Over 100 years ago, an osteopathic student made a life-changing observation while studying a human skull. It occurred to William Sutherland that the cranium’s temporal bones bore a striking resemblance to the gills of a fish, and if form indeed follows function as his teachers suggested, he reasoned that these bones were designed for movement. The notion of cranial bone movement was completely at odds with early osteopathic beliefs, so Sutherland set out to find out, one way or another: Do cranial bones move or are they fixed?
Sutherland’s primitive self-experimentation, wearing a helmet designed to compress his skull in various ways, provided invaluable first-hand experience. He learned the hard way that restricting cranial bones has uncomfortable, disorienting and surprising physiological and behavioral consequences. Years later, only after tireless research and further experimentation, Sutherland proved to himself and a few colleagues that cranial bones really are designed to breathe, and that their subtle inhalation and exhalation is inextricably linked with physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Sutherland’s sensitive palpation perceived a rhythm which generated from a whole-body network (including brain, spinal cord and their nerves, the bony structures protecting them, and the fluids and membranes surrounding them) and moved through the body, influencing joints, sutures, organs, glands, blood circulation and respiration. He believed this rhythm encourages healthy, living tissue to “breathe.” This understanding unfolded in the 1930’s, long before quantum mechanics. Sutherland’s theories were summarily rejected because they strayed so far from established dogma.
A core group of Sutherland’s students were nonetheless inspired by their professor and went on to develop and refine his work over the ensuing decades. Different schools of thought emerged around how to best evaluate and improve the functioning of this cranio sacral system. From each perspective we get a glimmer of its subtlety and purposeful design.
The demand for cranio sacral work has increased because patients experience positive effects. As a result, it is now taught and practiced on almost every continent. Some medical practitioners, those who understand the value of manual medicine, have themselves studied cranio sacral therapy to use alongside their primary modality.
While sessions can take place in busy hospitals and noisy schools, a tranquil environment that encourages stillness best supports cranio sacral work. There’s nothing quite like the deep peace and over-arching sense of well-being that comes from the experience.
Relax Regroup Refresh Reboot Repair Redirect Recalibrate Reimagine Rejuvenate
Mary intends to resume home visits in the SF Bay Area post-pandemic.