Craniosacral Therapy by Jane Ward

Craniosacral therapy supports an experience of deep relaxation and inner stillness, which promotes the healing process.

Life on this planet has been shaped by the long, spiraling movements of water. We are living beings held within the great mystery of life, enlivened by various kinds of energetic rhythms waving through us. One way of describing life process, is to say that we are fields of energy suspended within vast fields of energy vibrating at varying frequencies. At the center of these vibrations is stillness.

William Sutherland founded osteopathy in the cranial field, now called craniosacral therapy (cranio refers to the head and sacral refers to the sacrum), over a 100 years ago. He perceived a slow, deep, rhythmic impulse, like a wave or a tide that moves through the body, including the cerebrospinal fluid in the vertebral column and around the brain. This movement, he said, is an expression of a sacred presence in the universe, which he called the Breath of Life.

Breath of Life

The Breath of Life, similar to the concept of chi and prana, seems to arise out of a depth of stillness, and generates fundamental ordering and healing forces active throughout life. The most basic expression of the Breath of Life is a deep, slow impulse that moves through all things and seems to support interconnection and wholeness.

In craniosacral therapy, the Breath of Life is perceived as an enlivening, intelligent bioenergy, which maintains organization throughout life, described as potency.

Primary Respiration

This impulse manifests in the body as primary respiration, palpable rhythms called Tides. They can be experienced as inhalation and exhalation phases, moving upwards and outwards through the body, and then downwards and narrowing through the body, oriented around the midline or vertebral column. This is independent of breathing with the lungs. The slowest Tide, called the Long Tide manifests in 100 second cycles and is totally stable, our most basic expression of health. The felt sense of the Long Tide is a spacious, airy, light feeling and extends perhaps a meter outside the physical body. The Fluid Tide is faster, around 2 cycles per minute and can be experienced as a warm fluid feeling like floating on water.

This concept of the body system may be described as three interactive bodies or fields
suspended within each other. The physical body, which is the most dense field – cells and
tissues – is suspended within the fluid body – fluids and life force – is suspended within the tidal field of the Long Tide, which is the least dense of the fields, and all three bodies are suspended in stillness.

During a therapy session, as the practitioner deepens into stillness, there is a holistic shift as the three bodies enter into a deeper equilibrium, and there is healing intention as the potency resolves the injury or particular issue in the person.

 What happens in a 1 hour session?

 We sit down and through questions and answers we mutually establish the goals for the therapy.

We begin by creating safety and comfort, so we can work safely and deeply together.

It is very important for us to treat the client with care and respect.

When the goals have been established and the client feels ready, the session then continues with the client lying fully dressed on the massage table.

Craniosacral therapy works with light body contacts and some dialogue.

Often as people relax deeply they feel a need to sleep. It is a refreshing sleep. The session can continue as the client sleeps.

The session respects an individual’s needs and boundaries, so we make sure there are no surprises and that the contacts are acceptable for the client.

Responses can be extremely varied and it is not unusual to have sensations that are very pleasant such as warmth and tingling in the body.

Memories may also come up

 Healing journeys

 As the nervous system and whole body system relax during a craniosacral therapy session the client may experience tingling feelings, warm flowing feeling inside their body, muscle twitches, deep sighs, yawning, tears, and stomach gurgling. Pain may disappear! The experience in a craniosacral therapy session often defies all kinds of normal, intellectual reasoning and verbal description. Our dictionaries do not yet contain the vocabulary. Floating, lightness, heart joy, love, light, spaciousness, oneness, floating on clouds feeling, floating on water feeling, relaxation, dreamtime, angelic presence, and peace, are some of the words used by clients and therapists in an attempt to describe the experience. Or if trauma is being resolved, perhaps an inner cold shower, muscle twitching, tingling, buzziness, memories of trauma or a sharp sudden pain that quickly disappears.

 We simply listen to, accept and acknowledge these personal experiences, in a non-judgemental way. Sometimes we may help the person make sense of what they have experienced, if it is new and different for them.

 Sometimes people shed tears when they are met and held in a kind, loving and non-judgemental way, as their hearts soften and allow an opening for the pain they were holding, to gently release.

