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Biodynamic craniosacral therapy offers a new breath of life

BCST is an alternative therapy that allows the body to heal itself through correct breathing and touch

Mirai Rao at her home clinic in Bengaluru. Photo: Abhishek B A/Mint
Mirai Rao at her home clinic in Bengaluru. Photo: Abhishek B A/Mint

Mirai Rao stands above me as I lie on the massage table. Her hands gently touch my feet. Over the next hour, they move to cup my head. I am undergoing a biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST) session, which operates on the principles of stillness, empathy, and engendering the body to heal itself.

As a growing body of research indicates, thoughts imprint themselves on muscles. The mind and body are intimately connected. In most alternative therapies, release is a key concept. As Peter Levine, who, among other things, was a stress consultant for US space agency Nasa, says, “Trauma is not (only) what happens to us but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness."

In BCST, the therapist facilitates what Rao calls the “innate intelligence of the body". She does this by becoming a mindful empathetic witness. The interesting thing is that all this is done through touch, not through words. Through the quality of Rao’s touch, I am taken to what I can only describe as a safe, secure place. My breathing deepens, my nerves calm down, and my body begins the process of letting go.

Rao came to BCST thanks to her mother’s autoimmune disease, when they were searching for a cure. As we speak, her once bedridden mother walks in: a sprightly elderly woman with a brisk gait. “My job is to open up awareness so that you go to a place of strength," says Rao. “When there is calmness, there is clarity."

The wisdom of the body is a much bandied phrase, but as cancer survivors who have seemingly healed themselves show, the forces that we hold within ourselves are far greater than we realize. The question is how to harness our life force so that it engenders self-healing. Mindfulness is the first step but it is hard. It’s easier to hand ourselves over to a doctor or, in this case, a BCST therapist who helps you get in touch with your body and facilitates the release of old crippling patterns.

BCST therapists spend countless hours cultivating this quiet empathy. A lot of it has to do with breathing, but most of it is about touch. Rao silently moves her hands to my navel. My breathing deepens; the fight-or-flight mode that many of us are in all day goes away.

Allopathic medicine uses chemistry to alter the body. By popping pills, we inject specific chemicals into our bloodstream that act quickly to reduce fever, inflammation or phlegm. Alternative therapies take longer because they focus on trying to get our endocrine system to create these healing hormones or chemicals.

BCST is an esoteric therapy, no question about that. It is also hard to measure. Like Ayurveda and meditation, it doesn’t give instant feedback. Rather, you need to undergo six-eight sessions in order to experience some sort of difference. Most BCST practitioners in Bengaluru charge Rs1,500 per session, each about an hour long, which means a monetary commitment for what sceptics can dismiss as an “iffy" methodology. For these reasons, most people try BCST as a last resort.

Yet, for those who are curious about what Rao calls the “breath of life", BCST could be one way to access long-forgotten parts of our nervous system: the ones that contribute to this miraculous thing that is the human body.

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