Hands holding head

On day three of training at Jing we worked with two techniques which were very new to me: Craniosacral Therapy and Visceral Manipulation. Both of these techniques are quite subtle in terms of touch.

Craniosacral therapy is a very subtle form of bodywork where the therapist uses the gentlest of touches to rebalance the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, this work can actually be done on several parts of the body including the back of the head, feet, sacrum and pelvis. It was developed by John Upledger in the 1970’s and is an offshoot of cranial osteopathy which was developed by William Garner Sutherland in the 1930’s. It is quite difficult to describe what if feels like and how it works, but this quote from the CTA sums it up very well:

 ‘Think about the therapist as a facilitator who, by placing his/her hands on the head or sacrum or feet is listening to the rhythm within the body and through this contact enables the body to release tensions, calm its chaos and finally to reach a point of absolute silence where both client and therapist are in unison.  It is in this silence that the body “does its work”. In this gentle space where mind and body are “held” safely by the therapist who is also focusing on the movement apparent inside the body, a deep sense of relief is often experienced.’

I’m going to be very honest now and tell you that this work was by far the most challenging work I have done for a long time. Being so still and having to listen so intently to another person body are skills that can only be developed from practice – it was not easy to find that ‘rhythm’ of the body and work with it. I also found that I was expecting to feel things, both as a giver and as a receiver, which then did not materialise, leaving me with a void of expectation and a lot of questions. This is often how learning a new skill is, even when we try to come to it with the beginner’s mind we can find ourselves waiting for ‘something’ to happen. Yet I can clearly see how the treatment could be hugely beneficial for people, especially those who cannot tolerate or do not want deeper forms of touch. The evidence base for CST is sparse and there have been many claims that it is a bogus type of therapy which does ‘little or not good’. Yet lots of people (including many other therapists I know) report huge shifts in their bodies when they undergo the treatment. So we maybe have to ask ourselves the question, do we need science to validate it or are we happy to explore the unknown elements of what makes us human?

Viseral Manipulation is another form of facial work developed by Jean-Pierre Barral who describes it as:

“The central premise of Visceral Manipulation is that the interrelationship of structure and function among the internal organs is at least as strong as that among the constituents of the musculoskeletal system; and that, like the musculoskeletal system, manipulation of the viscera can be beneficially used in the treatment of a wide variety of problems affecting any of the body’s systems”

So you can perform this type of work on the fascia which lies between and around organs such as the liver, sleep, lungs, colon, kidneys etc., Our work involved testing the springiness of the thoracic cavity (the chest area) and working gently with the fascia that surrounds the lungs. I’d like to report that I found this easier but I didn’t, although I can see the potential of this type of work in freeing up the fascia around the lungs and chest cavity, which is often tight in people who suffer from stress, anxiety & breathing issues.

As I write this post today, having seen two clients this morning, I am reminded of just how much stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning new things does in terms of providing fuel for the never-ending process of learning. Today I used many new techniques, some felt good and others need practice, but what I did mostly was to ask questions of myself while I was working – what can I do better, how can I work more slowly, when can I do more by doing less? Those are the gems from my experience at Jing last week (along with heaps of new stuff for my massage toolbox!). Can’t wait till the next three days in June!

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