The breath of life
Some of the early osteopaths called the craniosacral rhythm: The Breath of Life. It is the energy, the power that maintains our life. Once a baby is born and suckles on the breast we can detect that life force. Once day, a close friend phoned me to ask for help. The builders working on a block of flats in Brighton had see someone fall from a third floor windown. It was her nephew. Without hesitation I said that I would make the journey over 100 miles, to see him. It was one of those Winter stoms in which a series of deep troughs of low pressure swept over the South of England. The wind was force 11, over 70 mph. When I arrived, the wind had peaked, so I found my way to his hospital bed. His body lay still, a fractured pelvis and broken back. His aunt and I sat beside him while I placed my hands gently on his chest and head. Tuning into the craniosacral rhythm, it felt weak and struggling. We watched and waited for two hours. Then his eyes opened and he recognised us. He is now a strong young man, living in Athens with his caring Bulgarian family.
Another time before then, a friend phoned me to ask if I would visit her husband. She did not know who else to ask. We walked into the critical care ward to see him. An oxygen mask covered his mouth, tubes all over his chest and torso. I asked a doctor’s permission to touch him. He said that I could do what I like. It was possible that he might die that night. We sat by his bed, again with my hands on his chest. I could not go near his head. We watched the blood pressure monitor. It was slowly dropping past 60/40. During that two hours his blood pressure went from 60/40 to 127/80. Every morning for 10 days I got up and went into the critical care ward to see him. His wife faithfully visited every day as well. For an hour each morning I followed the craniosacral rhythm. Sometimes I spent time gently pumping the lungs via the ribs. His wedding ring was jammed onto the left hand. To reduce the swelling I pumped the lymph glands in the armpit and stroked the fingers. They removed the ring. Before one session I watched the nurses take his oxygen saturation level; It was 14%. After the hour they re-checked and it was 28%. I heard someone say that was not possible. His wife and I talked with him and always included him in the conversation. After 10 days the consultant came round with his students to re-assess the situation. He was going to send our friend, still unconcious, to another hospital to have his lungs pumped. They carefully examined him. To their amazement the lungs were clear. Soon afterwards he was sent him home to continue the recovery and enjoy his allotment.
The Japanese art of repairing pottery using liquid gold solution can be traced to the 15th century. Now an epoxy resin solution with brass, tin and copper is used. A man came to see me after been thrown in the air by the impact of a car. He fell badly and injured his head and shoulder. The shoulder appeared to be frozen in his attempts to move it. Suspecting that the impact had affected his brain I gently held his head and followed the tide like cranial rhythm. We also worked on the co-ordination of his shoulder and neck muscles. While cradling the head in my hands I sensed something going on as if he was still in shock. The arm started to move, not completely but a definate change had taken place. After 2 or 3 sessions he said to me, “I feel like something has happened to my head. It is a sense of golden liquid trickling through the brain.” The plates in the skull are joined by tiny wiggly lines called sutures. They are like the volcanic surges under your feet in Iceland. Sealing the broken pottery with kintsugi resin leaves it stronger than before.
Your brain is protected by craniosacral fluid CSF, and the meninges around the spinal chord. A tough membrane called the dura mater (Latin: tough mother) protects these delicates structures. The dura mater is attached at the top of the neck and the base of your spine called the sacrum (sacred bone, seat of emotion). Sometimes chronic headaches are related to a fall or coccyx damage many years ago. A trained craniosacral therapist or cranial osteopath can detect very small changes in pressure in your head and many points in your body. By listening with our hands and fingers we can detect the movement of the brain like a sponge gently rocking in a bath. Personally I combine the therapy with some gentle changes using your own muscles to correct imbalance in your posture. This saves multiple sessions and makes the cranial “listening with a mindful touch” more effective.
The rapid rise of a lift in a skyscraper, paddling in a big swell at sea, repeated knocks on the head, birthing trauma, falls in snowboarding or martial arts, horse riding or motor accidents can all alter the craniosacral rhythm.
Treatment with craniosacral therapy
A trained cranial osteopath or craniosacral therapist can detect small changes of pressure in the head and many points on the body. By limiting the pressure change in one area they allow the body to re-direct the fluid to areas of apparent blockage. John Upledger used to refer to energy cysts. Imagine being hit by an object. The energy from the impact lodges itself somewhere else in your body, sometimes in a different area to the impact. Viola Frymann used to quote, “The problem is where the pain isn’t”.