The challenges of being sensitive

One of the challenges of being a craniosacral therapist is encountering the belief systems of clients (or with babies – their parents). I understand! Before I got into this work I, too, was sceptical – how can light touch do anything?? And how does the craniosacral therapist feel all those things? With the hands? Through the body?

But, in the two years of training myself to tune into subtle sensations, I was shocked to find that not only could I feel what was happening in the clients body through my hands, but also in my own body!! I have a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) and science is yet to fully explain this phenomenon. There are some studies on emotional contagion and mirror neurons and I absolutely loved reading this Phd Touched by Touching which looks at the bi-directional nature of touch and the embodied experience of bodyworkers – it was incredibly validating! At first, I was in denial about my ability to feel from my body, believing these sensations were simply my body’s own healing being triggered in a session – but no! – countless sessions with adults validated that these somatic imprints that I was feeling, were the same thing they were experiencing. A body-to-body resonance. I now completely trust it and it guides me in a session – a true gift!

When this ability awakened in me, I became very sensitive, unable to be in crowded, visually busy, noisy environments. My ability to function in daily life was extremely limited. I was chronically dizzy, and ended up being diagnosed by a neurologist with persistent postural perceptual dizziness (aswell as being told by other health professionals that nothing was wrong with me and that I needed to see a psychologist or to go on SSRI medication). I now believe that many people on SSRI’s and those suffering from dizziness, anxiety or depression are actually also super sensitive, picking up on the energies and emotions of others, people struggling to function in this fast paced, noisy world. My healing journey was a very isolating one that has taken me years to understand and harness, involving deep reflection, radical self care and letting go of relationships and jobs that no longer served me.  

In the past, as a nurse, I recall emotionally struggling through some difficult shifts, patients were dying, suffering – their families too. I was told that I will eventually “toughen up”, but instinctively I didn’t want to. I am now at a point where I truly value my sensitivity. I see it as a gift and I am tired of hiding it to fit in with the expectations of society.  It allows me to be a sensitive therapist that can recognise the tensions and inner healing forces in others. In babies this is even more valuable because they can’t talk, sure, they cry but they can’t tell you specifically what is wrong – but their body can in a cranio treatment. Sometimes information from others comes to me without even putting my hands on a  baby/person (eg. I suddenly get a sore neck or shoulder). Professionally it can be an awkward thing to explain to someone. Many of my cranio clients come with an open mind but my lactation clients have often never heard of cranio and I am introducing a completely new concept to them. Other baby clients are referred to me by an LC or midwife but their parents are not quite sure what to expect.

I have received regular cranio sessions for years now, during many of the sessions the therapist held my feet for the whole session. My body is so used to the healing space that it knows exactly how to self-correct in the presence of a listening touch. Recently I received a completely hands-off, in-person cranio treatment. My body is now so sensitive that I don’t necessarily need direct touch to stimulate my own self-healing. It still blows my mind that this is possible (though working with mobile toddlers has also shown me it is). In fact, my nervous system and energy field prefers light touch or “far” touch. Most manipulative work puts my system into protection mode, not healing mode. I do find that the people who most resonate with cranio work are those who are sensitive and open, including babies and children (esp those with autism) – a little (touch) goes a long way! Those who don’t feel much in a session are more likely to be drawn to bodywork that is more tangible – different strokes for different folks (literally)!

One thing I am grateful for is the fact that my kids will grow up knowing that touch heals, that I have been able to help them shift sore necks, backs, knees, ear infections, nasty head injuries and headaches – often in just one treatment. They haven’t had to discover this at middle age like me. I often feel when they have a headache without touching them and they have no doubt this is possible – how cool is that!?

My son Chester getting a treatment for an ear infection

Cranio is a hard thing to describe and is best experienced. But it is a beautiful therapy and it works! I have seen incredible results; babies who sleep better, who cry less and adults whose pain resolves. So I continue to put myself out there – mostly for the babies, to bring peace to their systems – despite external judgement and my own fears of rejection and ridicule. I don’t care what people think anymore (most of the time). The therapy takes a leap of faith, a suspension of belief on the parents’ part, but it does not hurt – it heals! I am proud of the work I do and feel privileged that parents trust me to work with their babies, even if they don’t understand it.

Please get in touch if you consider yourself a sensitive person, or want to experience this gentle work for you or your baby/child.

*This article was inspired by Anita Moorjani’s book Sensitive is the New Strong

A Toddler Tells Her Birth Story

Did you know that babies and young children remember their birth?

