“Keeping the hips still, making his sacrum stiff, dangerous, the heart suffocates.” – I-Ching, or Chinese Book of Changes
Cranial sacral work (also called craniosacral therapy) is an evolution out of Cranial Osteopathy, a specialization of the osteopathic profession that was introduced to the world in the 1930s by an American osteopath and visionary called William Garner Sutherland.
Cranial sacral work has traditionally focused on the 22 bones that make up the human head, the vertebra and sacrum, and also on the brain, the central nervous system, the cerebrospinal fluid and the system of membranes inside the cranium and spinal column.
It combines sensitive hands-on bodywork with the meditative use of inner vision and dialogue. Techniques are drawn principally from the school of Osteopathy honoring both the analytic understanding of how things happen and the intuitive perception of how things really are. This synthesis touches the soul and allows healing to occur.
CST sees the body structures not simply as muscles and bones, but as aspects of consciousness. The structures dialogue with each other through the ebb and flow of the intelligence of the cranial wave. The work is useful in alleviating painful or restricted conditions anywhere in the body.
Brief History of Cranial Sacral
Cranial sacral (craniosacral) work comes out of osteopathy. Osteopathy comes out of bone setting, and bone setting was practiced in Neanderthal times, 130,000 years ago, and probably much longer ago.
The historical record of the origins of what is now called “cranial sacral work” begins in the 19th century with Andrew Taylor Still, who coined the term “Osteopathy.”
Still called his practice Osteopathy, from osteon, or bone, and pathine, suffering. Still founded the American School of Osteopathy in 1891. Later he writes, “If he is wise in Anatomy and Physiology, he (the osteopath) will at a glance detect any abnormality in form, and can easily prove the cause of any failure in perfect functioning….He knows how to adjust every bone and muscle in his patient’s body.”
In 1899 William Sutherland was studying in the first osteopathic school to be set up in the USA.
In my cranial sacral therapy practice here in Portland, Oregon, I often focus upon optimizing the position, fluid movement (‘wave’) and energy (piezoelectric charge and chi) of these parts of the cranial sacral system. Or I may focus on bringing the cranial sacral system back to balance in the central line of the body, called ‘midline.’ Some schools focus on differing wave states, tides, and opening to the arrival of stillness.