Imagine an ocean inside you, gently rocking every cell in it’s ebb and flow. As it moves, it distributes nutrients, removes toxins, cushions impact, and maintains our cellular vitality. Although it sounds mystical, this ‘ocean’ exists at the core of our bodies. Made of cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), it circulates around the brain and spinal cord with a consistent rhythm. Influencing the CSF is the basis of CranioSacral Therapy (CST), a healing method we can do for ourselves. In doing so, we calm the mind, balance the body, cleanse the brain, and reduce stress. In this day and age, who doesn't need regular self-care and stress relief?
The movement of CSF produces a tide-like motion called the cranial rhythmic pulse. Slower than the breath and heart rates, this subtle rhythm feels like the ocean tide going in and out. With practice, you can feel it for yourself. It is strongest at the head (cranium) and base of the spine (sacrum). However, because the whole body is connected and fluid, the pulse can be sensed anywhere in the body.
Expanding on CSF, Dr. William Sutherland (an early pioneer in CST), discovered a ‘Creative Intelligence’ organizing the human system. He stated:
"...within the CSF, there is an invisible element I refer to as the 'Breath of Life'. It is fluid within the fluid, something that has potency, and the thing which makes it move. It is an intelligent potency, something you can depend upon to work for you.”
Dr. Randolph Stone (the creator of Polarity Therapy), expanded upon Dr. Sutherland’s findings, saying
"The soul is the essence of being and life in the body, and functions through the brain and spinal cord. The CSF acts as a conveyor for ultra-sonic and light energy. It is the liquid medium for this life energy radiation, expansion and contraction. Where this is present, there is life and healing with normal function. Where this primary and essential life force is not acting in the body, there is obstruction, spasm, or stagnation and pain, like gears which clash instead of meshing in their operation."
CranioSacral Therapy (CST)
In brief, CST has been around since the 1970’s, but has only come to mainstream awareness recently. Today it is recognized as an effective therapy to reduce pain, fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia; plus speed recovery from injury, surgery, and trauma. It is a gentle form of touch that uses the cranial pulse to find and release restrictions, thereby amplifying the body's natural healing response.
CST works holistically with your body, yet also balances the mind and emotions. feel tensions melt away and imbalances self-correct. deeply relaxed and at peace, energy was flowing in an improved way. CST helps the brain to drop down to a Delta level state—the slowest of all brain wave patterns, where deep healing and a re-boot of the nervous system can occur. It can bring about an altered unconscious or subconscious state, where profound internal healing work can be done.
Similar to meditation, receiving CST has been scientifically shown to increase theta brainwaves (mental quieting) and sensory motor rhythm (body quieting). “Some of the most important brain effects I've witnessed include a marked increase in theta and alpha brainwave amplitude in the back of the brain. Slow wave theta deficiency is associated with poor stress tolerance, sleep disturbance, racing thoughts, generalized anxiety, and vulnerability to substance addiction," said Dr. Swingle. "The results with CST often are a central nervous system of greater balance and mobility, and a body that is able to return to its peak levels of performance."
Cranial Rhythm Meditation
Many styles of meditation suggest focusing on the breath as it moves in and out. This brings attention into the body and into present time, calming the mind's chatter in favor of silence and stillness. Similarly, it is possible to reach this tranquil place by focusing on the ebb and flow of the cranial pulse. Working with the CSF boosts our ability to sense and release tension, and enhances communication between mind, body, and spirit.
Although it takes practice to find and follow this rhythm, doing so opens the door to greater self-awareness and healing. It supports listening to the body’s wisdom and integrating that awareness into your entire being in a non-verbal way.
Finding your Flow
Feeling your cranial pulse is a skill anyone can learn...and like most things, it gets easier with practice. Your hands are perceptive instruments that can sense, communicate with, and heal your body. The pulse has a fluidic, ethereal, floating quality to it...in contrast to the heartbeat which feels like pounding. Generally it is steady, but occasionally will suspend its motion and drop into stillness (indicating a deep state of rest and recharging). Tuning into your CSF rhythm establishes a dialogue between the hands and the body, and perhaps our innermost being and connection to Source energy.
Sometimes we may notice initially that the motion of CSF is random or chaotic, but simply with the act of perceiving it, it begins to unwind tension and achieve a state of even, balanced flow. It's a lot like untangling a knotted necklace...you twist and turn it until it's natural, desired shape returns.
CST self-healing can also be used to free emotions that get stuck in the body...such as a tight jaw (from holding back your truth), or stomach aches caused by excessive worry. By tuning in to an area of tension, have experienced cranial rhythm unwind itself and lead directly to a therapeutic emotional release.
To try feeling your cranial pulse, set aside 15-20 minutes where you can relax, undistracted. Sit or recline with your palms resting lightly on your head, with hands and arms relaxed. Imagine your hands are buoyant...like a sponge or cork floating in water. Ask your body to reveal the cranial rhythm, and wait patiently as you stay relaxed. It may feel like your head is ‘breathing’ as it slightly expands and contracts. Beginners find when they surrender the ‘effort’ to feel it, it emerges from nowhere. Use your hands to gently follow the movements that arise, without adding anything extra. If you don’t feel anything, don’t be discouraged...just try again later.
As you observe and are mindful of your inner body sensations, you will notice how they change. That’s all there is to it. Its an art that takes practice, and its well worth it as it calms the nervous system and dramatically increases your awareness for everyday life.
The book Harmonizing Your CranioSacral Rhythm (Daniel Agustoni, 2011) is an excellent user-friendly guide to 'feel and heal' using CST self-care techniques. There is a companion audio CD for the book that features guided meditations. The methods are so inherently simple and gentle that most everyone can benefit from them.
The Upledger Institute, an international school for CST instruction, sponsors ShareCare classes to teach lay-people the basics of CST for self-care and healing touch to share with friends and family. A qualified CST practitioner can help you feel your cranial pulse and learn techniques to use on yourself.