 Our healing journeys are very personal and individual. We usually need to proceed slowly to give ourselves time to integrate the therapeutic experience and allow our bodies time to rebalance, once a tension or shock energy is resolved. This is because our body systems always try to balance and compensate whatever tensions, traumas and injuries we are holding. Otherwise we would probably just fall over! We may feel tired after a session as our bodies integrate the work and heal, and we may need to take time to rest and sleep. But sometimes new energy is liberated, and we feel completely refreshed, energized and full of life.

 When we work with biodynamic craniosacral therapy we may settle into the long tide level (see Breath of Life below for more information) of awareness filled with spaciousness, lightness, and perhaps stillness. In this experience of being, people may have an altered sense of time during a session. They may feel like 5 minutes have passed, but the clock says 1 hour. Or a feeling of having been held for 1 hour and only 10 minutes have gone by according to the clock. Both clients and therapists may have an ‘outside of time’ experience. At the same time there might be an experience of light, sometimes described as ‘Divine Light’. This cannot be logically explained. It can only be experienced. Like joy, bliss or beauty. Somehow we experience we simply are, like a feeling of beingness. One with the universe. Home.


 When body tissues contract and dry out, which can happen when we are shocked, injured or sick, cell metabolism is compromised. There is a reduction in fluid flow required to transport necessary products such as those needed to stop bleeding and close a skin wound. Cells do not have enough oxygen to function properly, waste products accumulate and disease begins. We begin to feel stiff and achy. Our body’s self-healing capacity is then diminished.

 Craniosacral therapy beautifully supports our natural inner healing process, slowing down and attuning to the Breath of Life manifested as wave-like movements in the body. By coming into relationship with the slower tides, called the long tide and the fluid tide, natural healing proceses are stimulated, which help bring the body back into balance and health. When people are sufficiently resourced, old, overwhelming physical and emotional injuries that have been packed up safely and held within their body, can be gently resolved and released. This happens as the therapist deepens into their own relationship with primary respiration, helping the client relax and settle through resonance, gradually deepening into the slower rhythms of life where healing occurs.

 Breath of Life

 Life on this planet has been shaped by the long, slow spiralling movements of water. We are living beings held within the great mystery of life, enlivened by various kinds of energetic rhythms waving through us. One way of describing life process, is to say that we are fields of energy suspended within vast fields of energy vibrating at varying frequencies. At the center of these vibrations is stillness.

 In craniosacral therapy our life force is called the Breath of Life. Over a hundred years ago, William Sutherland the founder of craniosacral therapy (CST), called it ‘liquid light’ and described the Breath of Life as a fluid within the cerebrospinal fluid, something that doesn’t mix, something that has potency as the thing that makes it move.


 In biodynamic CST, the movement of the Breath of Life within our bodies is described as a tide. The watery elements, connective tissues and joints in our body move in response to the Breath of Life, generally experienced as upwards expanding inhalation, and downwards contracting exhalation phases. This fluid expression of our life force can be felt with our hands and even measured by sophisticated machines, as subtle movements of about 40 micrometers. This movement is also expressed deep within our brain, looking like a bird in flight, with the lateral ventricles being wings, and the third and fourth ventricles being the body of the bird. During inhalation phase the lateral ventricles literally expand outwards within our brain, as if the bird is lifting its wings. In the exhalation phase, the ventricles move downwards and outwards.

 There are two tides, called fluid and long tide, flowing through our body, and the cranial rhythmic impulse, CRI. The CRI is a wave which forms on top of the tide, like waves on top of the ocean, an expression of unresolved history, and reflecting the conditions of our physical life. It moves through our body in cycles of about 6-12 times a minute, more quickly and less stable than the tides, and is not a direct expression of the Breath of Life.

 The CRI is suspended within the slower, more stable fluid tide, moving through our bodies about 2 times a minute. This fluid field is suspended within the long tide, the most stable and fundamental expression of the Breath of Life with a cycle of about 100 seconds, wiith 50 second inhalation and 50 exhalation phases. The long tide is unaffected by disease, stress or injury, being pure health. This airy, vast tide is suspended within dynamic stillness, out of which it is said all life arises. As a therapist we can access all levels of the tidal expression of primary respiration simultaneously, depending on where we focus our attention and consciousness.