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How craniosacral therapy can undo trauma

Craniosacral therapy, which comes out of the osteopathic tradition, can be explained using para-medical language and is not ‘a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo’. Lounge talks to practitioners to find out how it works

Cranio-sacral therapy is a hands-on technique that uses a light touch to examine membranes and movement of the fluids in and around the central nervous system. (Photo: Taara Chandani)
Cranio-sacral therapy is a hands-on technique that uses a light touch to examine membranes and movement of the fluids in and around the central nervous system. (Photo: Taara Chandani)

I find it significant to mention that birthing our boy in Goa was a difficult experience for me (and him, and I suppose it would be fine to include my husband in this little list). It is an experience I hope to have processed adequately, but it has left me extremely aware of the harrowing journeys that modern mothers go through to birth their children. When I was looking for water-birthing and doulas in Goa I did not have much luck and there was also the inner doubt that I was having my first child after my 35th birthday and so if medical attention was needed, it should not be hard to get to.

Fear comes up in different ways to inform our decisions. My husband and I had recently relocated to Panjim from London and we were in different cities because despite planning to be based out of Goa, his business associate had insisted that he would have to operate out of Delhi. And then I found out that I was pregnant! We were grateful for this blessing.

It was so strange because I was not supposed to shout out with delight that I was pregnant. Instead I was supposed to wait for the first three months to be successfully completed. I had a work trip for a leadership retreat facilitation in United Kingdom, in the South-East of London. I also had to find out if it was safe to travel. I had to locate a gynaecologist in a city I did not know how to navigate and as I did not drive and it was not easy to hail an auto, I walked to the nearest one I could find. All of this, right from the first lonely walk to the gynaecologist to the caesarean that I had to have, felt like an experience I was unable to navigate with any of my leadership capacities that I had amply demonstrated elsewhere.

I wrote lushly about these harrowing experiences, prose and poetry, rhyme and blank, stuff that was disturbing to read, stuff that my writers' group hurriedly was asked to not comment on by well-meaning and loving mentors. Some raw experiences are best not commented upon. I had even decided to write notes on Facebook titled ‘Room for My Womb’ but then after a fit of sharing I changed the privacy setting on that note. Continuing in this productive vein, I also worked to prevent myself from un-seeing my trauma and sadness and to own it and let it go. It persists in some sediments but it has also left me and I am grateful for that departure.

As part of taking some power back, based on my experience of biodynamic work as a leadership consultant, I began to seek what could be a therapeutic experience for my son and me. This search led me to Taara Chandani, who had moved from the US and set up a biodynamic craniosacral therapy practice in Goa and is working on a psychotherapeutic qualification. In her work, she beautifully bridges the mind and the body, through connecting in a non-intrusive touch methodology. Strangely enough, my son and I are still clients-in-waiting with Taara but we have experienced the power of the work as my husband decided to work with her.

Craniosacral therapy comes out of the osteopathic tradition. It focuses on the subtle, fluid, rhythmic movement linked to the bone and nervous structure, tissues, muscles and fascia. It work on the spine, the head and the pelvis as the orienting axis around which the movement happens. Biodynamic craniosacral work is committed to restoring primary respiration in these areas of our bodies. Change happens at an energetic realm, a force beyond the physical, that is holding us all. Also known as prana, chi or life-force, this practice connects eastern and western knowledges in a beautiful synthesis.

Our life-force moves from a state of contraction to one of expansion in a constant but subtle level, and it is an expression of the breath of life. The therapists understand constrictions, blocks and patterns through sensing dissonance and contraction in the flow of life force. The body through its own intelligence finds its own way to restore itself, so biodynamic craniosacral work is not manipulation. Instead it assists in bringing more awareness to and trusting of the bod y, to facilitate the adjustments and repairs that it needs to make. It works at the physical, soul and energetic levels but we can speak a completely para-medical language to understand the workings on this methodology if we do not wish to alienate those who consider anything that is in the subtle, energetic realm, ‘a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo’.

Biodynamic craniosacral therapy is about slowing down and listening to the deeper rhythms in the body. "It is a field that is much bigger and universal, a sense of connecting to something deeper in myself that connected me to something deeper in another, palpable energy holding work is to get out of the way, while being aware of what I am bringing into this space: an open container that holds my clients experience with compassion and love, listening to what needed to be known about the essence of my client," says Taara Chandani.

It can be effective treatment for day to day stressors. It enables people to arrive at a meditative state with themselves and can be seen as assisted meditation. It is about holding space for people to come into a different way of being with themselves. Insomnia, headaches, severe form of migraines also respond well to this approach. Spinal and pelvic issues can also be meaningfully addressed. Through working on accepting, allowing, breathing into and embracing, the work creates more space and capacity in our physical form. And it is very helpful in dealing with birth trauma.

Cranial osteopaths work with newborns in an integrated way in many medical systems in western countries. It is a specialty area that prioritises gentleness and a deep respect for the body to find its own way after the trauma of a hospital birth. So my research on practitioners in India working with children and babies was not as easy as finding Taara literally in my backyard in 2016. My Google hunt led me nowhere and I did a new search when I decided to write this article and this time I was so pleased to find Zia Nath, who has been running her practice in Mumbai for at least two decades. It is such a gift to have a committed practitioner who is invested also in training another generation of biodynamic cranio-sacral practitioners in India.

Cranio-sacral therapy practitioner Zia Nath (on the floor) with clients
Cranio-sacral therapy practitioner Zia Nath (on the floor) with clients

Zia has different areas of specialisation and one, thankfully, is working with children and mothers. Zia works in pre-birth and post-birth support, to deal with the birth trauma for the mother and the baby. I learnt that biodynamic craniosacral therapy can also be usefully integrated with medical care in working with premature babies and can positively impact mood regulation, dyslexia diagnosis and behavioural issues for children.

Zia is especially concerned about the impact that medical interventions have on the natural capacities and abilities of the mother and the child. And this is where there is an absolute synergy between her moot message and mine, that women need support, and we need to be well informed in being able to make the best decisions for our reproductive process. Zia also works with Birth India, a non-profit organisation that seeks to empower women to select the birthing options in tune with their own needs and choices. It came to me too late but it would be amazing if women reading this could explore the Birth India website to see what resonates with.

When I write about these methodologies I am honouring something deep within me, the urge to ask each one of us why we deny ourselves that which does not fit the scientific tag. Being in nature makes us pause or wonder and is capable of stirring a deep peace in us. Engaging with what does not fit the three dimensional world of evidence but also with felt experience as evidence can help us all explore natural ways of being more fully human.

Dr. Rachana Patni is a Panjim-based leadership consultant who writes on mental & emotional wellbeing

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