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Massage Today
December, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 12

Rockin' to the CranioSacral Rhythm

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC

If someone had told me two decades ago that my career would revolve around CranioSacral Therapy, I would have laughed and recommended another glass of wine. It was the mid-'80s when I first heard about cranial work.

I was visiting my sister-in-law, a physical therapist, in Florida. She had just returned from learning this "wild new technique" from some guy name Dr. John and she wanted to try it on me. So I lay down on her living room floor, and she went to work.

Now, I'd experienced massage and bodywork before. So as far as I could tell, my sister-in-law's touch was far too light to accomplish anything. However, I decided to humor her and let her continue.

Out of nowhere, she looked at me and asked, "Were you ever a diver?"

"No," I replied. So she kept working.

A few minutes later, she looked at me again with a quizzical expression. "Are you sure?" she asked.

I was pretty sure about one thing - being a diver is not the kind of thing you would forget.

Again I said, "No."

She continued to work, shifting my position every now and again. Suddenly she stood over me, looped her hands under my back, and lifted me until I was arched. And the memory came flooding back.

A few years earlier, goofing around with friends, I leaped out of a tree that was about three stories tall into a swimming pool. As I was plummeting toward the water, I hyper-extended my back to such an extreme that I ended up in a crazy swan dive. When I hit the water, I felt a cold dread enter my body as I thought, "That's how people break their backs."

Years of Pain Gone in Minutes

Now there I was on my sister-in-law's floor reliving a memory I didn't know I had. Thirty minutes later, the back pain that had been nagging me for three years was gone. And I was fascinated by this wild new technique.

How did such a feather-light touch give my sister-in-law access to information I wasn't even aware of? What was it about bringing my body back to that same swan-dive position that caused the memory to come surging back? What exactly did she do that finally made my pain go away?

Those are questions I wouldn't fully understand until I began working with Dr. John Upledger at his teaching institute. I spent the next 15 years delving into the dynamics of this remarkable therapy. Did I ever become a therapist myself? No. My specialty was helping therapists who practice and teach CranioSacral Therapy to communicate about it in such a compelling way that they naturally attracted new clients.

Over time, I developed a deep understanding of the dynamics of the work. I authored and coauthored hundreds of articles and chapters on CranioSacral Therapy with Dr. John. In the process, I fell in love with the people who practice it. CranioSacral Therapists are big-hearted, compassionate caregivers who are deeply tuned into their clients on every level - body, mind and spirit.

After an intensely relaxing session one day, I stretched and remarked, "I hope I die getting a session." With eyes big and round, my therapist looked at me and said, "I hope I die giving a session."

In that humbling moment, I thought, "That's it. That's why I happily devote my career to helping light-touch therapists become successful, satisfied practitioners. The more people they touch with their gentle care, the better for everyone."

Mixing It Up

Now as I pick up this column where Dr. John left off, I admit I'll be shaking things up. Over the last eight years, this space has been about Upledger's model of CranioSacral Therapy, largely regarded the granddaddy of them all. But there are other voices out there talking about Biodynamic CranioSacral Therapy, Visionary CranioSacral Therapy and other cranial-based techniques.

I'll be bringing in their viewpoints, as well. Because we're all part of a distinguished heritage of hands-on practitioners who lighten their touch to deepen their client outcomes. We all have something to learn from each other.

We're also going to talk about issues like using CranioSacral Therapy for transitions, both into and out of life. How to open up your perceptual channels in session. And what the heck is all the fuss about being called a healer anyway? (That one's sure to ruffle some feathers.) Of course, I'll be sharing tons of tips along the way about how to grow a more prosperous practice.

Do you have an insight or a story angle you would like to throw into the mix? Send me an e-mail at . I'm always delighted to hear fresh notes on a classic theme. In the meantime, I think I'll have a nice glass of wine and enjoy the journey. Here's to you!

Click here for more information about Sharon Desjarlais, CC.


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