Your body is a field of intelligent wisdom that is speaking to you all the time, and yet if you are like most people, you don’t live in your body so you can’t hear its wisdom. Here are some of the key wisdom areas in your body:
Wisdom of your Heart
Until the 1990s, we were taught by science that the brain sent information and commands to the heart but now we know that it works both ways. In fact, the heart’s complex intrinsic nervous system, the heart brain, is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, like those found in the brain proper. Research has shown that the heart communicates to the brain in several major ways and acts independently of the cranial brain.
One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – generating a stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart rhythm is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them greater mental clarity and intuitive ability, including better decision-making.
When we experience sincere positive emotions, such as caring, compassion or appreciation, the heart processes these emotions and the heart’s rhythm becomes more coherent and harmonious. This info is sent to the brain and impacts the entire body neurologically, biochemically, biophysically and energetically!
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. – Dalai Lama
Wisdom of your Gut
Our guts have such a rich capacity for registering right and wrong. You've heard the phrases 'trust your gut', 'gut instinct', 'gut feelings'? Well we do have a brain in our belly and its an equally potent metabolic force! As it turns out, gut thoughts and feelings are not a fanciful notion but a physiological fact. Science recognises that we have two brains - with the lesser known one being the digestive tract. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is a rich and complicated network of neurons and neurochemicals that sense and control events in other parts of the body, including the brain. Amazingly, when scientists finally counted the number of nerve cells in the gut-brain, they found it contained over one hundred million neurons – more than the number of nerve cells in the spinal chord. This is another huge source of potentially untapped intelligence!
What’s fascinating to note is that researchers have observed a greater flow of neural traffic from the ENS to the head-brain than from the head-brain to the ENS. In other words, rather than the head informing the digestive system what to eat and how to metabolize, the locus of command is stationed in the belly. So next time, you have a gut instinct, don't override it, use the wisdom of your gut!
Wisdom of your Bones
The ancient Hawaiians believed your mana, your life force, was held in the bones. They believed each bone held wisdom that could be useful in addressing pain or dis-ease in your life. Considering the adult human skeletal system consists of 206 bones, that is a lot of potential wisdom!
Bones can be considered a dynamic energy structure charged with sacred and symbolic power and functioning, each with its own need to be present, its ‘own’ dream. Bones are the most solid part of us; our skeletal structure gives us form and structure. You could argue that it is our very foundation. Here we can find the wisdom of support, protection, movement, storage and building reserves (if we but listen). When everything is in synchrony, the ‘sound’ is crystal clear and the bones speak of a more profound healing. Our bones have a clarity of communication whose voice is often not really heard.
Wisdom of your Head
Wisdom is our individual ability to think, understand and act using experience and insight to make rational decisions. Wisdom is NOT an inborn ability. In order to gain wisdom, we must nurture some specific skills and accumulate experience over the years.
Increased attention allows us to consider more aspects of a complex problem leading to a wiser decision. Practising the skills of attention over time, resisting distraction, holding goals in mind, and controlling what we attend to, can help all of us make wiser decisions.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov
Wisdom of your Feet and Legs
It is our legs and feet that reflect our feelings about our own direction, and whether it is the right one or not. When the direction we are going in is uncertain or fraught with conflict, this can be seen in the movement we make as we walk. There is a big difference between taking small uncertain steps and taking large confident strides; or one person may trip and stumble as they go, while another may move purposefully and gracefully.
Take some time to listen to the inherent wisdom in your feet and legs so that you can “put your best foot forward” as you step into the world with courage and confidence.
Birth trauma is one of the most extensively studied of all the traumas that affect large numbers of people, yet it is an area in which the majority of the population remain completely unconscious. There is very little awareness amongst the public as a whole and particularly amongst health professionals that the birth journey, as well as the effects of any interventions that might accompany it can be a source of significant physical, emotional and psychological stress and trauma for the baby.
The aim of this article is to provide an introduction to the way in which babies can be adversely affected by the experiences of their birth. This is not to negate or in any way diminish the effects that the birth process can have upon the mother, but in our modern technologically advanced society we seem to have lost sight of the fact that babies are having their own experiences at this time as well.
The word trauma itself is particularly emotive. It conjures up the worst images of war, famine, violence and disaster – conditions that few people in modern-day western society encounter. However, what is not commonly recognised is that whilst comparatively few of us experience these more extreme situations, trauma actually plays an important part in all of our lives. The effects of these “everyday” traumas can be just as debilitating. Examples of such traumas include divorce, redundancy, bereavement, car accidents, medical diagnoses and surgery.