I recall my son saying, when he was a toddler “mum you punched me in the stomach when I was born”. Now, I don’t remember doing this, but I do remember the scramble to get him from the bottom of the birth pool, when I wrongly assumed the midwife would catch him. I went from being on my knees and leaning on the side of the pool to flipping over and grabbing him. Perhaps I did accidentally knock his stomach with my hands??!

My experiences as a craniosacral therapist have also shown me, that given the opportunity, a baby or toddler may suddenly start telling me their birth (or prenatal) story – through body language, somatic imprints or emotions. It is not uncommon for babies to take one look at me and start to memory cry!

Recently, a regular client had just had her second birthday party. It had been a while since I treated her. Now she could speak. Her mum had asked me to do a session because she had bumped her head. While this imprint did show up, she was not keen on any touch, but instead started to play with me… her play was very specific, detailing her conception and birth journey.

Tunnels tend to feature stongly.

She was fortunate to have a home birth without intervention, so not as tricky as some of the babies I treat, but still – she had a story to tell! She showed me an “egg” and a “tunnel” (many times repeating the word tunnel), and proceeded to show me the steps of how she got here, how she was “stuck” screwing up her face and tucking her self into a ball while pulling out bracelets from the folds of her plush red sofa. So creative! She would repeat the key themes for me for emphasis. There was a sense of empowerment in her experience, of moving through a challenge and overcoming it.

Somehow she knew that I was able to hear her story – the story emerging without any intention on my part. It is one of my favourite “craniosacral” sessions, and as I said, I didn’t touch her at all. More of an “Integrative Baby Therapy” session than cranio. This therapy is part of a movement to recognise that babies are sentient beings, having their own experience of birth, and that how we are born has a significant influence on us. Babies and young children are more than capable of communicating this in the presence of others who recognise this as truth. It still blows me away that somehow our bodies, and/or our consciousness can recognise when someone else is open to listening. So much communication happens beyond what is spoken. It remains one of lifes mysteries that science is yet to fully unravel.

Babies and children remember their birth and being in the womb! Though with time, and our cultures lack of awareness, these experiences are slowly eroded from our conscious (explicit) memory, but they remain in our implicit memory, which is not something that can be consciously recalled, but instead from emotional or somatic triggers. Our bodies remember! Even adults hold imprints from birth.

I wish I had known this was possible when my children were young and could have explored it with them. Its a very special experience to witness. If you would like to explore your baby or childs prenatal or birth imprints please contact me to book a session.

Falling asleep during a session

Its quite common for babies to fall asleep during a cranio session. Occasionally an exhausted adult will also drop into sleep. Recently, I had a couple of kids fall asleep during the treatment – which is pretty special.

Cranio helps the body to shift out of a “fight or flight” state into “rest and repair”, sometimes this looks like sleep. Both my boys ask for cranio when they have difficulty getting to sleep and I have occasionally helped my friend’s kids get to sleep at night, while I am at their place. Once, my skeptical partner (who still doesn’t understand cranio) allowed me to do cranio while he lay on the beach as he drifted off into a blissful sleep (he put it down to the gentle lapping of the waves, not the touch!).

It really is a privilege to support any body to shift out of a busy state; to find a sense of stillness and calm (that continues beyond the confines of the treatment room).

Perhaps you need this at the end of a difficult year? Would you like to find a calm centre during the silly season?

Contact me to make an appt – your body will thank you!

Top six reasons your baby would benefit from cranio.

Cranio is a holistic, gentle treatment that supports the nervous system to down-regulate, which triggers the body’s own self-healing mechanism.  Because it is so gentle, it is perfect to use with babies. Plus babies systems are so potent and ready to shift easily back to balance – some just need a little cranio support.

Because cranio is not well known, parents may not know the kinds of things that cranio is good at addressing. Here are the top six issues I see in my cranio/lactation practice:

1. Your baby had significant bruising around their head after birth

Some babies complete their birth journey looking pretty beat up!

Check out the squashed nose and facial asymmetry on this little bub, I had the pleasure to treat. He was not able to latch onto the breast without a shield and had issues transferring milk (before cranio).

And this little one had obviously been assisted to birth with a vacuum!

If after birth, your baby had significant bruising, forceps marks, chignon from vacuum extraction, a cephalohematoma or other abnormal head shape, it is a sign that baby has undergone some difficulty during birth and would benefit from cranio. Hospital staff are used to these kinds of injuries and often dismiss it, knowing that superficially these marks do disappear over the following weeks to months. But there can still be underlying physical and emotional tensions that are not yet integrated. These stress imprints remain in the tissues in obvious and less obvious ways. Babies may be very sensitive to touch on their head and may react strongly to clothes being pulled over their head. Other infant interventions like suctioning or fetal scalp monitors may also impact the tissues, in less obvious ways but may still be held in the system.

