empathy but without any intention to fix my client. I trust in each person’s inner awareness to know what needs to happen and then quite simply, I sit back and listen to what it says. To help explain this I wonder …
Have you ever been upset and sought out someone to talk to? Various things may have happened – you may have exposed yourself and have someone tell you to get over it, another listener may sympathise so deeply that you end up talking about their issue, another person may be distracted and give you very little focus and yet another may struggle to understand and they have no idea what you are trying to say. In my experience, these cases lead to no relief – just an overwhelming sense of being unheard.
But what if you found someone who really listened? You may notice a person that feels interested, so you open up. They listen without judgement. They feel no need to jump in and add their stuff. They seem to care but don’t get caught up in the emotion. They don’t tell you what to do, there is no advice. Somehow they manage to convey a sense of calm and support and you can begin to see though the drama. You work through it- by yourself – but with the care and unconditional support of this person. Afterwards you feel lighter and the burden lifts.
A great CST session is like this. A client comes in with an issue. The issue can be emotional, physical, mental or spiritual. It doesn’t matter because the feeling of dis-ease and disconnection with health is the same.
“Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen”
So I place my hands on their body and listen to the story of the tissues, fluids and energetic expression of health. Health feels wonderful. When it is vital it feels alive, full and robust and there are rhythms that flow easily throughout the body. Where health is active but struggling, the intensity of the fullness changes and the rhythms are altered. I then bring attention to the expression in that area. I don’t try to change it or make it better. I completely trust and respect in the client’s inner intelligence to do that for itself. I can feel it needs some support and that my being there helps it unravel the tension but I believe it is through allowing it to do it for itself that allows the change to be deep and fulfilling for the client.
Clients may talk but many take the opportunity to be quiet and relax. There is no expectation to talk about issues, re-visit old traumas or make you process something. Some clients are aware of changes happening and others don’t notice anything specific during the session; except a general feeling of relaxing. It is only afterwards that they may notice that their pain has eased, motion of a joint has improved or that they just feel much better in themselves.
Because the body/mind is a unit, not individual mechanisms within us – the feeling of release and ease is profound and holistic. Clients describe feelings of deep and complete relaxation. The entire person has been accepted and acknowledged and with that comes a deep connection, an ability to let go and …there is a relief of pain, stress and effort.
Sometimes things change very quickly and clients feel enormous relief in a remarkable time – which is great for them. For others it takes longer. It depends on so many things. However the majority of clients feel some benefit from the first session and notice something has shifted in them.
Can anyone receive it?
Sure. The nature of the work is so gentle and unobtrusive that it is safe for babies, pregnant women, the chronically or terminally ill, the elderly and everyone else! You do not have to believe in “it”. People from different faiths have received it and it has no spiritual, religious or faith based philosophy. Several self -confessed sceptics have tried it and been bemused but grateful for the results.
“I only went because my wife insisted. It sounded like clap-trap to me. But something happened. My back was bloody sore when I went in and it was much better when I left. Can’t explain it – but worth it.”
This is my best current understanding of biodynamic craniosacral therapy, what role I play and what you can get from it. I hope that it has left you feeling excited about what your body is capable of and if you have something you wish to work on – an interest in trying CST for yourself .
The feedback I most often hear goes something like this:
“Now I know what [person who referred me] meant. It is really hard to explain – you just have to experience it don’t you? When can I come back?”