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Craniosacral Therapy: why call it that?

 

Often in my practice a client will say “I would have come ages ago but I thought you just did things for heads.”

It is not just about fixing heads!

Craniosacral Therapy is a whole body therapy that helps the body to heal and adjust from discomfort in any part of the body and from the discomforts we meet on our journey through life.

Our current attitude to medicine has rather divided the body up for treatment of different bits, but in reality we are whole, body, mind, emotions and our story all connected to make us who we are.

I have always struggled with the title of my form of therapy. “Craniosacral Therapy” is such a mouthful and needs quite a lot of explanation. Then it gets abbreviated to “cranio” and which just makes it sound even more like a head therapy.

The cranium is of course the head, actually the bones that cover the brain. The sacrum is the beautiful shield shaped bone at the back of your pelvis that protects your sacred reproductive organs.

Image result for sacrum bone images leonardo da vinci

So when an osteopath discovered that you can feel the tidal movement of the liquid that bathes the brain and the spinal cord, (known as the cerebrospinal fluid) and that paying attention to its movement could be a healing therapy, it got called Craniosacral Therapy because the spinal cord goes from the brain to the sacrum along the length of the vertebrae.

Maybe if you are already steeped in anatomical jargon it seems obvious. But not for most people. The sacral bit sounds like something mystical and the cranium sounds a bit technical.

 

Ah well! Too late now.Vitruvian_man

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Often when clients come to my practice for the first time they are surprised to find themselves in tears as they tell their story. Sometimes they are a bit embarrassed too, after all, we have only just met and tears are not a usual part of the social scene in our culture. But tears are a part of healing, part of releasing the held stories we carry so they can be gently incorporated into our whole being.

After a lifetime of being encouraged not to cry, we often have to relearn the art of expressing grief- weeping, sobbing, wailing, howling, screaming, roaring, whimpering, moaning, groaning, sighing- all the glorious noisy expression of pain.

 

In many cultures there has been a tradition of wailing after a death.

In the celtic cultures this was known as “keening”: Professional keeners would express the grief in sound and song, leading the mourners to enter a liminal state between life and death, a “controlled madness”  of grief.

There was no attempt to hush the bereaved,  the whole community would join in, comforting and wailing too. It is easier to make the sounds of grief in noisy company.

It takes courage to enter this other place. Like the descent into the underworld depicted in mythologies, we have to embrace the dark, the fear and the pain and wait for the right time to return.

 

However, it is common now in western culture for a bereaved person to be congratulated for not expressing their feelings and for keeping everything “under control”. Widows in modern fiction and popular culture are given a year to recover and “move on”.

I remember my aunt, after the death of my uncle,  crossing the street to avoid friends who would have commiserated with her. They were, she thought,  trying to “catch her out” into showing her pain. Women wearing makeup will worry first about their mascara. Shame and embarrassment cut deep.

Even babies are judged: Is he a “good” Baby? Meaning does he cry a lot.

Almost all of us have been taught  not to cry: “ Pull yourself together.” “ You’re too big to cry.” “Big boys/ girls don’t cry.” “Be brave”. Children are told “It didn’t really hurt.” and even sometimes tickled to “distract” them from the pain.

And so our deepest feelings, our connection to the part of us that suffers, is shut away and silenced. To the detriment of our wellbeing and to the loss of joy.

 

When I was a child my father would go to Pakistan for anything up to 9 months.  He usually left very early in the morning and I was bereft.

I think I was very fortunate to have learnt so early how to heal my grief.

My strategy was to cry: To weep and wail, letting waves of grief flow over me and through me until there was none left.

I carried on until it was time for school when I tucked away my grief and lived through the first day without him.

When I came back from school, my grief having been carefully under control all day, it was hard to find it again, but somehow I knew that until I had finished crying there was going to be a part of me still in pain.

So, I would go and seek out signs of his recent  presence, his pyjamas still on the bed, his coat hanging up behind the door, deliberately calling up his absence to reawaken my grief, burying my head in the pillow and crying until I could cry no more.

This went on for about three days and then?  And then it was over, life came back into focus, I could enjoy the activities of the day and  feel whatever feelings the day brought.

Looking back, I have great admiration for the little girl who had learnt this strategy to get over the pain of separation.

There are aspects of this story which seem very sad to me now: I have no idea how my  mother felt about my father going and I don’t know if  she was even aware of my three day weeping marathon.  As far as I can remember I cried in solitude.

But the skill I learnt then has stood me in good stead dealing with the griefs that inevitably come in life. And also dealing with the minor hurts and injuries of every day.

 

It’s not easy to maintain contact with our grief and to have the courage to acknowledge it and express it as it arises.The tragedy is that when we shut ourselves away from painful emotions we numb ourselves to the joy and delight that is also a part of life.

