What is Craniosacral Therapy?
by Eileen Yocheved Hande, BS MA LMT CST
Published in “Natural Awakenings”, PBC June 2010
For most of my life, I had been an active, avid athlete and physical educator/sports instructor. I also loved getting massages. They just felt great getting them and felt great afterwards. When I moved down to Florida 18 years ago, I followed my dream of becoming a massage therapist. I learned all the physiological benefits of massage, which made total sense: increasing blood circulation and oxygen to the cells, gently mobilizing the lymphatic fluids to promote cleansing, helping to relax tight muscles to avoid injury and maximize performance, and in recent years, the profound benefits of just getting into a state of relaxation. However, I had no idea of what was in store for me on my journey of discovery!
When I moved to Florida, my dad had just died and I was experiencing what I later learned were panic attacks. Through my intense study of craniosacral therapy, which is a unique hands-on manual therapy that utilizes a light energetic touch to release the physical and emotional holding patterns of the body, I experienced profound healing. Through my personal experience and those of my clients, I began to learn that what we call the body, is not just a physical presentation of bones, muscles, and nerves. Our organs, tissues, and cells actually store emotional memories whether they are sad, terrifying, traumatic, or embarrassing etc. They are just hanging out in the body as energy cysts. We don’t even know they exist. As a matter of fact, there could be events stored in our body that we don’t even know happened! These energy cysts actually generate energy up to the mind in thought forms from past events that can adversely effect our present moments. In other words, our stored tissue memory from the past can be effecting how we respond in the present. Several years ago, a waitress was referred to me who cried every time her boss yelled at her. She was confused and frustrated that this kept happening. In one session, we were able to identify a fear energy that had been stuck in her body many years ago when her father yelled at her as a little girl. Every time her boss yelled at her, that old energy was effecting how she was responding in the present. Once she processed that scene and we released the energy, she called me the next day to tell me that she didn’t cry anymore. You can only imagine how grateful and happy she was.
Energy cysts cannot only effect our emotions, they can hold tissue hostage, causing pain and dysfunction, as well as changes on a cellular level. These changes can compromise our immune system making us more susceptible to viruses, bacteria, and even cancer, God forbid. I have actually helped patients, along with divine inspiration, to get to the core of the emotional issues that are driving their cancer. I have dialogued with tumors; believe me – they have a lot to say. These blocked energies, can also create hardened fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds all other tissues and cells of the body, be they muscle, nerve, bone, and even the brain, and hold them hostage. These energy cysts make it more difficult for the tissues and organs to function because it creates stiffness, inflammation, and toxicity. This is exactly what craniosacral therapy is addressing. Can you only imagine the problems that can occur if an energy cyst is in one’s jaw, along the spine, in the brain, lungs, foot, knee, etc? TMJ, sciatica, neck and shoulder pain, back pain, migraine headaches all can be helped with craniosacral therapy. I have had patients with many of these problems over the years. Oftentimes, there is no emotional overlay, it is purely a physical, energetic release that relieves the pain, frees up the joints, eliminates the headaches and on and on. I have helped infants experiencing colic or constipation issues with their birth trauma. I had a 5 week old that had been diagnosed with Torticollis, a severe stiff neck from the umbilical having been wrapped around his neck. After one treatment, the condition was gently resolved!
I actually had a pain management doctor as a patient who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He was suffering from headaches on the left side of his head and pain and stiffness in his left shoulder. Except for periodic relief from shots and pills, nothing was really getting to the cause of his symptoms. In his desperate yearning to have his body and life back, he began exploring “complementary” alternative medical therapies, and found me on the web. With CST, I was able to connect him gently along with his body back to the moment of impact and help unwind the trauma energy out of his body. He made great progress, is working out and sees me now only on an “as needed basis”. When treating him, I went back and forth between the deep myofascial and muscular massage work, electrotherapy point stimulation, and the gentle, profound craniosacral therapy. I find many times that the integration of these therapies all work together toward a successful outcome. I asked him if he had received any training in the role that fascia plays in pain and rehab, and his answer was no, not really.
We are made up of a complex web of fascia. A connective tissue matrix surrounds the brain, spinal cord, and all the muscles, nerves, and organs of the body. It looks like a Spider Man costume. Because we are one facial system, tensions in a knee could pull and affect someone’s shoulder or jaw. Our goal, as craniosacral therapists, is to help release the energetic tensions that are compromising the healthy functioning of the body.
How does this energy come in? We have found that usually, there is a physical strain and exertion at the same time there is an emotional thought or event. The anger or emotion locks the energy in like crazy glue. A car accident is a perfect example. I have had over a hundred patients who have had car accidents. The energy from the force created by the collision can get stuck in the body – the panic, fear and gripping of the wheel, the resultant tossing around of the body, the pressure of the foot to brake the car, etc. Need I go on? It also takes energy from the body to hold these energy cysts. When the energy first comes in, it is chaotic and the body, in an attempt to protect it self from any further collateral damage, walls it off into what Dr. Upledger, the father of CST, coined as an energy cyst.
Another case in point was a 41-year-old woman who came to me for craniosacral therapy, who was suffering from panic attacks, and always anxious and experiencing an inner tension, could never just relax. She had heard from a friend that this work was very relaxing, so she wanted to try it. While in the session, I discovered a primary energy cyst in her body near her stomach. Through the deep relaxation and SomatoEmotional Release protocols, I encouraged her to journey down with me and experience the energy that was stuck there. Sure enough, all of a sudden, images of a lake slowly unfolded in her mind and she was back at 15 years of age at a summer camp, swimming in a lake. What happened next was very shocking to her. Her swimming instructor, who was a man of about 45 years of age, who she had totally forgotten about, started fondling her. She had totally repressed and forgotten this event. In this work, the goal is to assist the release of these memories and energies from the tissue. Her entire adult life she had been an alcoholic and she never could understand why. She was suppressing the shame and self-hate that she felt towards herself. In the session, with her permission, she had an opportunity to say what ever she felt needed to be said to this instructor. Of course, I am simplifying the session, but I encouraged her also to get cognitive therapy to assist her in processing her feelings, etc.
Once the energy leaves, body rebalancing, self-healing, and transformation can happen. It is a beautiful process to help facilitate. Therefore, although the intention of a craniosacral therapist is not to necessarily release these emotional energy cysts, sometimes they are just ready to be released and the client will start spontaneously crying. However, this is exactly what the goal of craniosacral therapy is. To assist the client in freeing up the energy holding patterns in the body that needn’t be there anymore, and to allow self healing to begin. Once these tissue memories and energies are released from the body, your body feels lighter and the energy used to hold these tensions are now freed up for healing and life’s productive, creative activities. There is no one that couldn’t benefit from the deeply relaxing and releasing work of craniosacral therapy.
Eileen Yocheved Hande is a Certified CranioSacral Therapist in practice for the last 18 years. She has an office in Boca Raton, Fla., and she can be reached at 561-715-6185.