Monthly Archives: February 2014

Craniosacral Therapy- Part 2

BCST_SpineWhat It Is
Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy (BCST) works with deep listening. Its history and development is a long journey that owes its present standing to the work of many people in the Cranial field from William Sutherland, its founder, to many good teachers and practitioners.

The Beliefs of Craniosacral Therapy
In Craniosacral therapy the belief is that the foundation of your Being and presence in the world is energy. This energy is referred to in BCST as “The Breath of Life”. It manifests and expresses itself within the body in rhythms that indicate the state of health. These “tides” as they are known are believed to flow freely and powerfully in good health and are restricted and weak in poor health. Just as sound emerges from silence, these tides come from the vast void of energy that is the universe that has been bound up in the physical body. The practitioner can feel these rhythms by “tuning in” anywhere on the patient’s body but this is most commonly done from holds on the skull (cranium) and the tail bone (sacrum), from which the therapy derives its name “Craniosacral”, as well as the spine and the feet.

A sense of the body as a whole can be felt by the therapist from any contact point. Each of the body’s different tissues has a certain feel to the practitioner. Everything from your personal development to your life experiences and how you process them affect the feel of your body at this subtle, yet potent level. As the practitioner touches you and you relax into the table you are lying on, communication between you and the practitioner begins to open up. Just as a person can open up to someone in conversation when listened to and at ease, so your body opens up to the practitioner as it feels heard, respected and given the space to be. As the Craniosacral Therapy Association website puts it “Your body responds to this sensitive touch by beginning to listen to itself”.

Body Awareness
A strange notion that the body could feel heard, and yet that is how it was explained to me, and that is how it felt. In the rush of everyday living, you are not always aware of how your body is feeling, and the first part of the session brings the client into body awareness in that moment.

My practitioner, Françoise called it “embodiment”, being in and aware of your body, rather than in your head and in the rush of getting things done, ticking things off check lists and moving on to the next task. It feels like there is Intelligence inherent in the body that knows what ‘healthy’ feels like: the alignment of the bones and joints; the relaxation and suppleness of the muscles; the feeling of free flowing tidal energy through the body; and the calmness of the mind when it is still, silent and truly relaxed. What I also found fascinating is that according to Françoise the body knows what is most important to heal, so that when the skilful practitioner tunes in, she is able to be guided by the patient’s body as to what needs to be done and in what way the practitioner can be of service.

My Therapy Session
To all intents and purposes it seemed like Françoise was not doing very much at all. As I lay on my back, she simply placed her hands on my feet, under my neck and the back of my head and under my spine and hips at various points in the session. The rush of energy, the deep calm, the surging and pooling of energy at specific points in the body at particular times was palpable. Françoise explained to me how she thought and felt that my body felt and this exactly matched my own experience. As a martial arts instructor I have reasonably good body awareness and feel my body alignment and muscle tension as a regular aspect of my daily practice.

One part of the session stood out above all the others though. I have subtle alignment issues around my hips, tightness on one side and looseness on the other that is a deep seated physical body issue from my youth. Though I have known Françoise for many years, we have never discussed this. She pin pointed this issue very quickly and worked on my hips. Up to this point, it felt to me as if she had been doing all the work, but then she asked me to focus on the affected area. Instantly, I felt the energy moving to that area and felt the hips opening up. After the session I felt so much looser, freer and more mobile. From my experience of this therapy session I would say that clearly, the body’s inherent intelligence is able to heal itself and guide others to help it to do so as well. What is needed for this to happen is that both client and therapist have to able to listen to the body and have the intention to bring the body and the client back into energy balance, thus regaining the clients well health. Clearly though, it is a combined state of awareness between patient and practitioner, a union of energies, the facilitation by one to realise the potential of the other.

The therapy is done fully clothed and so the client does not have to worry about undressing in any way. I found this a comfort. After the treatment had ended I found myself relaxed, empowered and my energy invigorated and renewed. I felt as if some imbalance that I was not aware of was redressed somehow.

Reflection
I thoroughly enjoyed my session with Françoise. I do like the idea of someone supporting and facilitating the body in nurturing and maintaining its own health. It highlights an inherent power that we all have that very often we are discouraged to tap into because we are taught to trust in the effects and benefits of pharmaceuticals and modern surgery.
Any responsible therapist would advocate medication, surgery or other forms of modern medical intervention in the desire to supply effective health care as it is recognised there are some issues that are better treated by conventional means. Many therapists suggest using therapies such as BCST in conjunction with modern medicine as a means of amplifying the benefits of modern medicine and speeding up the recovery and healing process. Much of it depends on the beliefs and openness of the client, so it is important to have a therapist I think who is sensitive to your ideas, desires and beliefs.

