Here is a great article on how posture affects total body health. Can you say “yoga”?
Here is a great article on how posture affects total body health. Can you say “yoga”?
I am by no means an expert in yogic philosophy or much of a student, for that matter, but in studying to become a yoga teacher, I have found that the best way to understand a subject is to apply it to my own life. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist practicing CranioSacral Therapy and clinical massage therapy in Austin, Texas. Professional ethics is a subject that is very important to me as I feel that in order for the community at large to respect the modalities that we practice we have a huge responsibility to maintain high ethical standards in our field. Bodyworkers (and yoga teachers, too) are often perceived as being flakey, spacey and unprofessional, which undermines our profession as a whole. In order to continue to gain legitimacy, we need to focus on taking care of our clients to the best of our ability, while maintaining our own boundaries and honoring ourselves. In beginning my studies of the Yoga Sutra, I started to think how I could apply these ancient teachings to my contemporary massage therapy practice.
The Yoga Sutras, a text written by Patanjali, around 400-200 BCE is often described as the guidebook for hatha yoga. The Yoga Sutras is said to be compiled from previous texts as well as from Patanjali’s own experiences. In this text, Patanjali has listed an 8-limbed path toward enlightenment. The first limb, Yamas, refers to ways to live or ethics. My intention is to describe the 5 Yamas in relation to the business of massage therapy.
The first Yama, meaning the most important one is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-harming. Medical students are taught a similar phrase in: Primum non nocere, translated to mean “first do no harm”. Our first responsibility to our clients is not to harm them. Work within your scope of practice, refer clients to other practitioners if necessary, learn contraindications, ask questions, do research, don’t promise outcomes, etc.
Sometimes we are focusing so much on our own clients that we forget to apply Ahimsa to ourselves. Take care of yourself by using proper body mechanics, getting plenty of exercise, rest and proper nutrition. Be sure to take care of your own body by getting the work that you need. I keep asking myself, “how can I expect my clients to come back and see me regularly, if I am not willing to take the time and spend the money to do so myself?” If you don’t practice Ahimsa toward yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your clients properly.
The second Yama is Satya, roughly translated to truth or honesty. Apply Satya towards your clients by being honest about your abilities and skills. Know your limitations, both professionally and personally. When working with a new client with a seemingly familiar ailment, it is easy to fall back on your past experiences with the ailment and treat them instinctively without really making sure that this is the best course of action for this client. By all means use your knowledge and experience, but be honest with yourself why you are treating them in the way that you are.
Next is Asteya, which is translated as non-stealing, but can also be interpreted as maintaining boundaries. As a bodyworker you are well aware of the importance of boundaries in your work. Maintaining energetic boundaries is imperative for your own health and safety. Keep clear boundaries with your clients regarding what is appropriate in your practice. Don’t tolerate perpetually late clients or clients who constantly cancel at the last minute. Create clear guidelines for your business and enforce them. For example, if you have a 24-hour cancellation policy, make sure that your clients know about it and enforce it.
I also interpret Asteya as not taking the power away from your clients. I mean, allow the client to make his or her own decisions. If they want to see another therapist, that is what is right for them at that time. Who knows maybe they will be back, maybe they wont. That goes for any homework you give your client. It is your job to offer information to your client. What they chose to do with it is their own path. Don’t get frustrated with clients who refuse to do the stretch you gave them, or the ones who chose surgery for something you think doesn’t require it. Remember, you are there to support them, don’t take their choices away.
Bramacharya is the fourth Yama and is translated as moderate use of sexual energy. Obviously, sexuality is a hot button topic for bodyworkers. How many times have you heard someone make a sexual joke about the massage therapy profession? As you well know, be careful and professional about sexuality in the treatment room. I, however, also interpret Bramacharya as energy moderation and conservation. Use proper body mechanics to apply the least amount energy for maximum results. Don’t give your clients your own energy and do what you need to conserve and replenish yourself after working with your clients. You can’t treat others effectively when you are depleted yourself.
The final Yama is Aparigraha or non-grasping. Aparigraha is often discussed as being the opposite of greed. In relation to bodywork, I like to think of Aparigraha as letting go of assumptions I have of my clients and maintaining neutrality in the treatment room. Assumptions about a client’s injury or illness can lead to ineffectual treatment, and judgments about their lifestyle or personality is not fair, nor is it your place as a therapist. Maintaining neutrality in the treatment room is very difficult since we all want our client’s to get better and recommend our services. I have found that the less I know about a client, the better my session is for them. This is why treating your own spouse or family member is incredibly difficult; it is nearly impossible to be neutral with someone you care about. Take a moment before laying your hands on your client to center and ground yourself and then remember to listen. Listen to what the client says and then listen to what their body is telling you. What you hear might be completely different from what you assumed.
