A History of Craniosacral Biodynamics

Summary | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

The work in this field began with the discoveries of an Osteopath, William Garner Sutherland. As an osteopathic student at the beginning of the twentieth century, the bones of the cranium fascinated him. He was taught that they are fused by adulthood, but he could not understand this as skulls can be disarticulated and cranial bones have sutures that seem to be designed for movement. He undertook investigations that proved to him that the living skull expresses motion and that this motion is physiologically important. While looking at a temporal bone, as he describes it, a thought struck him, “bevelled like he gills of a fish for primary respiration.” This thought led him on a lifetime journey to discover its nature. He, being an osteopath, began to language the subtle inherent motions and pulsations with biomechanical language and used motion testing and various techniques to release what was experienced as resistance and patterning in cranial structures. In 1945, however, he had an extraordinary experience that transformed his understanding of the work, his approach to healing work and the language he used. He was called to the bed of a dying patient who was in great pain. As Sutherland held the man’ system, a depth of stillness arose and he had a direct experience of what he called the Breath of Life as the man comfortably and peacefully passed from this life.

Sutherland’s language and work now shifted from a largely biomechanical orientation, with such terms as flexion-extension and internal-external rotation, and the use of motion testing and the application of techniques, to one that focused on primary respiration as a holistic and unified experience. He wrote about an approach where no force from without is used, but the unerring potency (life force) is trusted to initiate and carry out healing processes. What needs to happen cannot be learned through analysis or motion testing, but is a factor of what Sutherland called the Intelligence of the system and the intentions of the Breath of Life. At its depth, work in this field casts one into the mystery of life itself. Many practitioners carried on the work of Sutherland within the context of osteopathic practice

Work outside of the osteopathic community was first taught by John Upledger DO beginning in the 1970’s and was called Craniosacral Therapy. Dr. Upledger brought the work out in a particular form and framework and his endeavours have been critical in the creation of a defined craniosacral profession and practice outside of the osteopathic framework. His work is taught by the Upledger Institute all over the world.

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