What 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”.
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.
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.
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/.
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.