The topic of ethics is interesting and important to me in my practice since adhering to these 5 Yamas challenges me every day. I have found that my best sessions and the best results for the client come when I am true to the Yamas. Usually after such an experience my confidence builds, ego takes over and I begin to lose sight of my own guidelines. That’s when I know it is time to once again remember and apply the Yamas.
The sphenoid is a butterfly-shaped bone inside the skull. CranioSacral therapists and many Osteopaths recognize the importance of the sphenobasilar joint (the joint of the sphenoid and the occipital bone) to overall health. The sphenoid’s relationship with the occiput is critical. Because of its location it can affect the pituitary gland, the nervous system and blood flow to and from the brain.
The sphenoidbasilar joint (SBJ) is often viewed as the key joint in the body. William Garner Sutherland, DO (1873-1954), who is often described as the father of Cranial Osteopathy, felt that all the other bones in the body move to accommodate the SBJ, which is why it is so important to have a functional SBJ. He was interested in freeing the bones and sutures of this area in order to positively affect the rest of the body.
In my own experience with my clients I have discovered that assessing and releasing any restrictions of the sphenoid have far reaching effects. Clients often notice a change during or immediately after their sphenoid returns to a functional position. As is true with all CranioSacral Therapy, the movement is extremely subtle and minute. Some clients don’t feel anything, but usually their symptoms improve following treatment.
A dysfunctional sphenobasilar joint can cause or contribute to symptoms such as:
To release restrictions of the SBJ I use techniques from CranioSacral Therapy. By placing my thumbs on your temples and cupping the rest of my hands around the back of the head, I will gently assess the movement of the sphenoid, and use about 5 grams (the weight of a nickel) of pressure to invite the sphenoid to reorient itself. The work is very gentle and relaxing.
Addressing dysfunction of the sphenoid may not solve all of your problems, but it might just make your life a little better. If you have any questions, or would like to try a CranioSacral Therapy session in Austin, TX, please call me at (512) 964-9250.
What is CranioSacral Therapy?
Therapy is a very gentle, light touch approach that releases tension in the central nervous system so that every other system in the body can relax; self correct and free itself of pain and discomfort.
How can it help me?
CranioSacral Therapy can help with numerous conditions to release restrictions that cause pain and discomfort. Because CST works with the nervous system, which affects all parts of the body and mind these techniques can be effective in treating the entire body. CST can help with headaches, chronic neck and back pain, motor-coordination impairments, colic, autism, central nervous system disorders, orthopedic problems, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, scoliosis, infantile disorders, learning disabilities, chronic fatigue, emotional difficulties, stress and tension, fibromyalgia, neuralgia, TMJD, immune disorders, neurovascular disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, post surgical dysfunction among others.
How many sessions will I need for my ________ problem?
I can’t tell you specifically how many sessions you will need to address your condition. Typically, the longer the problem has been manifesting itself, the longer it will take to resolve. Sometimes CST is like peeling an onion; releasing a restriction can lead to a deeper problem or dysfunction manifesting itself. With CST we work to get to the root of the dysfunction by releasing one layer at a time. I usually suggest three treatment sessions fairly close together to see how you respond. Some clients see immediate results, however, and their problem is resolved in one session.
I didn’t feel much, why not?
CranioSacral therapy is a light touch technique, which allows the nervous system to relax and work with, not resist, the therapist’s touch. The physiological manipulations we make are very subtle, sometimes only moving the tissue a millimeter or less. Some people feel this movement amplified, but others don’t feel anything. Most people, however, feel very relaxed during and following the treatment.
What may I feel?
Some people feel little or nothing during their CST session. Besides the feeling of relaxation, some clients may feel their heart rate change, small muscle twitches and/or involuntary muscle movement. Their stomach may grumble, and they might notice their breathing change. Some people feel dizzy or lightheaded immediately after a treatment. It is important to move slowly and drink plenty of water following your session. If you don’t feel anything, don’t worry, that is normal, too.
How come I feel pain in my _____ when I didn’t feel it at the beginning of the session?
CranioSacral works to release restrictions in layers like peeling an onion. Sometimes, releasing one layer can have the effect of bringing another to the surface. Our bodies are fabulous at compensating for injury or restriction and once we take away their compensatory crutch, old injuries may present themselves in a new way. I like to think of change in sensation as progress towards health. It can also take a few days for your body to integrate the changes that we made during the session. During that time you might feel new sensations. If you have any questions, please call me, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. Symptoms can include:
CranioSacral Therapy , along with appropriate medical care, can help to ease the symptoms of PTSD. The following is an article written by Dr. Upledger, the father of CranioSacral Therapy (CST) explaining how CST can help with PTSD. If you think you are suffering from PTSD, please contact your medical professional before seeking treatment.
