Clients often arrive in my office dealing with several different, seemingly unrelated health challenges at the same time. It can be very confusing and frustrating, feeling like everything is just…falling apart. Quite often, the problems have been building up over the years, until a symptom appears that is just too much to put up with, such as vertigo, tinnitus or TMJ disorders. I know that CranioSacral Therapy will help with these problems, but I also know that we may need to unwind a whole body full of dysfunctional patterns and old injuries to get to a new level of health in the system as a whole. This video, by CranioSacral Therapist and graphic artist Tad Wanveer, shows graphically how old injuries anywhere in the body can affect the connective tissue, the spinal cord and its nerve roots and the brain, transmitting symptoms to seemingly unrelated places in the body. By gently releasing and untangling the restriction patterns, we begin to unwind the problems, one by one.
If you are dealing with a complex health issue, or a combination of seemingly unrelated or “mysterious” issues, I would love to hear from you about it. The best way is to schedule a consultation. These problems can be addressed and I find that they always end up making sense. Take a look at my website for more information and a direct chat link. I look forward to hearing from you!
Yesterday was a milestone day for me! Here I am at the Post Office mailing in an essay exam I’ve been “more or less” working on for the last three years. It is known as the “CranioSacral Therapy Diplomate Certification” exam at the Upledger Institute, which is their most advanced certification level. The exam covers all aspects of CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release, and let me tell you, it involves some deep thinking as well as objective studies.
One of the questions, said to be a favorite of Dr. Upledger’s, is simply “What is Truth?” What? Isn’t truth just…the facts? Turns out that’s not it! Truth is the authentically felt, present-moment awareness of each person I work with, to put it in a nutshell. Knowing this is the fundamental skill that lets me listen to whomever is on my table, without judgement, impatience or thinking that I already “know” what the problem is. It is the essence of what we do as CranioSacral Therapists, but it has taken a while to get this and the answers to 16 other questions into words, onto paper, and into the mailbox!
I am very, very grateful for the support I have had through this process, beginning with Michael Mirdad, my spiritual inspiration at Unity of Sedona, who spoke to us as we welcomed in the New Year about taking care of “energy leaks” in our lives. These may take the form of projects or ideas that remain on the “back burner” for months, years, or longer. Quoting Yoda from Star Wars, “Do or do not, there is no try.” I began with smaller leaks around the house, such as misfiled papers, unpaid bills, and household debris that needed to be given away, fixed, or sent to recycling. Then, I made some phone calls I’d been putting off, decided to let go of some things that just weren’t happening, and then…there was the exam to deal with. With all the little stuff cleared away, it became much more clear that it was a priority. Thank you, Michael, for helping me see this!
A special “shout out” to Joy Gabriel, who brought some beautiful new feng shui elements to my office space and helped me see new possibilities there in terms of color accents and clutter busting. Now, we have even more “Joy” in that space, and the energy seems to flow over into the house, the yard, and every part of my life, where it continues to bubble cheerfully, now that I’ve plugged those aforementioned energy leaks.
Next on my gratitude list is Ali Gabriel, my mentor and friend in Phoenix, who nudged me to come up with a deadline for completion of the exam. Mid-January seemed a bit ambitious, but once I started to plug away, it began to come together. Yesterday, I spent a few hours on the final draft, printed it out and headed to the Post Office. My friend and photographer extraordinaire, Drew Holman, joined me there to capture the event with his camera. What fun!
If my essays are accepted, I will still need to pass a demonstration and objective test. Upon successful completion of all this, I would earn the letters “CST-D” after my name (CST without the “D” is the first level of certification), and join the four other diplomate certified therapists in the state of Arizona. I swear, this is more work than I put in for my academic degrees, but it is worth it. I learn new things at each level, and it feels great to be able to communicate about this amazing therapy. For now, it’s on to other projects, such as my book about meditation and the brain. And possibly something just for fun!