 

It is not just emotional pain that responds well to being expressed fully and possibly loudly.

How often have you held your breath to repress your reactions to being physically hurt? Sometimes the pain is so deep that  just being very still and quiet and taking time to really feel what has happened is often the best response. It takes courage, but it reduces the time it takes to heal from even a minor injury if we take the time to allow the body to know what has happened and muster the reserves to mend it.

There may be sounds: Groans, cries, sighs, whatever helps to focus the whole being on what has been hurt.

This gives the body time to assess the damage, calm down from the shock and start the process of mending.

The apparent well meaning: “ Are you alright?”  (A question expecting the answer yes,) can interrupt this process, causing us to come out of that calm centre of healing too soon so that we can engage with the helper.

If someone is badly injured, the process of getting them to a place of safety can add to the time before the healing can start, and sometimes cause it get put on hold.

Pain, both physical and emotional,  that is not recognised, and given time to express itself is stored away and becomes a burden that we carry with us.

A cry a day, like the apple, will keep the doctor away.

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  1. Your baby has difficulty latching on to the breast.

Mothers and midwives know how important it is that babies latch onto the breast well enough to get the milk to flow. It is important to make sure that the baby is in the best position and that the mother is comfortable, but if all that is in place and the baby is still struggling there is probably an underlying cause that needs to be sorted.

If your baby has experienced too much pressure during the birth, the bones of the head may be pushed down causing the palette to be in such a position that the gag reflex is close to the front of the baby’s mouth.

It is not helpful to try and force the breast into the baby’s mouth in these circumstances as this will cause the baby to choke and will make him understandably frightened of feeding.

Craniosacral Therapy is very effective in changing this. Especially if it is possible to treat the baby within the first few weeks or ideally the first few days after the birth.

  1. Your baby makes a lot of slurpy or clicking noises during feeds.

This is a sign that the baby is finding it difficult to get a good suction on the breast. The baby will be taking in a lot of air which will then cause discomfort in the belly.

It can be caused by the joint at the jaw being uncomfortable from the birth or the muscles and bones in the neck being pulled out of place as the shoulders are delivered. (This may look likes tongue tie, but it can be resolved during Craniosacral treatment.)

  1. Your baby has a lot of wind after feeding.

Burping a baby is a traditional part of feeding, but if your baby suffers from a lot of wind or is unable to burp, or is still uncomfortable afterwards it may be that the vagus nerve is under pressure where it comes out of the skull. Supporting the bones of the skull to complete the unfolding process they go through after the birth can help to realign the holes in the skull through which the nerves go to the rest of the body.

  1. Breast feeding is uncomfortable or painful for the mother.

I find it very sad that so many women suffer agonies when breastfeeding their babies. And I am filled with admiration that they continue despite the pain.

Mostly, if I can treat the baby within a few days of birth, this situation changes in one treatment as the baby is helped to reshape her mouth and is able to take enough of the breast into her mouth to avoid “nipple nipping”. Older babies have to be “retrained” to learn how to suckle properly and it takes a bit longer to turn things around.

  1. Your baby is in pain after feeding, cries or curls up in pain.

As well as the causes mentioned earlier, this can also be because the baby’s pelvis was twisted during the birth or he was put on his back too soon before he could uncurl himself from the position he was in in the womb.

(None of these strains are huge, it only takes a little too much pressure or twist during the birth to make it hard for the baby to reorganise his body afterwards.)

  1. Your baby can take one breast but is uncomfortable on the other one. May need the “rugby hold” on one side.

Babies often suffer from a stiff or sore neck after birth, making it difficult to turn one way. They are so relieved when this can be made more comfortable.

  1.    Baby is unable to sleep or restless when sleeping.

Sometimes this can be from shock after the birth. This can be caused by the baby experiencing separation from the mother after the birth, or after a long or difficult birth. Sometimes the mother will be shocked or upset and this too makes it hard for the baby to relax.

  1.     Baby seems tense and restless, it is difficult to cuddle her/him.

Again this can be from shock as well as discomfort. Craniosacral Therapy is a very good way of treating shock

  1.    Baby vomits or brings up some of the feed.

Vomiting in babies is so common it is called normal, but we don’t as adults expect to bring up some of every meal we eat.

Pressure on the vagus nerve, twists in the pelvis and residual shock in the baby’s body can all contribute to this. As can antibiotics and other drugs given during birth.

It seems to me it is worth trying a couple of Craniosacral Therapy sessions before embarking on an elimination diet for the mother if that is possible. Life is hard enough without having to go without all your favourite foods.

I am not saying that cutting out certain foods may not be helpful, but a baby with a comfortable digestive system can cope with a lot more food types than one who is struggling with internal discomforts.

  1.     Baby finds it harder to turn his or her head one way.

If you notice that your baby lies with his head facing the same way all the time, or can only turn to one side, or only lifts and waves one arm, she may need some help to undo the twists in her body or she may have a sore neck.