The Role of CranioSacral Therapy in Addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
By John Upledger, DO, OMM
Throughout human history, those who have undergone or witnessed traumatic events have oftentimes experienced ongoing and uncontrollable fear, anxiety, depression, and other life-altering emotions. It has only been in recent times, however, that these symptoms have gained recognition, validation, and a name.
In 1980, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume III. Before 1980, the condition existed only as titles such as “shell shock,” “battle fatigue,” “dissociative amnesia” and “physioneurosis.” It was the rather high incidence of PTSD in Vietnam veterans that finally prompted inclusion of the condition as a mental disorder in the DSM III.
Although combat veterans comprise a significant percentage of PTSD sufferers, combat should not be considered the singular cause of the disorder. It can result from any experience a person feels is life-threatening, terrorizing or totally degrading. It can also result from viewing horrible or terror-inducing events that happen to others, especially loved ones.
The symptoms of PTSD may occur days to years after the related event. Once begun, the symptoms occasionally go into remission and then return. The disorder we now call PTSD may continue to affect the victim for years, decades, or the balance of a lifetime. Though classified as a mental disorder, PTSD has distinct physical origins. In our years of research and treatment of PTSD, we have encountered numerous symptoms that respond well to hands-on CranioSacral Therapy. The following are seven of the more prevalent symptoms that the PTSD patient may endure, and how we approach managing such symptoms:
1. Insomnia can result when the joints of the head and neck become jammed due to extreme backward or forward bending of the head during a traumatic occurrence. CST is used to release these pressures and improve the efficiency of fluid outflow at the occipital-cranial base (base of the skull). When successfully applied, insomnia significantly improves.
2. Hypervigilance is a state of heightened awareness in which any surprise or unexpected noise causes an excessive response that the PTSD person cannot control. (This also contributes to insomnia.) We use CST and its offshoot, SomatoEmotional Release, to locate and release energy cysts (contained areas of stress) throughout the body.
We concentrate particularly on the reticular activating system (RAS) of the brain and spinal cord, which is responsible for the secretion of adrenalin and other stress hormones and biochemicals. When we can reduce this system’s level of ready alertness, both hypervigilance and hyperresponsiveness are significantly alleviated.
3. Intrusive thoughts continually interrupt a PTSD victim’s ability to concentrate, and may even prove intellectually disabling. CST and its offshoots are used to balance fluids and release restrictions on the right and left sides of the cranium, thus enhancing the circulation of both blood and cerebrospinal fluid. As a result, nutritional supplies to brain cells are improved and toxic waste products are removed. The brain areas that help control conscious thoughts are also revitalized and become more effective.
4. Flashbacks involve the mental re-experiencing of the horrific events that caused the PTSD initially. Each time they occur, they are just as terrifying to the person as the original experience. Unlike normal memories, they do not mellow with each recall, nor can the person experiencing them describe them in words. While this kind of response can be considered appropriate at the time of the original traumatic event, it certainly is not appropriate 10 years later in a different and probably safe setting.
Studies have shown that, in PTSD, the left hemisphere of the brain is less functional than the right, and the hippocampus – thought to be an important factor in memory control – is smaller on the left side than on the right. CranioSacral therapists work to equalize the mobility and fluid flows of both sides of the brain. They also pass a lot of energy from right to left, focusing on the left-side speech area (plenum temporale).
Using this approach, we have seen clients become able for the first time to describe the flashback event(s). As this ability improves, the flashback comes under control and the experience can be recalled voluntarily. Eventually, the power of the event fades and the flashbacks discontinue.
5. Panic attacks mark the beginning of PTSD, but they fade and discontinue as hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks are successfully treated.
6. Long-term fear results in a PTSD patient faced with a short-lived, scary episode. On the other hand, the non-PTSD person might well react with momentary fear to the same episode. This long-term fear becomes chronic anxiety. As with panic attacks, this too wanes as the CST takes effect.
7. Depression and suicidal thoughts are common in PTSD-afflicted individuals. Our treatment focuses specifically on releasing abnormal compression at three junctions: where the sphenoid bone and base of the occipital bone meet (floor of the cranial vault); where the joints where the first cervical vertebra and occipital bone unite (base of the skull); and where the lumbar and sacrum come together (lower back into tailbone). Once alleviated, depression lifts and suicidal ideations discontinue.