As I had no discomfort or debilitating issues to address at the time of my BCST session, I cannot say how affective the session was in curing or easing pain. What I can say is that I felt looser, more mobile, stronger and at greater ease after the session. I think as an aid to maintaining optimum health, it is very effective and I would consider top-up sessions perhaps 2 or 3 times a year for my overall health and well- being.

If the body is to heal, it does not always happen instantly. It can and often does takes time. BCST works differently to modern drug medication. It does not mask the pain to bring almost instant ease in that way. For more profound issues, many sessions may well be necessary, so you would have to consider the expense of that over cheaper therapies and therapists. Also the free therapies offered by the NHS are of course an appealing option over paying for therapy. Some health insurance companies may include BCST treatments which would benefit the financial considerations.

I feel that the benefits of therapy are very real. I could feel my body working and helping itself heal. Françoise did say to me that if someone gave themselves the time to do it, they could recruit the energy, listen to their body and give the body the space to heal itself. A wonderful idea, but rarely do we take the time to do that, or invest in the knowledge to know how. If we are inclined to do so, we create the time for our self to heal by booking an appointment with a specialist. Money and time well spent I think.

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I would like to thank Françoise for her time and patience in explaining to me basic craniosacral principles and taking the time to review this article to make sure there are no factual errors. Françoise has been involved in the field of complementary medicine since 1986 both as practitioner and teacher. She holds diplomas in Polarity Therapy, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Nutrition and Homeopathy and has a keen interest in Ayurvedic Medicine. She is currently exploring BCST and its relationship to embodiment via movement. Her clinic details can be found at http://www.francoisebrown.com/.
References:
1. Cranial Intelligence. A Practical Guide to Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Ged Sumner and Steve Haines, 2010, Singing Dragon, London.
2. Wisdom in the Body. The Craniosacral Approach to Essential Health, Michael Kern, 2001, Thorsons, London.

Life Engagement

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Life Engagement, Personal Intention, and Passion are all important. I see people today engaging in life through their mobile phones and their tablets. In a coffee shop the other day there were four separate couples with their heads in their phones and they never once spoke to their partners. I understand it is a generational thing, but I do hope that they engage with life and feel the excitement and thrill of living more fully, so that they are drawn into the joy of being alive. We deepen relationships with others through interaction. We can communicate at a distance but the more we focus on a task or a person the more fully we will connect.

Mechanical force
I understand that life is about engagement and connection. Business meetings, public speaking, dates, performing arts and sports are most successful when there is engagement, the feeling of presence and charisma that is undeniable and powerful. I teach and practise martial arts. When you perform a block or punch you may think that you are blocking or punching with your hand or your arm. This only diminishes your power and potential. In fact you are blocking and punching with so much more- your whole body is connected to that arm, and with good technique you can amplify the mechanical force of that movement. Good stance and posture, relaxation of the body, fluid motion, accuracy, timing and rhythm all contribute to the power of the movement.

Intention
There is more. There is intention behind that block or punch, the coherence of the mind and body working together to create a powerful movement. There is commitment. In “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway” Susan Jeffers describes an exercise to demonstrate the influence of thoughts on the body. Thinking in a positive mind frame palpably makes the body stronger than a negative mind frame, but she states that this affect is most profound the more the participant commits and feels what they are saying. I have tried this many times, and people are always surprised at the power their thoughts have on their physical being. A block or a punch will be far more powerful when there is commitment and focus on doing the technique. Focussing on fear weakens the body. In martial arts you practice technique to perfect union of mind, body and spirit in a positive and empowered state of being.

Effortless engagement with life
There is also passion that comes from the freedom of doing something effortlessly that is well practised and the subconscious trust and belief that the block or punch will work to defend the body. All these energies coalescing and focussing on the point of the punch or the block mean that you are punching and blocking with your entire being, not just with your arm. To do something with your whole being is to be fully connected and engaged with life. This is an expansive, liberating experience leading to freedom of expression and one’s uniqueness.

