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

Four reasons why cranio supports infant sleep

I spent 4 years in the midst of sleep deprivation when my kids were babies.

My first son had difficulty with transitioning in and out of sleep. In hindsight I know this was related to our difficult birth and an activated nervous system. I didn’t know about cranio at the time. I took him to a chiro, a couple of times, and he slept well for the night of the treatments, but that was it.

My second son had food sensitivities. Safe co-sleeping was our survival strategy.

Both my kids didn’t sleep through the night until they were over two.

Image courtsey of Verity Worthington (Baby Sleep Information Source)

I understand the desperation parents feel when sleep deprived, the brain does not work well and life can feel overwhelming. Mainstream advice seems to consist of various ways of leaving the baby to cry, which goes against babies biological expectations to be comforted by, and to be in close proximity to caregivers.

I’m not here to say your baby should be sleeping through the night or self-settling. But if they are hard to settle to sleep, or cannot be put down at all, then cranio may help resolve any underlying issues. Babies tend to sleep better after cranio, not just the night of the session, but better sleep in general.

Here are some quotes from parents I have worked with recently:

“he is sleeping longer stretches in his bassinet”

“he slept 5 hours in a row last night”

“she is calmer and easier to settle”

“he is going down for more sleeps and they are longer”

“she will now fall asleep on the breast”

How does cranio help?

1. Babies nervous system may be stuck in a fight or flight state.

Birth, or events afterwards, may trigger a survival response in the nervous system. An activated nervous system is not a recipe for good sleep. Cranio works with the nervous system, the listening touch helps the body to switch out of a “fight or flight” state into “rest and repair”.

2. Compression of the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is an important nerve that regulates the autonomic nervous system. It winds its way from the brainstem, between the cranial bones down to the heart, lungs and digestive organs. If, after birth, the cranial bones are not optimally aligned the functioning of this nerve may be impacted. Cranio helps the body to self-shift these bones into a position that maximises function – breathing and heart rate is more regulated and feeding, digestion and sleep improves.

3. Musculo-skeletal issues

I have treated babies who have had back and neck injuries from inutero positioning or the birth process. If babies are uncomfortable or in pain they will not sleep well. Cranio helps the body to let go of any constrictions – to soften and relax – and this has a ripple effect on sleep and feeding.

4. Birth imprints

The experience of birth leaves an imprint on our bodies, especially when there have been strong emotions involved e.g. fear, stress or sadness. If baby has a story that is unresolved or cycling in their system, then they will be driven to try to tell this story through their behaviour, this can impact sleep and feeding. When babies bodies are listened to during a cranio treatment, then the baby feels heard and at peace. They often sleep (and feed) better when they have gotten the story off their chest.

Disclaimer!

Cranio is not necessarily the panacea. Some babies I have worked with do not improve with sleep, often for the following reasons:

  • Developmental leaps – cranio will often trigger a developmental leap and when babies are practicing rolling or crawling they are more likely to wake more frequently for a while.
  • Food sensitivities – babies who are uncomfortable due to cows milk protein intolerance (CMPI) or other food sensitivities will continue to be uncomfortable until the offending food is removed from their diet.
  • Temperament – some babies do tend to wake frequently even after emotional, physical and nervous system issues are ruled out or resolved. This may just be part of their temperament.

Sleep is not a learned behaviour but the result of a settled nervous system and a body free from physical restrictions and difficult emotions. Cranio is a gentle and often effective way to resolve the underlying issues that get in the way of sleep.  

Get in touch if you would like to try cranio for your little one.

Client Story: “A different baby”

This series of sessions shows how important it is to treat the mum (aswell as bub) when baby is exhibiting signs of breast refusal. Ivy* was a lot more settled after the first cranio treatment. Subsequent sessions included her mum and helped encourage her back to the breast.

Recently I worked with a breastfeeding mum and her 12 week old baby girl Ivy* over a period of three weeks. They were seeing a LC for slow weight gain, low supply and breast refusal. Ivy* preferred the left breast to the right. She had had a tongue tie released with some improvement, though recently top-ups were increasing and she was preferring the bottle. The LC noted a distressed cry and nervous tension and suggested she explore bodywork. Her mum describes her as a “generally unsettled baby who fights sleep”. She had been born via assisted birth – vacuum plus three attempts with forceps after induction.

Ivy* seemed really rigid /hypertonic and not comfortable in her body. I had to treat her sitting up as she preferred to arch forward. It was clear during cranio that her system was in shock from birth trauma which seemed to originate from an experience with her left shoulder and upper back/neck (possible nerve compression/pain from spinal accessory nerve). She also released some tension from her right jaw. She responded really well to the first treatment – afterwards her father commented she was “a different baby” and her mum said she was “a lot more settled and had also latched on once or twice”.

During subsequent visits Ivy* continued to process the compressive forces from the birth. At the second visit I treated her mum for a short time before treating Ivy*. Both mum and bub got a full treatment at the last visit.

Ivy* began regularly taking the left breast for short periods and continued to be settled – sleeping 6 hours in a row at night and being put down for naps twice a day (which she couldn’t do before).

Posted with permission. *Name changed to protect identity.