However, the most significant traumas that affect us all to a greater or lesser extent, are those that occur in the earliest stages of our life – throughout our time in the womb, during the birth process and in the early years of childhood. Whilst it is true to say that the earlier the trauma occurs, the more significant its impact upon us, birth trauma has a particular significance that is often overlooked.
The birth process is more than just the means through which we come into this world. It is the first major period of transition in our lives. This transition from our experience of being intimately connected with our mother, whilst in the womb, to gradually separating and individuating, once we leave the womb, affects us not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically. The effects of this transition can range from mild to severe depending on the nature of the birth.
The events of our birth (as well as our prenatal experiences) set the foundation upon which we build the structures of our later life, ultimately impacting our physical, emotional and psychological health. Consequently, adverse events that occur during this formative phase can have potentially far more wide-ranging effects than if they occurred later in our lives.
Babies are far more conscious and aware, even as newborns than we realise. They are also incredibly sensitive to what is going on in their environment. Unlike adults, babies do not have the option of fighting or fleeing as a response to threatening or overwhelming circumstances. As a result, the only option left available to them in these circumstances is to freeze. This makes them much more vulnerable to the effects of overwhelm and traumatisation than adults, or even older children.
Babies have a biological imperative to birth themselves using their own impulse (together with help from the uterine contractions and mum’s pushing) and then to connect immediately with mum in order to begin to bond. Anything that gets in the way of this natural impulse can be perceived by the baby as threatening and therefore becomes a source of possible overwhelm and traumatisation.
Each part of the birth journey has both physical and psycho-emotional effects. The physical effects involve the compression, twisting and tensing of the baby’s head, neck and body in very specific ways. Whilst a lot of this compression can slowly work its way out of the system after birth, the baby that has experienced overwhelm may actually keep these patterns locked up in the body potentially creating specific health and developmental problems later on. Many behavioural and learning difficulties in older children can often be traced back to birth patterns.
The particular psycho-emotional patterns that have their origins in the birth process include how we relate to pressure, stress and time, decision making, and our ability to initiate and complete projects. How each of these plays out in our own lives will depend on the specific nature of our birth.
The effects of these patterns can be very long-lived. For example, a baby born as a result of a very long labour may have experienced a great deal of compressive force throughout the birth. This can lead to a high level of muscle tension and rigidity within the entire body, which may be the cause of future health problems. As well as this, as a result of this labour they may develop a high tolerance for pressure and stress and may even be attracted to high pressure environments as they grow up as a way of unconsciously re-enacting the dynamics of their birth.
The use of interventions in the birth process is very commonplace today and their use is hotly debated and often contentious. Natural birth advocates state a woman should be allowed to give birth in a way that fully supports and empowers her. I fully agree with this statement. However, not every woman will feel fully supported giving birth free of technology and interventions. For many women, the birth process can be a frightening and painful experience and interventions play an important role in helping a mother navigate her way through this process.
Also, even with the best of intentions, and a well scripted birth plan, sometimes things just do not go as planned. There are however, times when interventions are applied inappropriately, insensitively or as a matter of routine rather than as a specific medical necessity.
The effects that interventions have upon the baby depend upon the way in which the interventions are applied and how the baby perceives it is doing in its birth. If a baby is in genuine distress and unable to complete its birth journey on its own, it may perceive the interventions as a potential life-saver, rescuing them in a time of crisis. If, however, the baby perceives that it is doing ok on its own, then it may perceive the intervention as invasive, intrusive and interfering with its natural impulse. Both of these scenarios can set up a long-term dynamic about needing to be rescued, or feeling intruded upon, particularly in times of stress.
Overall, the general effects of interventions are to both amplify and complicate the physical and psycho-emotional issues associated with the normal birth journey, thereby increasing the intensity and likelihood of traumatisation. These effects can often occur even when the interventions are medically justified or needed by the mother in order to help support her with the birth. For example, when forceps are applied to the sides of a baby’s head the baby may perceive this as something cold and hostile and try to withdraw defensively away from them. Unfortunately, the baby can’t get away and, as a result many babies freeze and can become traumatised. The effects of this are compounded by the strong compressive effects of the forceps coupled with the over-stretching of the muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck.
One potential long-term effect of the use of interventions such as forceps is that the baby learns to perceive any touch or contact to its head as being cold, hostile and threatening and immediately becomes distressed. This can over time lead to an avoidance, or even rejection of touch and/or intimacy.
