History of Craniosacral Therapy (CST)

Centuries ago the practice of Bonesetting was carried out routinely by indigenous healers of the Cherokee and Shawnee. Their work was observed, experienced and taken by Andrew Taylor Still, in a time in our American history when we assimilated and dismantled tribes. Although Still’s learning and teaching, and the information he passed down to his students, we now call craniosacral therapy, I need to honor the original people who began this deep and powerful practice way before Stills time.

Andrew Taylor Still was the founding father of Osteopathic Medicine. One of Still’s most acclaimed students was William Sutherland. One day upon deep reflection of the sutures of the skull Sutherland observed the rolling-overlap joint between the temporal and the parietal bone formation allowing articular mobility. With this curiosity Sutherland sat at the cranium of many clients and noticed a ‘cranial wave’. What he found was that when this cranial wave was augmented in his clients, they got better. Thus the birth of Craniosacral Therapy. From there subsequent osteopaths, particularly Rollin Becker, DO (1918-1994), expanded the applications, and in the early 1970s John Upledger, DO, introduced the concepts outside the osteopathic world. Franklyn Sills, RCST opened the learning into the deeper specifics of biodynamics. My specific approach of BCST derives from Anna and John Chitty from the Colorado School of Energy Services in Boulder Colorado. The Chitty’s studied directly with Franklyn Sills and now often invite Franklyn to come and offer classes at their school.

This work has unfolded in many different directions, however, the basic underlying premise of all CST is that there is something within each of us, a wisdom, an innate knowing that is capable of bringing us to the fullness of Health. The intention of CST is to orient the body to that underlying Health. This practice is one of appreciation, curiosity and joy- to notice the body’s brilliance in it’s compensatory patterns of trauma or injury and then orient the body to its underlying Health.

There are different paths of cranial work: Structural and Biodynamic.

I have had training in both aspects of this work, but tend to drop most often into Biodynamic.

Structural CST (John Upledger)

In this work, a practitioner sees a compensatory pattern in the body and goes to that place to offer a physical technique.  For instance, the OA (occipital axial) joint of a client may be stuck (this is at base of the head, often the place that generalized headaches start)- the therapist would go to that area and give pressure between the base of the head and spine, physically creating space.  This approach is direct, the therapist goes to the area of compensatory pattern and actively meets it there.

Biodynamic CST: BCST (teachers Franklyn Sills, Anna and John Chitty)

In this work, a practitioner sees a compensatory pattern in the body and rather then going to that place, stays where they are, or they may go to the place, but instead of directly working on the tissue the therapist holds the space and sits with the underlying brilliance of Health.  This approach is indirect, acknowledging the area, seeing it, and then bringing attention to the underlying Health.