Using this approach in a study with 22 Vietnam veterans, we found that, at the end of two intensive weeks of treatment, all of them tested much lower on the depression scale. Even the administering psychologist had trouble believing the results of his own tests. It may be difficult to understand how something as light-touch as CranioSacral Therapy could effect meaningful change in an individual suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. You are not alone. Those of us who practice the technique still marvel at the responses we often witness. The body is a remarkable mechanism, full of mystery and capable of untold feats of self-preservation and healing.
My hope is simply that this brief discussion helps you gain a better understanding of how CranioSacral Therapy works to aid the PTSD sufferer – and perhaps clears up some misperceptions about this disorder along the way.
PTSD is not an incurable mental disorder. Our research with Vietnam veterans has shown just the opposite, producing some of the most dramatic and encouraging results I have ever witnessed. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you will join our efforts in the years to come, as we seek to eliminate PTSD from the trauma equation.
“The means we use to release blocks and resistances must not adversely affect the body. We must proceed carefully. If we force the body we will experience pain or other unpleasant feelings and the problems will, in the long run get worse instead of better…It is by proceeding gently that we will feel light.”
-from T.K.V Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga
The above excerpt about yoga resonated with me and clarified my approach to bodywork. As a perpetual student of the human body, I am constantly trying new techniques and modalities with my clients and myself. My goal is to reduce pain, increase range of motion and help individuals feel more comfortable in their bodies. Not everyone benefits from every technique, but there seems to be a universal truth that I am discovering over time: If you force change, it will not happen. How many times have you heard “you can’t change someone, they will have to decide to change themselves”? The same is true with the body.
My approach to working with the body is to make suggestions slowly and gently, so that it does not resist me. I have the best results with clients when I take time to listen to the tissue, wait for it to soften, and then proceed with caution. I have found time after time, that digging my elbow into a knot (fascial restriction) will not release the tension nor alleviate the symptoms. It might feel better for a while, but will not help the client reduce chronic pain. This is not to say that I don’t work deep into the tissues. I just work slowly.
What I do in my treatment room is similar to what a yogi does on their yoga mat. The Asana practice of yoga can be the process of relieving restrictions within the body and attaining heath and wellbeing. If you force yourself into a posture you are not ready for, you will end up injuring yourself. Like yoga, bodywork should be performed with mindfulness.
I am proud to announce that Dahlia Healing Arts treatment center is finally completed. Here are a few photos to put you in the mood for your next treatment with me.
Seeing a massage therapist can be a relaxing and pleasant way to
alleviate pain. A good massage can undo the effects of a long journey,
a fall, or a sports injury. Chronic pain can also be addressed and
alleviated by massage therapy. Keep in mind, however, that the longer
you have had the pain, the longer it can take to address it. For
example, neck pain from a car accident 20 years ago, might not be
eradicated after one 60 minute massage.
When beginning a series of treatments to address chronic pain, you
play a large part in your recovery. The massage therapist can only do
so much if you are unwilling to take care of your body in-between
I often give my clients some stretching and postural recommendations.
These suggestions are part of the treatment. Our bodies hold on to
patterns and a muscle released on my table will likely return to it’s
tight, dysfunctional state if the client does nothing to maintain the
work done in the treatment room.
The clients that see the best results from bodywork are those who take
responsibility in their own health care. There is only so much I can
do in one hour if you are undoing my work the minute you walk out of
Here are a few things you can do to maintain the positive effects of
your massage after the treatment:
1) Drink plenty of water. Massage releases toxins stored in your
tissues into your bloodstream which can cause nausea, dizziness or
headache. Drinking water can flush them out.
2) Stretch. If you have had a specific tight area worked on, continue
to stretch it after the massage. If you are unsure how to do this, ask
3) Take it easy. It can take some time for your body to integrate the
changes suggested by a massage. Move your body, stretch, go to a
gentle or yin yoga class after your treatment, but don’t go for a
vigorous workout or stress your body after your massage. Remember that
recovery is an important part of a regular workout routine.
4) Thank yourself for taking some time to take care of your body. You
only have one body and no one else can take care of it for you.
When coming in to see me for a treatment massage for a specific injury
or condition, don’t be surprised if I start working on a different
part of the body than the place that is giving you trouble. For
example, arm pain may be caused by a muscular of fascial problem in
the arm, but it can also be caused by referred pain from a Trigger
Point in the neck, specifically the scalene muscles, or nerve
entrapment by the pectorals minor muscle.
Sometimes I will work more distally (away from the center of the body)
first to make room for anything I will release more proximally. For
example, I might begin addressing shoulder pain by working the fascia
(connective tissue) in the hand and working toward the shoulder.
If you are curious why I work where I work and in what order, please ask.