Many of the conditions that affect babies are considered to be normal. I have heard many anxious mothers report that medical professionals have made statements such as “yours is just a sicky baby” or “you are just unlucky in having a baby that cries a lot”. There is little, or no, understanding that these symptoms can be produced by traumatic early influences. Trying to address the symptoms without looking to resolve the underlying cause is like turning off a fire alarm while the building continues to burn. William Emerson, a leading authority on the treatment of babies and young children, made the following statement about this matter.
“Most parents and professionals consider it ordinary for infants to awaken during the night, cry for long periods, have gastrointestinal distress, or be irritable. Few parents or professionals have seen trauma-free babies, so few have experienced babies who are symptom-free.
In addition, few have glimpsed the human potential that is possible when babies are freed from the bonds of early trauma”.
As Dr. Emerson states, the effects of early trauma do not have to be a life-sentence. With appropriate therapeutic support they can be fully healed. Nor is there an age limit beyond which these early traumas can be treated.
Clinical work in this field goes by various names, including Prenatal and Birth Therapy and Baby Therapy, focuses on supporting and working with parents, babies and children to heal fully the physical effects of any early traumatic experience. It is common for parents to bring their baby for treatment as a result of them having had a traumatic birth. However, in the process of working with the baby it is also important for the parents to be able to work through any unresolved or unexpressed feelings they may have in relation to these events.
Working with Babies
Working with babies involves holding a space in which they feel supported enough to begin to tell us the story of what happened to them, what they experienced and where it became difficult or even traumatic. Obviously, babies are not able to tell us a verbal story or even a metaphoric one, as children do through their play. The way in which a therapist interprets how and where a baby became traumatised is through observation and interaction with movements of the body and other forms of expression (known as Baby Body Language), along with specific hands-on palpation using craniosacral therapy.
The movements that babies begin to initiate when supported in this way are the same movements that they used during the birth process. By encouraging the baby to express these movements in a more supported way, the baby can re-pattern the effects of their traumatic birth. Examples of this would include encouraging a baby born by forceps to be able to birth herself on her own rather than to always need assistance; a baby whose birth was influenced by pethidine or other drugs can learn to birth herself free of the effects of the drugs; a baby born by elective C-section can learn to initiate the timing of his own birth and to find his own way out, free of any interference.
This re-programming of the birth story has a dramatic effect on the baby’s young brain. It literally changes the wiring in the direction that nature would have intended in the most ideal of circumstances. This can have the affect of dramatically influencing and even preventing a wide range of physical, emotional and behavioural problems. Along with helping babies to re-pattern their birth, the birth therapist also uses craniosacral therapy in order to help the baby to resolve the deeply entrenched physical patterns and compressions that are present.
Sarah, a 4-week-old baby, was brought to see me suffering from severe colic. Her parents were concerned by the fact that she would scream inconsolably for several hours in the evenings, pulling her legs up into her body as she did so. Although she was breast-feeding, Sarah was unable to digest the milk when her mother ate fruit, vegetables and other foods, and was also suffering from smelly green stools. Consequently, her mother was living on a diet of dairy products and chocolate as these seemed to provide the least distress to Sarah.
Sarah’s mother stated that her labour was very quick and she believed that it had been induced for the convenience of the consulting obstetricians. Consequently, she felt very angry at what she considered to be the mismanagement of her labour. Inductions generally have the result of creating more intense uterine contractions and have the potential to produce more pronounced shock and cranial/body moulding patterns. This was certainly the case with Sarah. Just looking at her, I was struck by the strong asymmetry that was present, particularly in her face. By taking a light contact onto the back of her head I became aware of the strong degree of compression that was present throughout her body. Some of her cranial bones were compressed and misaligned in relation to their neighbours. From just the very first session, I could feel some of the tension in her body begin to relax. Her occiput softened and there was a lengthening throughout her body as the tight soft tissues released their tension.
Sarah’s parents noted that the day after the treatment she had continuous bowel movements that gradually became less green and smelly. By the next time I saw her, Sarah was obviously a different baby. She seemed much more at ease and relaxed, and the powerful screamin, that was the initial cause for concern, had stopped. These improvements continued over the next few sessions that Sarah and I had together.
Michael and Amanda had been trying to conceive a child for 11 years. Having given up hope of having a child of their own, they decided to adopt a little boy, Simon. As the adoption process reached its final, critical stage, Amanda fell pregnant. This was a very stressful time for everyone. Amanda was very sick for the whole 9 months of her pregnancy. Possibly as a result of the stress throughout the pregnancy, Hayley did not turn and ended up in a breech position, with her head wedged under Amanda’s ribcage. Consequently, Amanda was told that she would need to have a caesarean section.