Do you have projects or ideas on the back burner? How long have they been there, and do you notice what effect this unfinished business has on your energy level? Have you been able to let go of things that you “want” to do but don’t get to? Try it (start small if you like) and share how it feels in the comments below, or send me a message. I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
This week, I had an opportunity to teach a class to students in the McLean Meditation Institute’s Meditation Teacher Training program about the interface of brain science and meditation. This topic is near and dear to my heart, due to my earlier studies in the evolution of human consciousness. Meditation is one of the three pillars of support for a healthy brain, along with structural bodywork such as CranioSacral Therapy and Neurochemical factors like nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Recent studies using functional MRI imaging techniques have shown in minute detail that meditation changes the actual physical structure of the brain, increasing thickness and brain volume in areas of executive control. This means that a regular meditation practice teaches us how to focus on what we want to see in our lives and to execute plans to achieve it. We learn to focus on the good, loving, and positive and consequently we develop those qualities in ourselves and attract them in others.
I recommend that all my clients develop a daily meditation practice, and that my meditation students receive CranioSacral Therapy. The combination of attention training through meditation and releasing old stress and trauma from the nervous system and the tissues surrounding it can give us a whole new perspective on life and improve health almost miraculously. This was certainly true in my case. Stay tuned as I develop this topic into a book manuscript and further classes. I am very excited to be able to share this information with you.
In the meantime, if you have friends or family in the Boston area (or will be there yourself on August 17th) check out the Community Wellness talk I’ll be giving at Sohum in Westborough, MA.
A torn rotator cuff occurs when the small muscles that hold the shoulder joint together tear. Traditional medical treatment starts with putting the arm in a sling and taking painkiller or muscle relaxer drugs. This “conservative” treatment often fails, leading to trials of corticosteroid injections and finally, surgery. It can take a year or more to fully recover from rotator cuff surgery and resume normal activities. In my practice, I have worked with people years after rotator cuff surgery who do not have full and complete range of motion in the affected should joint.
It is difficult to let the shoulder joint rest completely. In addition to the many activities we use our arms for, the weight of the arm is constantly pulling on the shoulder joint when standing or sitting, and we put weight on our shoulders when sleeping on our sides. It’s a very busy joint!
I was very interested to learn about a very effective exercise program put together by doctors at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Called the “MOON” program (Multicenter Orthopedic Outcome Network), it combines range of motion, flexibility, and strengthening exercise. When performed properly and regularly, this program is 85% effective at avoiding surgery, based on a trial of 452 patients with rotator cuff tears. Although recommended for use with supervision by a physical therapist, you can download the entire program (booklet and video) at moonshoulder.com.
Most of my clients are very hesitant to seek surgical solutions for injuries or problems. If you have been diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, I recommend looking in to this exercise program, and at the same time, getting some good bodywork or yoga therapy to examine the holding patterns in your body-mind that have lead to this particular area of the body being vulnerable. The two together make a very strong non-surgical alternative that is worth investigating.
Clients often ask me if I am “doing Reiki” during a session. A large part of what we do as CranioSacral Therapists is what Dr. Upledger called “Direction of Energy,” so I knew there were some commonalities with Reiki Therapy, but I wanted a closer look so that I could answer this question more accurately. So when my friend and Reiki Master Carla Trujillo offered me a spot in her Reiki 1 and 2 classes last weekend, I jumped on it! What a wonderful experience, and now I can answer with confidence that my work does, indeed, have an element of Reiki in it. What the Reiki classes provide is a beautiful and loving frame for the energy work, from a Japanese perspective. By incorporating Reiki principles in to my daily meditation practice, I will enhance the energy work that I do in every CranioSacral session, and the results will be that much better.
Here is our Reiki 2 class on a field trip in Sedona. Who can name the location? Too easy for locals, maybe, but if you came to Sedona on a visit, you may not have seen this wonderful local resource.
If you have experienced both CranioSacral Therapy and Reiki, how similar do they feel to you? Leave a comment below.
I try to post mostly positive thoughts on this blog, but the following research findings are so important I want to write about them, even though they are a bit frightening if you have been exposed to this kind of test or are contemplating one in the future. Here in Sedona, it seems like most people do their very best to avoid any kind of radiation – dental x-rays, EMF from televisions, “Smart” meters, etc. But what about a CT scan? It sounds so modern and “clean”…
What is a CT scan, anyway? It is an imaging technique that uses a computer program and lots of x-rays from different angles to create thin “image slices” of the body. When the slices are put back together, they give a very accurate 3-D representation of the inside of the body. This can be very helpful in avoiding “exploratory” surgery when a diagnosis can’t be determined from symptoms alone, or to screen for heart disease, for example. We have learned so much about the human body, and especially the brain, through the use of CT. But the test itself is not without risk, and it is estimated that 20-50% of them are medically unnecessary.
