Fortify Yourself. Self-Regulate.

This is one example of the kind of guided meditations I lead my patients in during clinical sessions. It is a simple way to begin the settling and embodiment process for those not used to relating to their body. It’s also the place to start when learning to self-regulate.

Self-regulation is a term used by the field of affective neuroscience to describe an individual’s ability to consciously and unconsciously manage and modify arousal states. It describes an the ongoing process of finding an equilibrium of the whole in the face of change. Learning how to self-regulate is fundamental to the manifestation and maintenance of health over time. The foundation of self-regulation is embodiment. The only way to begin learning how to be embodied is by developing a relationship with the body. This is done through finding the body in space and being present with the changes happening on a physiological level without expectation or judgment, but rather with an ever expanding sense of curiosity. Another word for this is mindfulness.

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How Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy May Benefit Pain Conditions

craniosacral-painLiving with chronic or acute pain can be debilitating. It can cause not only high levels of stress, but also significant changes in mood and daily life activities. Default treatments like anti-inflammatory medications and painkillers, physical therapy, appropriate exercises, application of heat or cold may often ease the pain. When they don’t, it’s hard to evaluate the other healthcare options that might help. I will explain why biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST) is an option worth considering if you suffer from a pain condition.

Only recently has research begun to uncover what makes craniosacral therapy (CST) effective. As a result, when someone is referred to me, they generally have no idea what to expect, what they are in for, and whether biodynamic craniosacral therapy can really help them.

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The Body’s Midline

The spine is the body’s midline. It runs from the base of the skull through all 24 vertebrae to the sacrum, ending at the coccyx. It connects the top, middle, and bottom of the body and is the body’s structural and functional center. All movement is accomplished by balancing the tension between external forces and internal architecture, with the spine as the pivot around which these forces are negotiated and redistributed. Sensory input comes in from the periphery through the dorsal root ganglion (from the back of the body) into the spine and up at lightning speed to brain centers for processing. Motor output, in response to interpreted sensory input, leaves the brain, travels down the spine and branches off from the ventral root (from the front of the body) toward the periphery at the level needed to initiate action for change in muscles, organs, and tissues.

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What Is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy?

I have read many introductions to biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST), participated in hundreds of conversations on the topic, and have been confronted about the “quackery” of BCST from a scientific standpoint. I agree, it is hard to understand what BCST is and how it works based on how my own field tries to explain it.

In studying traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and attending seminars and talks given by medical doctors who are acupuncturists and have decided to lecture on acupuncture to non-TCM health practitioners (some names include Dr. Nadia Volf, Dr. Leslie Smith, and Dr. David Miller), I have realized that the main issue that leads to misunderstanding of the alternative medicine field is communication.

As the western medical paradigm uses a certain language and methodology to explain the physiological cascade leading to illness or health, traditional Chinese medicine and biodynamic craniosacral therapy also use complete different languages and methodologies based on completely different medical traditions and paradigms. Therefore when, for example, TCM tries to explain itself to the western medical world it often translates as being nonsensical and unscientific because of the language barrier. It’s like an American going to China and trying to ask for a sandwich in English. Not only is English not the main language in China, but sandwiches are also not a staple in the Chinese diet.

With this in mind, I have tried to develop an explanation of BCST that would also make sense from a western medical paradigm. The explanation therefore begins with explaining a part of the nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and its two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

The ANS functions at the subconscious level to maintain homeostatic vital functions. It’s in charge of most organ functions that keep us alive moment to moment that we never have to think or worry about. Some examples are blood pressure, blood flow, body temperature, breathing, and digesting and eliminating food. The ANS has two divisions: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic emerges from the middle part of the spine spanning from the level of the shoulders to the level of the belly button and is responsible for what is called the “fight-or-flight” state. If there is a bear chasing you, you’re running fast, furiously, efficiently, and effectively thanks to your sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic is its counterpart. It’s often called the “rest-and-digest” state. It emerges from parts of the brainstem and parts of the sacrum (your “tailbone”). It is responsible for replenishing resources and repairing any part of the body that has suffered during the day, which includes any stress that has burdened the body in some way.

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