What is Craniosacral Therapy?

Osteopathic research tells us that every cell, every organ, and indeed the entire body expands and contracts at rhythmic and regular intervals. The faster pace of life today – the acceleration of technology, plus work and life pressures – interferes with our ability to access these slower tidal rhythmic motions. If we can be encouraged to connect to sensation and resonate with stillness and spaciousness, ‘something happens’ which enables us to begin to re-orient to ‘the breath of life’. We find that the body is literally being ‘breathed’ as well as breathing.

Craniosacral Therapy was born out of the osteopathic tradition. All the various modern approaches to Craniosacral Therapy have their roots in the work of William Garner Sutherland (1873-1954), an American osteopath and a student of Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathy. Sutherland’s work spanned over 50 years and is practised by many osteopaths who refer to it as Cranial Osteopathy.

Early on in his career, Sutherland made the radical discovery that the cranial bones – the eight bones that together make up the ‘cranium’ or round part of the human skull – were designed to move independently to one another. They were, he said: “bevelled like the gills of a fish and indicating articular mobility for a respiratory mechanism.” This was a significant discovery as the cranial bones in the adult until this point, were considered to be fused and fixed.  By experimenting on himself, he noticed that restrictions in the cranium and body tended to inhibit the expression of this mobility, rhythm (or tide). This lack of movement over time, leads to a lack of vitality, discomfort and disease.

Sutherland’s early work consisted of a more ‘mechanical’ approach with manipulation of the bones and tissues, analysis, motion testing and the direct application of various techniques. However, later in his career, after a very powerful experience with a patient, where he believed he had a direct experience of the presence of the ‘Breath of Life’ – which he described as a sacred and numinous presence – his methods and orientation changed dramatically. Sutherland’s work became more subtle and gentle though the improvements reported by his clients came to be increasingly significant.

In his work and teaching his emphasis changed to one of embodied presence and stillness. Orienting to the ‘Breath of Life’ or ‘Primary Respiration’, he believed helped maintain equilibrium within the human system and initiate healing processes.

In the late 1970s another American osteopath, John Upledger, began to teach cranial work to non-osteopaths, and coined the name ‘Craniosacral Therapy’. In the 1980s Thomas Attlee and Franklyn Sills began teaching Craniosacral Therapy in the UK, mainly to non-osteopaths. Franklyn Sills and colleagues further developed and refined the work which is now known as ‘Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy’.

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy is a ‘hands-on’ therapy, working with an extremely light but powerful touch. It involves the therapist over time, developing their perceptual skills in order to ‘listen’ to the whole body whilst supporting its inherent ability to self-regulate and self-heal.

In biodynamic work the healthy functioning of the body is considered to be determined by the ability of the potency of the Breath of Life to flow freely throughout the body. This understanding has a direct connection to the pioneering insights of Dr Sutherland. The therapist uses their hands to ‘listen’ deeply whilst tuning into the potency and fluidity of the client’s body. We orient to the health that is present, encourage and amplify this, and follow what we refer to as the ‘inherent treatment plan’ and the body’s own ‘Intelligence’. We work directly with the power of stillness and the breath of life as a therapeutic medium.

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy fulfils a deep human need to be heard and to be held in a safe, supportive and non-invasive way.

“From a future that seemed blank and without purpose, I feel pruned, deadheaded and invigorated. I am extremely grateful to Fern for supporting me through this process.” E.H

Why is it called Craniosacral Therapy?

One of the core principles that we work with is the relationship between the sacrum (the base of the spine) and the head (the cranium) – hence the term craniosacral therapy. In part, this relationship is created by the membranes that surround the spinal cord and the brain. We will often make contact and listen to the body at these places, though we can also make contact and listen from other areas of the body, such as the feet, legs and shoulders.

By holding the cranium and sacrum we also have access to the entire nervous system and can support it in recalibrating or down-regulating.


I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long difficult repentance,
realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.

DH Lawrence


If you have any questions or would like to discuss booking a treatment, please contact me.