This past week I had the opportunity to participate in 2 workshops for enhancing Craniosacral Therapy outcomes for clients. While there was a lot of fascinating information shared one topic that stood out to me was the role of Craniosacral Therapy in gently releasing muscular restrictions in the body, versus Deep Tissue Massage where that release is forced, through pressure.
Clients are generally sore after a Deep Tissue Massage due to the inflammation caused by a treatment that is focused on aggressively and forcefully breaking down tissue adhesions that are causing limited mobility or pain. It's kind of a "no pain, no gain situation". I do notice that Massage Therapy is moving away from this belief and I am embracing the understanding myself, that it is just as therapeutic and healing to use a lighter, more moderate pressure. (I know the diehard deep tissue fans may not agree...but I do encourage them to try it)
In contrast, Craniosacral Therapy encourages the body into a state of deep relaxation and stillness. In that space the Parasympathetic Nervous System takes over to bring the body to rest, relax, repair and restore. In that space of quiet stillness the body has the opportunity to drop away from it's usual "busyness", settle into calm, and reorganize and heal itself.
The human body and mind are constantly in a state of awareness and response to keeping safe. The fight or flight response is natural and instinctual. At the same time it is exhausting and debilitating, and often causes tight and restricted muscles through the neck and shoulders. With Craniosacral Therapy it feels as though your body is being cradled, that the tension of gravity is removed in a way that feels safe and supportive. When the physical body is eased of tension the mind and spirit follow along and clients often notice an ease of stress, pulling them out of their anxious state, to one of calm.
In calmness and relaxation a portal to healing is revealed. Tension slides away, blood pressure decreases, the fluid around the brain and spinal chord (which nourishes the nerves) flows unimpeded, muscles relax, fascia opens, anxiety slips away and mind, body and spirit have the opportunity to relax. In this mind/body state of peace is the opportunity to find a space of solution to problems causing anxiety, and ease of movement returning to impeded joints and muscles stressed from overuse and injury.
The Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy
As a Holistic Health Practitioner since 1994, I long ago discovered that the more I learn the more there is to learn. I've practiced Craniosacral Therapy since 1996 and this recent workshop series has opened up a whole new perspective that my clients will begin to benefit from this week. Have you experienced Craniosacral Therapy?
"Stand up straight and tall!" Who didn't hear this as a child? What was never explained was why.
Posture, next to stress, is one of the main reasons clients come in to see me. Though I'm not sure they realize that. Posture while standing, Posture while walking, Posture while sitting at a desk and computer, Posture during screen time... Good posture, or lack thereof, makes a difference to more than your muscles.
During May and June I'm placing a focus on Spinal Touch Therapy as it is probably the most effective tool in my skill set for good posture and encouraging your body to return to that, and hold it. Spinal Touch looks at where your posture is distorted, which muscles are pulling it into that position, and applies a gentle technique that encourages better alignment and posture.
I will be honest here though, while the technique is gentle, you often feel as though you've been hit by a truck afterwards. Here's why...
When we are stooped over with shoulders rounded and chin drawn down or forward our muscles will begin to hold us in that distorted shape. That posture pulls on the muscles through the spine from lower back to skull. The muscles in the front of the chest and neck begin to shorten (because the body, in it's wisdom, views that we're not using or needing them to move better so sends the energy elsewhere to the cells that are using it). In that hunched over shape our digestive organs and circulation are compressed and we tend not to breath as deeply.
A Spinal Touch session encourages a posture where, from a side view, a straight line could run from your ankle, through your mid knee, mid hip, mid shoulder and mid ear. Looking from the back both ears, shoulders and hips are in line.( That's the optimum)
Imagine for a moment how your muscles would feel as they are pulled back into a more open and balanced position, as you stand straighter, how your organs when they are no longer compressed. It's not a comfortable feeling at first. The muscle hurt as they fight to go back to the old posture they've been holding and the organs often release and cleanse as they're meant to. The hit by a truck feeling doesn't last long though (24 to 48 hours) and the results are worth it.!
I encourage you to take some time to check in on your posture each day and where you might stretch or move to improve it. If you would like to experience Spinal Touch Therapy you can book here.
Gentle, slow unwinding of Fascia while also opening up any restrictions in the movement of cerebral spinal fluid, are the goals of a Craniosacral Therapy session. I often find that if a muscle is not letting go with traditional Massage Therapy, that a gentle Craniosacral hold to the area will do the trick. Sometimes muscles require a lighter touch to respond.
In our day to day physical activities our fascia can become tight and congested if we are not taking regular approaches to keeping it loose, hydrated and flexible. Emotional and mental stress play a part as well. Hunched shoulders, turtling, digestive issues... can all cause the fascia to wind tighter. When tight and congested the muscles and organs don't have as much room to move and flow normally.
Craniosacral Therapy is a beneficial and gentle approach to encouraging the Fascia to unwind subtly. When we open up the Fascia around our muscles and joints they move more freely. Fascia loosened and flexible around our rib cage makes that deep breath that stress often needs, increasingly possible. And some of the old trauma and stress that can keep mental and physical trauma in a holding pattern can begin to unwind as the Fascia does. Concussion symptoms are often relieved with Craniosacral Therapy.
While clients often go with Massage Therapy or Myofascia Release, because they are more familiar to them, I do find that many clients have better results with the slower approach of Craniosacral Therapy. It does not have to hurt to work and Craniosacral Therapy demonstrates that. In the next blog I'm going to share a couple of personal stories where I have found this treatment beneficial to myself and my family.
We've been walking on some icy surfaces in Calgary for a couple of weeks at least, and I can feel it in the muscles of your legs and hips! Apparently there is more to come through the weeks ahead...ugh.
What are your muscles telling me?
To avoid falling or slipping we tend to walk differently on icy surfaces. The shoes we wear hopefully have a better grip, but they also tend to be heavier and clumsier than our usual footwear.
Our stance, or centre of gravity should change to feet wider apart and slightly bending forward over our feet to shift body weight where we need it to maintain balance. Hands out of pockets to balance and holding handrails to catch our fall if we go down, shifts our balance as well.
We may hit an icy step and jerk or twist our body to keep from falling. Your muscles tell me all about it.