Portland Helmich

Healing Rhythms

After I completed production on my first season of What’s the Alternative?, the series I created for Veria TV, I was euphoric and I was depleted.  I needed help and I didn’t know where to turn.

A friend suggested I try craniosacral therapy to rejuvenate myself.  Originating out of osteopathy, craniosacral therapy is about as visually interesting as watching paint dry; therapeutically, however, it’s believed to be helpful for a range of conditions: headaches, neck and back pain, chronic fatigue, sinus problems, and more.

I decided to give it a try.  I’d lie fully clothed on a massage table and for one hour, the craniosacral therapist would ever so lightly place his hands on various parts of my body -- usually my head, neck, and lower back (or sacrum) -- and do what felt like absolutely nothing.  Sometimes I’d feel his fingers very gently move a millimeter back and forth, but it was almost imperceptible.  I’d lie there and drift off into sleep or some kind of trance state, I’m not sure which.

The next day, I’d invariably be overcome with the need to nap midday, something I never do.  After each snooze, I felt noticeably better.  But what in the world was going on?

Apparently, my parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest and relax, had been activated, allowing me to become more fully aware of my body’s needs.  And what my body needed was sleep.  With great subtlety, craniosacral therapists restore the free movement of fluid through the tissues, like the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord and the fluid between the cells.  Testing the rhythms of these fluids, they supposedly release restrictions in the soft tissues that surround the central nervous system, allowing healing to take place.

I’m told it’s more art than science.  And that’s the problem, perhaps.  Skeptics claim that published studies of craniosacral therapy are weak and that there’s no evidence that practitioners can detect cranial “rhythms” at all.

And yet my craniosacral therapist said my “rhythms” pointed to stress in my adrenal glands, something various natural health practitioners tell me I suffer from.  I didn’t know what to think.  Part of me felt like lying down quietly in bed is no different from a craniosacral therapy session, and yet another part wondered if there’s something about this highly esoteric work that encourages healing.  If nothing else, it encourages relaxation, and maybe that’s half the battle.

For more information about craniosacral therapy, check out www.upledger.com or www.cranialacademy.com.

Portland is the creator, host, and executive producer of “What’s the Alternative?” on Veria Living TV.  She also writes for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.