Dr. Michael Gregor over at NurtitionFacts.org has put together a video reviewing the research on the effects of CT scan radiation exposure, and there are some pretty sobering quotes, such as:
“The diagnostic radiation dealt out in one year is estimated to cause 2,800 breast cancers among women in the United States, and 25,000 or so other cancers.”
“One chest CT scan is like getting 400 chest x-rays, and a stress test heart scan can be like getting over 1,000 x-rays.”
“One in every 270 middle-aged women that get an angiogram may get cancer because of that one test.”
The best way to avoid these tests? Live and eat healthy enough to avoid them, be aware of what tests are being performed and exactly what benefit they provide, and be sure you understand the risks (which are not always fully communicated). This is especially important for young people, whose risk is even greater due to the long development time for most cancers.
What if you’ve had these tests already, and are worried about your risk? It’s the same advice – live and eat healthy to minimize any further risk. When we do SomatoEmotional Release work as part of CranioSacral Therapy, we help the body to release any foreign energies that are stored in the tissues. Traditionally, we’ve thought of these foreign energies in terms of impacts from things like auto accidents or falls. As he developed the concept and worked with more patients, however, Dr. Upledger realized that Energy Cysts can also occur from the effects of surgery, infections, exposure to toxins, emotional trauma, medication, and even excess radiation. By releasing these energies, the body is restored to more optimal functioning.
Of course, no one can predict the effect of a single event or type of healing on one person’s risk of developing a disease. Because each path is unique, we can’t assign a statistical probability to the outcome, and I’m not saying that CST or any other healing technique can completely reverse a carcinogenic process started years or decades in the past. In CranioSacral Therapy, we are only allowing the “Inner Physician” within each of us to lead us on to the path of highest good. Combine that with a healthy lifestyle and informed vigilance when it comes to potential side effects from medical treatments, and then just enjoy your life today!
This Upledger Institute Study Group meets in Sedona on the second Monday of every month, 6:00-8:00pm and in Prescott on the third Satuday from 1:00-3:00pm. Study groups include hands-on practice, techniques review and time available to have your questions answered. Meetings are facilitated by Joy Pamela Nanda PhD, CST and take place in her office at 35 View Drive, West Sedona.
Eligibility: For students who have taken Introduction to CranioSacral Therapy or CS 1 through the Upledger Institute. For further information, please call (928) 282-0683 or click on the “Questions” link in the lower right corner of this screen.
The cost to participate is $20. A 25% early registration discount is available when registering in advance by clicking on the date below.
In a Canadian study , researchers reviewed emergency room records of the general population compared to men who were either homeless and heavy drinkers, just homeless, or in “vulnerable” housing at risk of being homeless: “In the general population, about 12 in every 10,000 men have a head injury that might involve a brain injury each year. Among the chronically homeless the number is 4,800 every year. Among men who are in low income housing each year, 370 in every 10,000 have such a head injury.”
That is 300 to 400 times the risk! Most epidemiological studies are noteworthy when they find a factor that increases risk by 2 or 3 times. The researchers operate from the model that being homeless (and perhaps intoxicated) leaves individuals vulnerable to being attacked and injured, but they also found that subsequent head trauma became more likely with each previous brain injury, suggesting that disorientation, dizziness, memory loss, or other problems accumulate and make injury a “downward spiral.”
As a CranioSacral Therapist in Sedona, Arizona, I have seen first-hand the difficulties caused by traumatic head injury, even in people who are not homeless, who are in fact fairly well-off. I can’t imagine the compounding effect of head injury in someone who is living “on the edge” already. Despite the known risks of homelessness, seeing these statistics is indeed shocking.
We need to find a way to bring healing to the nervous systems of these people! Not only is it critically important in the present, but what will this population be like in 10 or 20 years, after the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan add to the numbers of men with traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injury (tbi) is considered the “signature injury” of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. See, for example, this collection of NPR stories on the military’s failure to adequately care for the increasing numbers of soldiers with tbi’s:.
