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New to Cranial Work?

Are you new to CranioSacral Work? If so, the following is a sort of primer on what this healing work is all about. Before I begin, I will say right off, that, it is difficult to explain this work to a reader who knows nothing of bodywork, massage, chiropractic, etc. I have tried to keep my explanations as accessible and friendly as possible, but to do the work justice, there are terms and ways of thinking here that do require a bit of a leap in imagination and thought. Come with me on this journey! It is my hope you find this helpful.  

The words "Cranio" and "Sacral" refer to the two poles of the Central Nervous System: the skull and the tailbone. Attached to these poles is a tough, thin membrane called the dura mater. The dura mater lines most of the interior of your skull, the entirety of the spinal cord as it travels down your back, and firmly attaches at the upper portion of your tailbone, the sacrum. The dura mater is a wrapping, like really tough saran wrap, and it provides a barrier and portal for your spinal cord and the nutrients that bathe it, that nourish it and help it conduct the electrical field that your Central (CNS) and Peripheral (PNS) Nervous Systems use to communicate with your body. 

You may hear Cranial Therapists (as we are usually known) talk about Cerebrospinal Fluid. This fluid is analogous to the blood of the cardiovascular system. You don't have much spinal fluid in your body--about 2/3 of cup in total. It completely replenishes about 4-5 times per day. The Central Nervous System circulates the CSF throughout your head, spine, and to the tailbone, where it then spirals back up into your head. The circuit goes on and on. Spinal fluid brings much needed energy and nutrients (electrolytes) to your spinal cord. It also removes metabolic filtrates--refuse--from your brain, which keeps your brain's blood free from roaming particles. You can also think of the spinal fluid as a lymph fluid for your brain. The lymph system in your body drains out harmful gunk that can accumulate and lead to illness. 

So what does Cranial Work do? In a nutshell, a cranial therapist is working to introduce a slackening of tension in the dura mater, which will then improve flow of spinal fluid in your body, thus leading to improved hydration and "plumbing" in your brain and spinal cord.

Imagine for a moment, that you have grated potatoes to make hash browns. You have to wrap the hash in a towel, and wring it out, to remove the water, so you can properly cook the potatoes without the water mixing with the oil. The harder you twist the towel, the tighter the pressure on the hash, and the more the water wrings out. It is the same in the brain! When the dura mater is tight, it squeezes the brain, decreasing the space for spinal fluid and blood to flow; the tighter the dura, the drier the brain and spinal cord, and we don't feel so good!

How do we know the dura mater can do this? I have participated in a clinical dissection lab, with human cadavers, and I have myself dissected a skull and brain. With the brain removed, one can (as I did) press a finger on the dura inside the skull and feel even the knee get turned out--by an order of microns, but within the ability to perceive with the hand. In fact, it is possible to feel the dura tightened with any larger movement in the body. The Cranial therapist concerns herself--or himself--with ascertaining where the dura is pulling most, and assisting it in loosening throughout. I can feel this movement in the relationships of the 22 cranial bones with each other, through the medium of the sutures.

The cranial sutures exist, and the skull is not entirely fused. At the end of life, anyone's skull can be opened by a process of pouring beans into a skull and allow them to expand, as they accumulate moisture. The expansion pries open the sutures, and we have a disarticulated skull. However, the sutures are really--functionally--stress points, where movement potential is possible. You can think of them like expansion joints in bridges--they don't open, but they permit movement in the event of earthquake or any of the many stresses that could buckle a stiff bridge as cars and trucks bounce upon it. Cranial therapists can feel these stress points and respond to them. With skill and patience on the part of the client and therapist, the benefits of a relaxed CNS are incredible, as virtually all operations within the body begin and end with this magical, jellyfish-like, oceanic system!