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Treating Rocky the Cat

It was the first time I have been asked to treat a cat.

Rocky was lame. X-rays had found a bony growth in the muscle of the thigh in his left hind leg. I was able to see the x-ray showing the strange bit of bony tissue floating in the muscle.

Animals don’t suffer from the need to be polite, so I knew Rocky would be very clear about whether he wanted a treatment.

He was curled up on a pile of clothes. I put a hand onto his leg and waited to see what he wanted. He seemed quite happy for me to be touching him like this, although he doesn’t usually welcome strangers who want to stroke him.

My focus was on his leg and what I knew of the injury, but Rocky had other ideas. He immediately turned over and presented me with his lumber spine. It did indeed feel in need of help and we worked together for some time, quite specifically on the lower lumber vertebrae, before he got up and jumped off the chest of drawers to walk around the room, returning to present his back for more treatment after each perambulation. His left leg was stiff and moved in a little circular motion away from his body with each step.

After the session, his owner returned to the report from the vet and read it out to me.cat_cuteness

In addition to a detailed analysis of the thigh, there was mention almost in passing of ventral spondylosis deformans in L 5-7; (degeneration of the spine in his lower back). This was just the area that Rocky had told me he wanted to have treated.

I was surprised how delighted I was to have my perceptions confirmed by an X-ray.

In a way, it doesn’t make any difference. Rocky got the treatment he wanted, in fact he wouldn’t have put up with anything else. But for me, to have that conformation does mean something, if only to prove that we are all creatures of our time and culture.

It is not easy, in a world that demands proof and measurement in all aspects of life, to be in a profession that depends at every moment on feel and intuition. It requires constant trust and courage to leap in the dark with each moment of each session, and allow the healing hour to unfold.

This story is not so much about treating a cat, joyful though it was to have the opportunity, but more a celebration of a moment of conformation for me.

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Now it is time to leave Houston  and return home.

It has been an amazing experience to step out of “my life” and live somewhere completely different.

It has made me wonder what it is that makes me think my life exists in a particular place and doing specific things. What have I brought with me to this new place and what have I left behind?

Some old friends have tagged along for the ride: Procrastination: It turns out to be as easy to put things off when you are doing very little as when you are doing a lot.

Some old fears crossed the Atlantic with ease, as did a

photo courtesy of Dolphin expeditions with whom I spent a very special week

fascination for nature and a longing to be immersed in it. (A week on a boat swimming with dolphins met that need full on.)

And the Critic didn’t stay in England, In fact I think he (he seems to have a male persona) has adopted an American accent to fit in and he can still tell me how wrong I am at unexpected moments.

The process of learning new habits has made me realise how comfortable it is to be in a familiar place. Even the light switches here are the “wrong” way up.

I have had to think which side of the car to get in and train my left leg to do nothing as I drive an automatic. (For the first few attempts I tucked it well out of the way under the seat- in case it leapt out in search of the clutch pedal).

Compare this to Garway Hill!

Then – they drive on the “wrong” side of the road and it is OK to pass another car on either side on the huge free ways. (I enjoyed a frisson of forbidden joy the first few times I “undertook” another car.) But the huge trucks are scary.

I have enjoyed the process of becoming conscious of all those little habits that make life so easy at home.

A new Life

I came here to be with my son and daughter-in-law for the birth of my granddaughter and to be useful to the family after her arrival. Such a wonderful privilege to enjoy the beginning of this new life and the start of a new family.meera and grandma in the garden

It is one thing to be at a birth, quite another to be at the birth of a new member of the family. I was deeply moved.

And in among the grandmotherly excitement, my Craniosacral hands were able to help her make sense of the new environment she had arrived into.

It is a huge transition for a little baby that has been floating in water, pressed up against her mother and listening all the time to her mother’s heart beat.

Now she is subject to gravity, able to expand into the space around her, and having to support her own life: Breath, suckle, digest, excrete. It’s a lot to take in.

In the hospital they were committed to skin to skin contact and were extremely good at supporting breast feeding. All the staff had been trained in how to help mothers establish breast feeding. They all offered the same good, clear advice and encouragement.

So many of my clients in England have been confused and alarmed by different advice from different care givers. I felt so relieved that nothing was undermining the fragile confidence in a new skill that needs to be cherished in each new mother.

So I left them in the hospital and did my first solo drive home in the middle of the night.

I was tired, so I hope it excuses the ridiculous situation I found myself in. My son had given me a smart phone. My first. (They aren’t much use on Garway Hill with no signal and very slow internet.)

I was supposed to use it to navigate home and it was all set up so I could find the appropriate map. Which I did. But I then sat in the car for some time trying to work out how on earth to get it to start giving me directions. In the end I went to the young man on the reception desk and explained my predicament. He looked bemused. It is hard for youth to grasp the awful technological deficiencies of the old.