The Upledger Institute has conducted several incredibly successful intensive programs for Vietnam veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It seems these programs are even more needed now, when veterans are returning with sometimes multiple brain injuries as well as the enormous stress associated with combat.
Image credit: lightwise
Here is a lovely video by Kate MacKinnon, explaining what we do as CranioSacral Therapists. Very clear. Kate also has a new book out, that goes into more depth about her journey to CST, including interesting case studies of some of her patients. Nice job, Kate!
When I worked in academics, I would often find myself “multi-tasking” between projects, and coming up with ideas and tasks that I couldn’t deal with in the moment. Since the invention of post-it notes in the 1970s, they were a favorite way for keeping track of these future projects. I would just stick them to the wall above my desk. One day I noticed that the entire wall was covered in yellow notes, and realized that I wasn’t keeping up with the demands on my time and energy. My whole system was getting bogged down, and something needed to change. That realization was the first step in my big career change, that eventually led me down the road to CranioSacral Therapy.
Our bodies have a similar system for storing hurts, memories, and emotions that we are unable to deal with fully at the time they arise. This can be because the injury is too big or traumatic to spend energy comprehending until we have dealt with the immediate survival means, like a broken bone, traumatic head injury, or major surgery. It can also be due to the emotional context of a particular event – loss of a parent (actual or perceived), extreme guilt, shame, or fear. The part of our brain that processes messages from the body says “oops, that’s important, but can’t deal with it now…gotta run and deal with staying alive” or whatever. So, it puts the mental equivalent of a post it note on or in the area of the body that is feeling the impact of whatever is happening.
This system works well for a period of time, sometimes a lifetime, if there aren’t too many post its. For the rest of us, it’s like my experience in my academic office. One day, you add one more little stressor, and the whole system breaks down. Maybe it’s the activation of chronic pain somewhere along the spine. Maybe it’s the shut down of an essential organ, such as the gallbladder (one of our body’s favorite place to store unprocessed toxins). Or, maybe it’s a serious new medical diagnosis, such as cancer, heart disease, or multiple sclerosis. In this Energy Cyst model, the site of the breakdown may vary according to the individual, but the underlying cause of the problem is the accumulation of a lifetime of unprocessed trauma, injury, and tension.
Because of this, the way we approach healing as CranioSacral Therapists differs from the type of treatment administered by the standard Western medical system. Instead of trying to “fix” the broken link in the chain, we ask your Inner Physician “Where should we begin today, in order to bring the greatest healing to your overall body/mind/spirit? The answer is often surprising, not only to us as therapists, but sometimes to clients as well. It’s like you walk into your office one day, look at the mass of yellow notes on the wall, and suddenly see the ONE THING that needs to be taken care of in order to make everything else work better. Then, the overwhelm of sticky notes begins to come down, and all the systems begin to flow. And THAT is why we do what we do in terms of CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release!
So what is this cerebrospinal fluid we CranioSacral Therapists are so interested in? What does it do? Why do we want it to circulate freely? Here’s a really good, simple overview.
In this lesson, you’ll learn that you have holes in your brain and that it’s actually a good thing! You’ll also find out how your brain uses a water cushion for protection and where this water cushion is made.
Craniosacral therapy is a subtle and profound healing form that assists the body’s natural capacity for self-repair. This therapy involves assessing and addressing the movement of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which can be restricted by physical or emotional trauma to the body or from the accumulated effects of general stress and tension.
It is a self-corrective mechanism composed of brain membranes and cerebrospinal fluid, which extends from the bones of the skull, face and mouth making up the cranium (head), down to the sacrum, or (tailbone) area. The role of this system in the development and performance of the brain and spinal cord is so vital that an imbalance or dysfunction in it can cause sensory, motor and/or neurological disabilities.
Like the pulse of the cardiovascular system, the craniosacral system has a rhythm that can be felt throughout the body. Using a touch generally no heavier than the weight of a nickel, skilled practitioners can monitor this rhythm at key body points to pinpoint the source of an obstruction or stress. Once a source has been determined, they can assist the natural movement of the fluid and related soft tissue to help the body self-correct. This simple action is often all it takes to remove a restriction.
