Body knows best

Our body has latent capabilities to heal us on all levels. Cranio-sacral and somatic therapies activate these powers...

A healing session

Most of the healing strategies people resort to these days leave out one very crucial factor—body awareness. Our body possess a wisdom that is beyond our imagination and if only we would listen to it, we would be in a healthier state. Cranio-sacral therapy and somatic healing are two such modalities that use body awareness to heal our whole being. Let us find out how.

Cranio-sacral therapy

Cranio-sacral therapy is a holistic, hands-on therapy that is extremely gentle but profoundly effective. It works with the bio-dynamic forces within the body and therefore has the potential to support a deep and powerful healing process at all levels of the body/mind/spirit.

The main focus of this therapy is to encourage the body to re-orient itself to a state of optimal health and diffuse the affect and effect of life’s negative experiences. Health is often obfuscated by the various experiences of our lives such as illness, stress, accidents, surgery and toxins.

The cranio-sacral system consists of bony, muscular, and membranous structures in the cranium [skull], spine and sacrum [triangular bone at the base of the spine]. The bones of the cranium must be able to move slightly to accommodate the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid for the brain and its membranes to be in a healthy state.

Cranio-sacral therapy and CSF

The cerebro-spinal fluid [CSF] is a clear fluid that is produced by a filtration process in certain parts in the brain from the blood circulating there. Purified CSF is supplied to the brain where the pure part of it is reabsorbed and the impurities are left in the blood to be carried away for purification in the lungs. At any given time, there are about 150ml of CSF in circulation and this entire volume is reabsorbed and produced every 3 – 4 hours.

This process of production, circulation and re-absorption gives rise to an ebb, similar to a pulse. The gentle fluctuating movements of the entire cranial system are a reflection of its health. A person’s medical history influences this movement, creating either restrictions or asymmetries. Restricted motion indicates reduced health and vitality that may be the cause of or effect of disease, injury, trauma or emotional distress.

Cranio-sacral therapy can transform such patterns of restriction at a very fundamental level, thereby restoring health and wholeness. It is the body that sets the treatment priorities by guiding the practitioner to the restricted areas. The practitioner assists the body in finding a state of balance and freeing its own available healing resources. The patient is not necessarily aware of the deep processes happening during a treatment, though they can track the process if they desire.

A typical session

A cranio-sacral therapy session involves the therapist placing his or her hands on the patient, which allows them to tune into the cranio-sacral system. The practitioner gently works with the spine and the skull and its cranial sutures, diaphragms, and fascia.

In this way, the restrictions of nerve passages are eased, the movement of cerebrospinal fluid through the spinal cord is optimised, and misaligned bones are restored to their proper position. The practitioner also works with disturbances in fluids, organs and any other structures that present themselves during the course of the diagnosis.

It can heal.

  • All types of headaches.
  • Any issues with the head, face, jaw, ears, and eyes.
  • Post dental and post surgery trauma.
  • Anxiety, depression, trauma, insomnia and stress.
  • Systemic disorders and chronic pain.
  • Recovery from surgeries, illness and other debilitating conditions.
  • Birth trauma, colic, reflux, feeding problems, and gummy ear in infants.
  • Disabilities like autism and cerebral palsy.
  • Hormonal imbalances in women.

We all have a fundamental need to be heard with undivided, respectful presence and attention and that is what this work provides for the system. It is a quiet and gently focused work, where the entire person is being heard—one where the system feels met, heard, attended to.

Somatic healing

Somatic healing is a body-based technique to heal the effects of short/long term trauma. It is based on the principles of somatic experiencing as taught by Peter Levine and integrated trauma resolution as taught by Dr Raja Selvam.

How an individual responds to a trauma depends on many factors—history and general health of the person. From the point of somatic healing, trauma is not in the event but in the body/mind and it is here that the effects of the traumatic event are held.

Usually, it is believed that if one talks enough about the event or incident, the affect of trauma will be dealt with successfully. However, it is important to deal with effects in the body itself.

Flight, fight and freeze responses

When threatened, both animals and humans respond in one of the three ways—fight, flight or freeze. Our bodies mobilise an enormous amount of energy that allows us to either fight or flee. This energy is mobilised because of certain biochemical processes that take place in the body.

The heart races, the stomach contracts, there is rush of energy in the big muscles of the body, blood rushes away from the skin to the big muscles, required for fight or flight. Both these processes, use up the energy.

The brain now gets the signal from the body to stop producing those chemicals and hormones as the threat has passed. However, if the message to stop production is not given, the brain continues to cause the chemicals and hormones to be produced, thereby upsetting the neurochemical balance in the blood stream.

When either fight or flight is not possible, the body uses the freeze response. In the freeze response, physical sensations get diminished so pain is not felt so much. Often, there is dissociation. The freeze response often works to an animal’s advantage—usually the predator won’t eat a seemingly dead animal. When the threat has passed, the ‘dead’ animal will shake a lot and perhaps make some movements and take a few deep breaths.


We also use the freeze response, but unlike animals, are most often unable to return to normal and hold those energies within our bodies without realising it. Humans, as civilised beings feel it is inappropriate to shake or flail or cry—all of which are often the body’s way of normalising after a trauma.

This process of discharging and transforming the pent up or residual fight/flight/freeze energy, allows the body to return to a normal functioning. Only when the body has processed the implicit and explicit memory, can there be healing at a deep and lasting level. The person no longer feels trapped or continually threatened. Physical, mental and emotional equilibrium is gradually restored and wholeness and health are experienced.

The work happens primarily at the level of the nervous system. The nervous system has two branches—one that excites the body and the other that calms it. They function reciprocally. When this reciprocal balance is disturbed, symptoms can occur. Somatic healing helps stabilise and restore balance in the two branches of the nervous system, thus allo wing the patient to be symptom-free.

A typical session

The therapy involves no story telling—what is important here is for the patient to be willing to feel his/her body and a readiness to explore what the body can reveal. The therapy concentrates on working with sensations, emotions and resources that are available in the present moment.

The practitioner supports and helps this process of getting in touch with sensations and emotions in a contained, safe way always using extreme caution and moderation. The goal of this therapy is to help the patient re-connect to the wisdom of her body and to be able to enjoy a life free of all traumas.

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Ashwini Mehta is a cranio-sacral and trauma therapist in Mumbai. She has also training in body work and massage therapies along with a diploma in kinesiology.


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