Structure Affects Function
As is beautifully explained by Tad Wanveer in this video, our bodies function as deeply interconnected networks, so any imbalance or strain that exists in any part of the body can affect our whole being. Craniosacral Therapy helps ease tension that exists at a structural level, shifting our bodies toward optimal functioning and alignment across the entire biological network. Tad is a senior diplomat certified Craniosacral practitioner, speaker, author and teacher.
Using a gentle hands-on technique, Craniosacral Therapy identifies and facilitates the release of structural strains and core patterns in our fascia that contribute to chronic pain and dysfunction. These are the areas in our body that do not move well. Many of my clients come in with unresolved issues, having “tried everything without success.” These issues can range from persistent concussion symptoms, to chronic pain and dysfunction, to general stress, depression or anxiety.
Finding the Root Cause instead of Chasing Symptoms
Other modalities, such as massage, usually address abnormal patterns in the body through the musculoskeletal system. This approach has its own value, but for some clients, problems will continue to persist even after trying these modalities.
Craniosacral Therapy and Myofascial Release, on the other hand, address disturbances through the craniosacral, fascial and central nervous systems, offering a more global and holistic approach that focuses on finding root causes rather than chasing symptoms.
Special attention is paid to the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord—known as the dura mater. All nerves and blood vessels going to the brain and spinal cord must pass through this membrane. Releasing tension in the dura and other associated connective tissues can therefore have a profound effect on body function, cellular fluid exchange, and brain and spinal cord health and vitality.
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir
What is Fascia?
Even though great strides have been made in terms of bringing awareness to the fascia, it remains the least understood body system—and quite possibly the most important.
The fascia, or connective tissue, is a continuous web-like membrane that wraps, interweaves and connects all body parts and processes, creating and supporting the body as an integrated whole. There is no part of the body—not one single cell—that isn’t connected to this intricate lattice.
What is Fascia Made Of?
The fascia is made up of three basic components: elastin, collagen and a ground substance. Elastin allows expansion and flexibility. Collagen allows the fascia to be strong and supportive, and to maintain structural integrity. Blended in between the collagen and elastin is the ground substance. It is the gel or goo that allows the fascia great fluidity and enables all the structures within it to slide and glide—including cells, nerves, blood vessels, organs, muscles and joints, as well as the brain and spinal cord.
Movement is Key to Health
Most of us already know that cardiovascular exercise is good for our heart and circulatory system. With exercise, the movement of blood is enhanced and more blood is delivered to all the parts of our body, improving our health and functionality. Movement of any body fluid, including blood and lymph or cerebrospinal fluid, depends on the flexibility of the fascia.
When fascia is open and hydrated, it not only facilitates movement that allows more muscle function, but also enables all of our cells to communicate and function optimally. Movement and exercise are key to fascial health, and fascial health is key to having a healthy, optimally functioning body.
In different areas of the body, the fascia varies in thickness and strength according to the job it has to perform. Fascia is designed to counteract stress by absorbing and distributing tension along its entire network to maintain balance and help reduce both physical and emotional trauma to the body. Ideally, the fascial system keeps our bodies working well.
When we misuse, overuse or disuse our bodies, however, this fascial system can get stuck. As we experience physical, environmental or psychological stresses, fascia can respond by getting overloaded. When this happens, the fascia can shrink, toughen or become congested, grisly and dehydrated.
Because it is so amazingly responsive, fascia can even grip and harden when we are holding a repressed emotion.
Over time, these fascial restrictions can insidiously spread like a pull in a sweater or stocking. When this happens, flexibility and spontaneity of movement are lost, setting up the body for more trauma, pain and limitation of movement.
Such loss of flexibility results in biomechanical inefficiency and highly energy-consuming movement and posture, which in turn lead to even more pain and dysfunction.
When Fascia Gets Stuck
When your posture closes for an extended period, due to trauma, injury, surgeries, stress and/or inflammation, pressure through the crystalline ground substance signals special cells within your fascia to produce more fibre. This causes overlapping fascial sheaths to adhere to one another. The knots we feel in our muscles when we are tense are adjacent layers of fascia sticking together.
Fascial dysfunction can leave us feeling restricted, helpless, fearful, frozen, angry, frustrated and brittle. In many cases, it feels as if we’re stuck and no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to move forward.
Many people living with chronic pain and health conditions get caught in a cycle of dysfunction and despair, not realizing that there are options out there that can change their situation.
You can change your fascia!
As a therapist, I engage the fascia with a gentle touch. A sense organ within the fascia then responds to this gentle mechanical stimuli, causing a relaxation of the fibres. As a result, the central nervous system is engaged, and responds by encouraging muscles and fascia to find an easier, more relaxed and more balanced position.
Limitations I Encountered
My journey toward the discovery of fascia’s importance began when I was a fitness instructor and personal trainer. I became aware of the necessity of stretching to prevent and recover from injury. I began to incorporate Neuromuscular bodywork into my practice, focusing on specific muscle groups and their relationship to each other and to dysfunction. The combination of stretching and Neuromuscular Therapy addressed many of my clients’ issues related to chronic pain and inability to perform. Yet I noticed there was a limit as to how far stretching and this particular form of bodywork could go toward solving people’s problems. Even with these techniques, so many of my clients continued to be plagued with chronic pain.
Blending into “Craniosacral Unwinding”
Further investigation led me into the world of fascia and to the technique of Myofascial Release, which focuses on the fascia surrounding and interwoven throughout the body’s muscle tissue. I quickly found that this approach had longer lasting and better results than the work I had been doing before. Why? Because I was paying more attention to the fascia! I began to realize why some stretching techniques had such remarkable results—it was because they engaged the fascial system.
My ideas and knowledge continued to evolve as I studied Craniosacral Therapy. This was the “icing on the cake” for me. My universe changed. I could see and feel beyond the fascia/muscle relationship, to the fascia/everything relationship! I realized that I had been seeing and feeling the body in parts. My awareness now opened to the body as an integral whole, all connected to the fascia.
I now call my work Craniosacral Unwinding. Through a process of deep listening, I feel the whole body structure for fascial restrictions, whether they are in the muscles, joints, spinal cord, brain or any other area. This work facilitates the release of tension by engaging the tissue, and then following as it does its sacred unwinding dance to fascial freedom.
In removing obstacles that can impede our body, mind and spirit’s ability to thrive, I have had the deep privilege of witnessing the body’s vast ability to heal.
Your participation is vital. As you incorporate simple lifestyle changes and stretching into your daily routine, the new space opened up in your life by Craniosacral Unwinding is integrated, sustained and expanded. The more you participate, the more the body will be able to sustain the changes made.