It was in 1970, during a neck surgery in which he was assisting, that osteopathic physician John E. Upledger first observed the rhythmic movement of what would soon be identified as the craniosacral system. None of his colleagues nor any of the medical texts at the time could explain this discovery, however.
His curiosity piqued, Dr. Upledger began searching for the answer. He started with the research of Dr. William Sutherland, the father of cranial osteopathy. For some 20 years beginning in the early 1900s, Sutherland had explored the concept that the bones of the skull were structured to allow for movement. For decades after, this theory remained at odds with the beliefs of the scientific and medical communities. Dr. Upledger believed, however, that if Sutherland’s theory of cranial movement was in fact true, this would help explain, and make feasible, the existence of the rhythm he had encountered in surgery.
It was at this point that Dr. Upledger set out to scientifically confirm the existence of cranial bone motion. From 1975 to 1983 he served as clinical researcher and Professor of Biomechanics at Michigan State University, where he supervised a team of anatomists, physiologists, biophysicists and bioengineers in research and testing. The results not only confirmed Sutherland’s theory, but led to clarification of the mechanisms behind this motion – the craniosacral system. Dr. Upledger’s continued work in the field ultimately resulted in his development of CranioSacral Therapy.
Although CST is being adopted by more and more massage therapists as they discover the amazing power of this light touch, and some massage therapists even incorporate cranial techniques into a traditional Swedish or deep tissue massage, the origins of CST are actually in osteopathic medicine, and the body systems addressed are quite different. A CranioSacral session can be deeply relaxing, as can a massage, but the pathway to this relaxation is different. Massage concentrates on the muscles and connective tissues of the body, and also the circulatory system that nourishes the cells of these tissues and removes waste products. CranioSacral Therapy, on the other hand, works with the tissues of the nervous system, the connective tissues that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord, and the cerebrospinal fluid that nourishes the tissues of these structures. Because it addresses different tissues than massage, CranioSacral Therapy can provide relief for chronic problems that have not been resolved by massage or other types of body work, especially headache, migraines, TMJ issues, neck pain, spinal issues, and problems remaining from accidents, falls or injuries, even those from decades in the past.
Among CST’s largest patient groups are those suffering chronic symptoms that haven’t been aided by other approaches. In particular, CST is beneficial to those with head, neck or back injuries resulting from an accident – be it from a car, sports or work mishap or from a fall. The extremely light touch involved in the application of CST makes it a safe approach as well for children, infants and newborns with early traumas, including birth trauma. They especially can benefit from the timely identification and release of restrictions in the craniosacral system, thereby preventing future difficulties such as learning disabilities or hyperactivity.
Another area of principal effectiveness is with stress-related dysfunction’s. Insomnia, fatigue, headaches, poor digestion, anxiety and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction are just a few examples. CranioSacral Therapy works to reverse the debilitating effects of stress by providing the conditions in which the nervous system can rest and rejuvenate. In fact, it’s this capacity to reduce stress that’s leading an increasing number of people to include CST as part of their wellness routines.
Other conditions for which CranioSacral Therapy has shown to be effective are various sensory disorders. Among these are eye-motor coordination problems, autism, dyslexia, loss of taste or smell, tinnitus, vertigo and neuralgias such as sciatica and tic douloureux.
By complementing the body’s natural healing processes, CST is increasingly used as a preventive health measure for its ability to bolster resistance to disease, and is effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction, including:
- Migraines and headaches
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Stress and tension-related disorders
- Motor-coordination impairments
- TMJ syndrome
- Brain and spinal cord injuries
- Chronic fatigue
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
And many other conditions.
There are certain situations where application of CST would not be recommended. These include conditions where a variation and/or slight increase in intracranial pressure would cause instability. Acute aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhage or other preexisting severe bleeding disorders are examples of conditions that could be affected by small intracranial pressure changes.
Response to CST varies from individual to individual and condition to condition. Your response is uniquely your own and can’t be compared to anyone else’s – even those cases that may appear to be similar to your own. The number of sessions needed varies widely – from just one up to three or more a week over the course of several weeks.