Passion
I passionately believe that martial arts are a mirror of life. When you look deeply enough you can take the lessons out of the training hall and apply them to life. And so it is with this…… it is a life- time’s practice to engage and remain engaged with life. To be truly present is to experience the moment entirely, to listen fully, to see clearly and to feel deeply.
In the movie Avatar there is a greeting the Na’ vi people make that I love. They say “I see you”, implying that there is more about you than the physical form I am looking at. There is something deeper.
We can all glimpse the deeper inner beauty of others and when that is sensed there is a realisation of how exciting that inner beauty can be.
Deep engagement with life and others will “Nourish the Flame Within”. When you feel the power of your connection with life it truly nourishes and sustains you. It amplifies passion of all sorts, and that is something worth living for!

My Introduction to Energy Therapies- Part 1

Reiki treatmentWestern science is based on the premise of an objective observer- the idea that someone can look in at an experiment from the outside, and observe what is happening without influencing or affecting the outcome. Since the double- slit experiments of the early twentieth century, the idea of the impassive experimenter has been thrown into question (Dr Quantum-Double Slit Experiment). Evidence points to the fact that the observer plays a very influential role in the experimental outcome.

Clinical Trials and the Healing Process
Clinical trials for drugs in the pharmaceutical industry are always tested against a placebo, so that effects can be compared between patients who have been administered the trial drug and those that have not. A patient is given a placebo when they think they have been given the tested drug, but have in fact been given a completely inactive substance instead. If a patient has been given a placebo and exhibits the effects of the test drug, this counts against the effectiveness of the drug, because the patient showed effects when the drug itself was not administered.

This implies that the patient has the ability to influence and affect his/ her own healing process. Humans have a highly evolved immune system and healing mechanism built into the fabric of our being. This implies that we strive endlessly towards perfect health. Western science’s focus on the chemical processes in the body means that western medicine often seeks to correct using chemicals with pharmacological properties. This often acts as a masking effect, rather than a healing effect, which does not necessarily bring the body back into balance.

For centuries, traditional Eastern forms of medicine, such as Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and Ayurvedic medicine, have worked with energy, and used the potent substances (drugs) in natural herbs to redress energetic balance. Admittedly, that was all that was available at the time, and the developments in western medicine and science have revolutionised medical care on a global scale. In recent years, the development of energy healing practices such as Polarity therapy, Craniosacral therapy, Chiropractic therapy, Reiki, Energy medicine and Homeopathy have surged, flying in the face of many modern western scientific principles, including the idea of an objective observer. The healer is as much a part of the healing process as the patient and the drugs that are used to aid healing.

The Healing Processes and my Objective
This two-way process of working in harmony to achieve a common goal is powerful stuff. I had never realised just how powerful until quite recently. Having co-written a book about energy with Lynette Avis called “Nourish the flame within” my interest in the effects of energy on healing have been peaked. Because of my awakened interest in this area of healing and health I have sought out a number of local healers that use energy to heal. My objective was not to be healed as I enjoy good health, but rather to experience the process and have a better understanding of how the healing is administered, the theories behind the practice and to relay any observations and experiences. I have been totally transparent about my objectives with each healer, and as I was told by one “the effectiveness of the treatment is not compromised because you enjoy good health, your body will use the energy as it sees fit to bring you into greater balance and harmony.” I was intrigued!

Finding the Therapists
I am fortunate to know a number of healers who practise their art in different ways. I hope by writing these blogs that people will begin to understand better the processes and appreciate the skill involved, the care and dedication and the power of the intent to heal. I am not here to bash western medicine. I have myself benefitted many times in my life from the advances of modern science and would probably not be here without it. I do think that it is important to explore all the alternatives available to us, and so I entered into this with an open heart and mind and a sense of adventure. As these alternative/holistic forms of healing are available to us, why should we not then benefit from them if there is a benefit to be had?

Clarity and Complementation
What has become clear to me in researching for this blog series is that each practitioner brings with them their unique combination of innate talents and skills as well as a unique set of training practices. This means that no one practitioner is the same and those generic terms such as Reiki, Chiropractor or Craniosacral therapist may lead you to believe that all practitioners sharing the same therapy perform their healing in the same way. Many healers have skills in many healing arts that complement each other, broadening the healing scope of the therapist, allowing them to be of greater service. There are also many different schools of healing thought within a given field, leading to subtle differences in emphasis. As the patient, it is after all about finding the therapies and therapists that work best with you, just like any doctor.

I look forward to sharing with you my experiences and revelations. It was an interesting journey for me as my eyes and interest were opened wider still.

Read my next blog later in the month as I continue my journey of discovery of the wonders of energy therapies and share my experiences of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy.