Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy
(by Roger Gilchrist, MA, RCST®)
This article focuses on a particular approach in craniosacral therapy (CST) called Craniosacral Biodynamics. We will explore how this is similar to and how it differs from other approaches to craniosacral therapy, as well as some of the unique features of the Biodynamic approach.
In many ways, the Biodynamic approach is much closer to the osteopathic roots of craniosacral therapy in relation to skills and philosophy. Osteopathic practice has always stated it is both a science and a philosophy, and this is true in Craniosacral Biodynamics as well. It is useful to appreciate the history of “cranial osteopathy” that began with William G. Sutherland, DO, then extended through the work of Rollin Becker, DO, where we see the premises that are the foundation of Biodynamic work. Franklyn Sills has been a primary developer of Craniosacral Biodynamics, a field in which most practitioners are not osteopaths (although some are, and there is a parallel field called Biodynamic Osteopathy). In this way, many massage therapists and other bodywork professionals have begun to include Biodynamic CST in their practices.
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy places an emphasis on what organizes Health in the living system, much more than the patterns of distress or dysfunction. The unique contribution of Craniosacral Biodynamics to the larger field of CST is a rich understanding of the forces that organize both stress patterns and normal functions. This allows the practitioner to work with the active processes at the root of distress in contrast to the symptomatic expressions of dysfunctional conditions. Tissue patterns like sutural compressions, membranous strains, joint translations, and connective tissue patterning are still perceived and worked with, but they are understood as results of the forces organizing life, including the conditional patterns of our history and overwhelming experiences. Biodynamic practitioners have special skills for working at the level of these primary forces.
Important features of Biodynamic work include the following:
The Relational Field— In Craniosacral Biodynamics the interactive field in which the client and practitioner both participate is given a great deal of attention. A well-negotiated field of contact, attention, and perception is considered paramount in the work. In a clear relational field, contact and attention are neither intrusive nor distant. There is a direct perception of healing processes as they arise, and it is safe for this to occur in a balanced relationship.
Inherent Health— Perhaps the most important idea in a Biodynamic approach to CST is that Health is inherent in the living system. One’s body or mind never really loses the relationship to health, even in the direst circumstances. A reorientation to health is always possible. The template for health is held within the dynamics of the living system. Of course, genetic adaptations and the further progression of any chronic condition places certain limitations on the degree to which one can align with the template for health, however, a person can learn to keep a relationship to their essence, even when certain conditions are maintained in the process of the body.
Three Fields of Function— Life takes place in a number of dimensions. Craniosacral Biodynamics describes some of these dimensions as “three fields of function.” Specifically, those are: the tissue field, the fluid field, and a field of organizing energies and dynamic forces. Dr. Sutherland referred to these dynamic energies as potency. The tissue field is familiar to all bodyworkers as the physical body, its structural organization, weight-bearing capacity in relation to gravity, tone in the muscles, quality in the connective tissues, and the reciprocal tensions in membranes. The fluid field is primary in the awareness of lymphatic workers, for example. CST places special emphasis on the cerebrospinal fluid, and the CSF is viewed as interactive with, and influential upon, all the other fluids of the body. The field of potency is essentially the energy dynamics of the living body. The human energy field is now well-documented in a number of studies. Biodynamics refers to this as the biofield; this includes the physical body and its energetic exchange with the environment around it. Each of these three fields has its own operational laws and governing dynamics, which means that different therapeutic skills apply to each of the three fields. Furthermore, all three fields of function are interactive and influence each other.
A Quantum Approach— Modern physics helps us understand that matter and energy are the same thing in different states of expression. The deepest healing processes seem to involve some kind of exchange between these dimensions.
Over time, we have seen an evolution of the skills used in clinical practice. Historically, osteopathic practice used an important skill for creating adjustments in the tissue field of the body called the Point of Balanced Ligamentous Tension. In the practice of “cranial osteopathy,” Dr. Sutherland translated this skill to a Point of Balanced Membrane Tension and applied it to strain forces in the dural membrane that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. Balanced tension skills are used to help a strain pattern in membranous tissue become neutral around the fulcrum of the pattern, thereby helping the pattern to reorganize, creating changes in the health of the client. Later, these skills were expanded to the State of Balanced Tension—a broader concept that includes the fluid field and the dynamics of potency in the neutral of the pattern. This allows for much more comprehensive reorganization (healthy change!) in the living system. Biodynamic literature refers to the Point of Balanced Tension (in membranes, ligaments, or connective tissues) as a “localized neutral in the tissue field,” whereas the State of Balance is more of a system-wide neutral (in relation to the stress pattern being worked with) and leads to more global reorganization.
Balanced tension skills and the State of Balance are therapeutic tools not outcomes. This is often misunderstood. It is through the neutral in any stress pattern that the living system is able to reestablish its relationship with inherent Health and return to more normal baselines. Sometimes this State of Balance is referred to as Dynamic Equilibrium—and this phrase is very suggestive of the power to make changes and return to a more balanced state.
Therapeutic work in Craniosacral Biodynamics is commonly more subtle than biomechanical approaches to craniosacral therapy. Recognizing the potency, or power for change, that Sutherland talked about, the Biodynamic practitioner works in a deep relationship to these forces. The focus in Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy is the intention to augment processes that are already taking place in an effort to return the living system to greater health.
The practitioner works to support processes that are seeking greater balance as the system returns to better expressions of health. Along the way, the various inertial patterns and symptomatic dysfunctions come to the foreground and present themselves to be worked with. A Biodynamic practitioner has developed a spectrum of skills to work with the client in the three fields of function, that is, in relation to tissue patterns, fluid dynamics, and organizing energies. Particularly at the level of potency and organizing forces, the nature of this work is a very subtle engagement with dynamic forces at the heart of the pattern. This takes us to the principle of resonance in therapeutic work, which is where some of the most profound things happen in a Biodynamic approach.
Linear thinking has difficulty explaining this, leading us to ask, “Well, is the practitioner doing anything at all? Or are they doing nothing?” This where the Taoist principle of wei wu wei, or “doing not-doing” is valuable. Quantum logic (holistic thinking), affords us a more integrative view. Different levels of life’s organization are exchanging information and energy; in relation to healing practice, these levels are the tissues and structure, fluid dynamics, and organizing forces. When there is an open energy exchange among these different levels of function, the living system reorients to the free expression of inherent health. Herein lies the mystery of Biodynamic practice.
Roger Gilchrist, MA, RPP, RCST® is a transpersonal psychotherapist, polarity therapist, and Biodynamic CST practitioner and teacher. He is the author of the book: Craniosacral Therapy and the Energetic Body: An Overview of Craniosacral Biodynamics. Roger is the founder of Wellness Institute, and teaches in the USA, Europe and Australia.
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