Cranio can find these holding patterns in the body and facilitate their system to gently release, leaving a sense of peace in the baby’s system.

2. Labour was very long or very fast

Babies have their own experience of birth, often linked to their mothers, but with their own unique pressures and stresses. If they have felt stuck for any reason or under a lot of pressure for a long amount of time this can influence their bodies, in particular the nervous system and the neck. They may have felt scared or panicked. If a prolonged labour ended up in emergency c-section then the baby may also feel disoriented, this can show as arching at the breast or pushing with the feet, the baby can feel stuck in the birth sequence of pushing from the uterine walls.

On the flip side, a fast birth may be a shock to the baby and can show up as activation in their nervous system.

Cranio acknowledges the birth experience and allows these physical and emotional tensions to release leading to happier well-adjusted babies.

3. You have been told your baby has a tongue tie

There is much controversy around tongue tie recently. Research is lacking around posterior tongue ties and lip ties, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It helps to have bodywork before undergoing a tongue tie release. Cranio is a form of bodywork that can address other issues that may mimic the symptoms of tongue tie such as, cranial nerve dysfunction, tight fascia or general nervous system activation. If a couple of cranio treatments improves breastfeeding then the tongue tie procedure may be avoided; if it doesn’t, then the parent can feel confident that the procedure is necessary. It is also recommended to schedule a cranio treatment within a week of the tongue tie release, to optimise function and to reset the nervous system.

4. Your newborn has difficulty latching to the breast

Newborn babies have natural instincts to latch themselves to the breast after birth, if they can’t then there is usually a good reason for it. Often the mum feels like she is doing something wrong, but it is actually because the baby is in pain, tense, stressed or medicated from birth. Perhaps there is a tongue tie or tight jaw muscles? Cranial nerve function can be impeded due to compression of cranial bones which can affect tongue function and sensation. The earlier cranio treatment is given the better in these circumstances.

5. Your baby cries a lot

Babies cry to communicate and once that need is met usually stop crying. If your baby cries inconsolably or with a high pitch then they may need some cranio support. Some babies have musculoskeletal pain or discomfort from birth. Others have a strong need to tell their birth story through memory crying. I have successfully treated babies who have cried excessively since birth. Cranio provides deep listening as well as addressing any physical tensions and may help get to the root cause of their suffering.

6. Baby has a head preference/torticollis or breastfeeding is painful on one side

This gorgeous little guy needed a few cranio sessions for torticollis that was affecting latch at the breast and also causing him discomfort.

Babies with a stiff neck tend to have trouble with positioning and latch. Tight inutero environments and/or asynclitic positions during birth may impact the neck/shoulders and jaw and other parts of the body. This can cause breastfeeding difficulties which tend to be slow to resolve on their own. Cranio helps the body let go of these restrictions and then breastfeeding often becomes easier.

Birth is a formative experience. Its impact is imprinted in the tissues of the body and can influence the health and wellbeing of the person from infant to adulthood. Early cranio treatment can prevent future difficulties such as headaches, anxiety and more.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Alexander Pope

Often an hour or so of skin to skin after birth helps the mum and baby to integrate the birth experience and let go of any held tensions; sometimes this doesn’t happen, sometimes it does – but bub needs more support.

Contact me to book your baby in for a treatment.

Photos used with parents permission*

The complexities of touch

Early experiences of rough or insensitive handling, by hospital or NICU staff after birth, can influence how physical contact is received late in life. While these memories are not usually conscious, clients with this history may dissociate or feel tense or like they want to run away or strike out when receiving touch. This patterned reaction to touch may plague the client’s intimate relationships, as well as arising in bodywork. During a cranio session, a client is assisted to become aware of their ability in present time to protect themselves, get up and leave, negotiate the contact or simply speak, which can support them in shifting their relationship to this imprint.

Frankyln Sills – Foundations in Craniosacral Biodynamic p358

Just wanted to share a passsage from one of the leaders in this field – Frankyn Sills (I have paraphrased slightly). I have seen these imprints and reactions to touch in babies, children and adults. The earlier you treat the better, so these implicit memories have less of an influence in later life. Cranio is an ideal way to redefine your relationship to touch. If you resonate with this, or feel your baby or child may have specific touch needs based on their past history – please consider booking in for a cranio treatment.