History of Craniosacral Work



The craniosacral approach of working with the body has its roots in the experiments and experience of Dr. Sutherland, an American osteopath. He practiced osteopathy in the first half of the 20th century and specialized in working with the craniosacral system. He himself studied with the originator of osteopathy, Dr. Andrew Still. Sutherland developed a model and theory of how the core system between the cranium and the sacrum and its fluid movements affect the human being.


As a student of osteopathy in the early 1900’s he was looking at the sutures of a disarticulated skull and was struck by the thought, “bevelled like the gills of a fish, indicating a respiratory mechanism.” The idea that the skull is not solid and the bones of the skull were designed as they were in order to provide the opportunity for movement of one in relationship to the other, did not leave him. He performed experiments on himself using helmet-like devices which could impose varying and controlled degrees of pressures on different parts of his head. His wife described significant and irritating personality changes. He also experienced head pains and problems with coordination in response to the changing pressure applications.

Dr. Sutherland developed a system of examination and treatment for what he called the Primary Respiratory System, which then became known as Cranial Osteopathy. He worked with the skull and its individual bones, the membranes underneath and the fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid. He was successful in treating patients with all kind of disorders and often hopeless diagnoses by other doctors. Because little was known at that time of how it really worked, and because the results with patients seemed at times to be miraculous, Sutherland’s system was looked at as having spiritual overtones. In the last ten years of his life he started to teach his work with the fluid system. He thought the students needed time to work their way into the system by starting with the bones, then having an appreciation for the membrane system, then working with the fluids and then with forces at the core of it all: the forces which move the potencies, fluids and tissues.

AS TIME MOVES ON… In his time he never got the recognition he deserved. It was his students that helped cranial osteopathy to gain more recognition. Amongst them were Dr. Magoun and Dr. Rollin E. Becker. Dr. Becker continued the tradition of enquiry into the fluid system and the Breath of Life concept and contributed much to our contemporary understanding of the inherent Health within.

C R A N I O S A C R A L  B A L A N C I N G ®

In the 1970’s and 1980’s Dr. Upledger and Dr. Karni continued the studies of the craniosacral system with more scientific means, so they could actually prove that the cranial bones move in rhythm with the tide of the cerebrospinal fluid. They also did a field study on children. They treated hyperactive kids, autistic kids, kids with learning difficulties and had very good results. Out of that experience Dr. Upledger started to train the teachers, parents and caretakers of these children. And in time many people studied this personal approach to the work, practiced it over decades, and in doing so, new insights were gained.

We have studied with many of the teachers mentioned here and we would like to pass on some of the insights from our research of the old teachings of Dr. William Garner Sutherland (1873 – 1954) and Dr. Rollin Becker (1910 – 1996) as well as our own work and explorations with the craniosacral system over decades.

Dr. Jim Jealous and especially Franklyn Sills have also contributed to our understanding and languaging of it through their Biodynamic Craniosacral teachings. In our own experience with Craniosacral Balancing® we find it important to emphasize the wholistic approach to working with a person. The focus of Craniosacral Balancing® is not only the body and its medical history, it is including the whole being: body – mind – soul – heart – spirit…

Our approach is systemic and allows the whole system to self-regulate and heal. Giving space and support, being present and listening, knowing much and yet putting it behind the curtain to not interfere, opens a deep cooperation and respect between practitioner and client.

We work as much with the physical body as with the other aspects that make us human: the emotional, psychological, spiritual planes. We have a well-founded model to work with trauma and its manifestations, influenced by Peter Levine and his Trauma Resolution model, so that movement towards wholeness and aliveness can be safely explored.

In Craniosacral Balancing® we are inspired in our respectful and accepting attitude towards fellow human beings by the Indian mystic Osho who emphasizes that therapy can only happen in an atmosphere of caring, love and compassion. Our flavour of craniosacral therapy is working with awareness and understanding so that the client may have the space for exploration, for enquiry, for meditation, for a raise in consciousness.

Please contact Kala Julia Bodkin for Biodynamic Craniosacral Treatments.