Amanda brought Hayley to see me when she was 22 months old because she had been very sick as a baby and now had extreme temper tantrums. As I started working with Hayley, she always seemed to settle into her Mum’s lap in exactly the position she had been stuck in the womb, with her head tightly pressed into Amanda’s ribs. Over time, by allowing Hayley to express the feelings she had about being stuck and having to be born surgically, she was able to move from her stuck place, turn around, and go through a symbolic birth process, head first. By empowering Hayley to move from her stuck place she was able to re-pattern the shock that had become imprinted at the time of her birth. She was also able to let go of the emotional charge that had built up as well. Today, Hayley is a much happier little girl and no longer has the violent temper tantrums that plagued her early life
Sally brought her baby Emily to see me following the birth. She stated that although she felt the birth had gone well, she felt that Emily was unable to settle and would often withdraw away from physical contact, particularly with her mum. Sally told me that she was a week overdue and that the doctors had informed her that she had two options regarding the delivery of her baby. One of these choices was induction; the other was elective caesarean section. After weighing up the pro’s and cons of each option, Sally chose to have a section, in the belief that it would be the safest alternative of the two for both her and her baby.
When she brought Emily to see me, Sally stated that she was completely satisfied with the way the birth had gone, although she did have a little regret about it not starting “on time”. As I began to work with Emily, she started to express a lot of anger and upset that was directed towards her mother. At the same time, she initiated pushing movements with her legs, in the same way that a birthing baby would push against the back of its mother’s womb. As we worked over a number of sessions, it became clear that Emily (although only 3 months old) blamed her mother for not allowing her to have a “normal” birth. As we made clear to Emily that mum made what she thought was the best choice in the circumstances, and we supported her to express her strong feelings, she eventually began to soften and settle. Having undergone this course of treatment, Sally reported that the degree of bonding between her and Emily and greatly improved and she was a much more content baby.
I'm forever thinking up new ways to make craniosacral therapy more accessible and understandable so today I've created a simple A to Z!
A is for ANXIETY More and more clients are coming with the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks for treatment
B is for BALANCE Our bodies know how to self repair; Craniosacral treatment allows the space for this to happen
C is for CSF The Craniosacral Fluid that bathes our brains and spinal cord is magic, just magic!
D is for DIAPHRAGMS These transition points in the body tend to hold stress and tension and respond well to CST
E is for EXHAUSTION We push ourselves to the limit, CST allows the body time to build its resources again
F is for FLOW Think of the great River of Life flowing through our bodies; this is what we therapists tune into
G is for GENTLENESS Something that is personally very important to me: allowing a gentle unfolding of health again
H is for HARMONY CST allows the orchestra of our mind, body and spirit to play at optimum strength.
I is for INHERENT TREATMENT PLAN Each client's body shows the way to health and healing. Each is different.
J is for JOY Some clients experience the spaciousness that CST brings as bubbles of joy within!
K is for KNOWING The father of CST, Dr Sutherland had 'Be Still and Know' inscribed on his grave
L is for LISTENING The key to a good craniosacral treatment is the deep listening that offers healing to clients
M is for MIDLINE An important part of the work, our tree trunk, is what everything else orients around
N is for NERVOUS SYSTEM Usually in our world this is in hyperdrive; CST allows the rest and digest part to thrive
O is for OCCIPUT So many cranial nerves come through this key part of our bodies; it's a hold most practioners use
P is for PACING Allowing a client to know the safety of containment and the freedom of space at their own pace
Q is for QUALITY OF LIFE In my experience, CST allows all the entrenched patterns of inertia to move and be released
R is for RHYTHMIC IMPULSES This is the expression of the Breath of Life that we palpate in a client through gentle touch
S is for STILLNESS This is where the healing really happens and is profound and an honour to be with
T is for TIDES The three tides (CRI, Mid-Tide and Long Tide) are the ocean of knowledge within that we tune into
U is for UNDERSTANDING In a CST session, both the mind and the body can come to a place of understanding
V is for VITALITY Building resources enables us to have more energy for life itself
W is for WELLBEING The focus of any healing modality: reminding the body of pure and utter wellbeing
X is for EXISTENCE I can cheat!
Y is for YOU Every single session allows you to be present, to remember your original matrix blueprint of health
Z is for ZEAL and ZEST Craniosacral therapy can rejuvenate you - just check out some of the testimonials!