You see that blue arrow” he said, slowly and carefully pointing to an arrow on the screen. “You press that”. There was a pause as he wondered if I had understood. I drove home, on the right without a clutch and with a brand new grandchild.

Being a “Cranial” grandmother.

It has been a joyous experience to be so close to my grandchild grandma and Meerafor the first two months of her life.

As with many of the children I come in contact with, she has “asked” me sometimes to give her a treatment and of course I have.

But I have also found myself wondering how the years of tuning in to the “feel” through my hands has influenced the way I hold her, the knowledge of when she wants a hand on her tummy or under her head.

This, of course, is what parents learn to do while they are handling their babies every day: The right level of jigging around to send her to sleep, the right pressure to make her feel safe but not confined. The touch of a parent.

But I have been wondering if that sensitivity could be enhanced for new parents, perhaps given a level of conscious awareness. This would not be as a substitute for something active like baby massage, but a chance to focus on touch.

With that in mind I want to do a little experiment and offer a session to some new parents to see if I can pass on some of the Sensitive Touch I have learned in my work and make it applicable to everyday parenting. So if you know of anyone with a new baby who would like to take part in a trial session, please ask them to get in touch. I am thinking for this first attempt to seek out babies under eight weeks old.

Finding Joy

There has been quite a lot I have disliked about Houston. In fact I have found myself with some despair for the disrespect for the planet which seems to be rife in what I have seen here.

But it made me realise how easy it is for me to dislike, to be critical. That old Critic who hitched along for the ride is very good at whispering in my ear about how awful things are, both in my surroundings and also of course in me.

So I decided to set myself a task:

Every time I spotted the critic at work I would find something, anything to like, admire, enjoy, applaud, cherish. I want to change the energy, change the way I feel. The critic and the judge shut things off, close down the energy, make things colder, harder and of course less joyful.

I have even created a bedtime ritual of finding fifty things to be glad about- from butterflies to elephants, asparagus to saints. Doesn’t matter how far fetched, just anything that give me joy. (I am usually asleep well before I get to fifty).

And if I find that I really can’t manage this change of attitude, I know it is time to go and see one of my glorious colleagues and get a Craniosacral session to set my jangled nerves back in sync and give the world a polish again.

“With awareness there comes comes choice. And so you are able to say: “I allow this moment to be as it is.” And then, suddenly, where before there was irritation, there is now a sense of aliveness and peace. And out of this comes right action.”

Eckhart Tolle.

Seasonal good wishes to all my dear clients and friends. May you stay healthy and happy and find fulfilment in your lives during the dark of the year.BN3Q09604_candle_light.JPG

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Lammas Greetings

Lammas greetings to you all.

After the long breath out of the high summer, it always feels to me as if dear Earth holds her breath, gathering strength and wisdom for the long descent into winter.

The tree leaves have lost their first vibrant green, the fields are full of gold and crimson and the grain has been harvested, leaving wonderful stubble fields. (I remember galloping my pony round these as a child, when bales were small enough to jump.)

It is time to celebrate:

Lammas; Loaf mass, a mass to celebrate the first bread from the first of the harvested grain.

Lughnassadh; the festival of Lugh or Lug, the Celtic sun King.

Now Demeter, the corn mother, has to grieve again as her daughter Persephone (the grain) returns to to her husband Hades in the underworld.

Now, too, we mortals need to gather our inner harvest to store new knowledge, wisdom and strength for the return of darkness and winter.

For many this is the time for holidays and we still expect the sun to shine for some time. We are less aware, in this culture, of the changing seasons unless we still grow our own food in farm or garden. We can buy fruit all the year round and bread off the shelf.

Our bodies, though, still know and respond to the subtle changes of this transitional season: It is not Autumn yet, not time to settle by the fire and search out the wellies and coats. But something has changed.

In my work I often have clients who feel a bit off colour or distressed by this change.

Maybe Summer suits you- the long days and the heat help us to unwind, breath out along with the Earth, blossom with the flowers and stretch tall with the rising sap in the trees.

(I am always so moved by the power of sap rising to the top of high trees. Have you ever tried listening to a tree trunk in spring? Can you hear the sap?)

Or maybe you struggle with sleeplessness when the sun rises so early and the hot days are an effort?

Our bodies are still highly tuned to the seasons even though our culture isn’t. So be kind to your instinctive self. Take a little time to be with this new season, go for a walk and notice the way nature is responding. Take a day off and rest in a beautiful place. Break bread with friends and revere the amazing processes that produce a loaf. And, if you feel disconnected from the season, take this as a sign that you are a bit out of sorts and consider a Craniosacral Therapy session to help your body retune for Lammas Tide.

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