What is biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST)? (Besides being one of the best-kept health secrets out there, that is.) Frankly, it can be difficult to explain; there is something a bit mysterious about it. The practitioner does not perform massage, reiki, osteopathic manipulation, or chiropractic adjustments; instead, there is a lot of patient waiting, sitting very still on the part of the practitioner, and paying attention to the information the client’s sytem offers in a way that we call listening. To say that watching a BCST session is like watching paint dry would be an insult to paint! Yet the effects of the work can be profound. I worked on someone recently – a person who had been in a great deal of pain and was suffering from poor sleep, but spent much of his session gently snoring — who came out of the treatment room after the session, looked at me, and said, “How does it work??”
Good question. In spite of the element of mystery, I’ll try to answer it as best I can without sounding too much like a member of the Secret Order of the Mystic Woo.
Biodynamic craniosacral therapy is a very gentle form of fully-clothed bodywork. It has its origins in osteopathy, and has evolved over decades of discovery and practice. One of the ways BCST works is by having deeply calming effects on the nervous system. A properly trained practitioner (one who has completed the 700-hour BCST foundation training course) approaches the work with a quietly alert, calm presence that reflects an inner stillness cultivated through years of training and practice.
As the therapist makes light, gentle contact with the client at specific points while maintaining a calmly alert, quiet, non-intrusive presence, the client’s body resonates with the therapist’s inner stillness, resulting in a feeling of safety. As the process develops, it has a positive effect on the vagus nerve, the huge nerve that is responsible for communication between the gut and the brain, and that is essentially in charge of the rest-and-digest (as opposed to fight-or-flight) response. In this way, BCST helps the client’s nervous system regain balance and get back to neutral, instead of constantly being in high gear (the relentless “go-go-go!” mode so typical of American life.)
Typically, even traumatized clients experience deep rest during sessions, and frequently drift into a restorative sleep. This is because trauma is not just a matter of emotion; it is actually stored in the tissues of the body. As psychotherapist and author Babette Rothschild (http://www.somatictraumatherapy.com/the-body-remembers/) puts it, “the body remembers.” BCST is an excellent method of unlearning anxiety and conditioned fear responses, and is a wonderful, and sadly underused, tool in helping people recover from trauma and PTSD.
It also is an excellent way to help the body’s tissues let go of old patterns that may have been helpful at one time, but no longer are. The craniosacral system primarily consists of four anatomical components:
- The cranial bones
- Cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes, cushions, and nourishes the spinal cord and brain
- The membranes that extend from the cranium to the sacrum
- The sacrum itself (the triangular bone at the base of the spine)
When these components are functioning well, they move freely; that freedom of motion is essential to health. Accidents, physical or emotional trauma, illness, surgery, and even medications can cause imbalances or restrictions in the craniosacral system. This can impede nerves, interfere with blood flow, and restrict connective tissues, resulting in pain or chronic problems. BCSTs attune to the components of the craniosacral system in a gentle, non-manipulative, non-intrusive way, allowing the system to express itself and resolve tensions, restrictions. and imbalances.
So, that’s BCST in a (very small) nutshell. But BCST really is one of those things where understanding only comes through actually experiencing the work; that’s when we begin to get it, as our bodies remember.
Problems BCST may benefit include:
- Post-traumatic stress
- Post-surgical issues
- Post-concussion issues
- TMJ problems
- Asthma and other breathing problems
- Effects of physical or emotional trauma and abuse
- Migraines and other headaches
- Learning problems
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Consequences of auto accidents
- Sprains and strains
- Sinus problems
- Jet lag
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