health, vitality and wellbeing

cranio-sacral therapy

Tanja Råman RCST

My research and thoughts...

By tanja, Aug 31 2016 06:55PM

Since I was 13 years old I have suffered from eczema. It started from my hands and it gradually expanded, covering most of my body by the time I was 18. The worst period was when I was studying for my A-levels. I remember how my clothes used to get stuck onto my skin as I had scratched it into open wounds and how I used to cry in pain and desperation at times. I used large quantities of cortisone-based lotions on my skin which used to give short-term relief until the creams didn’t seem to work anymore.

I first became aware of the relationship between the body-mind connection and my skin when I moved out from my family home in Finland and started my professional dance studies in the UK at the age of 21. During my holidays I visited home in Finland and each time the eczema seemed to explode whereas when returning back to my studies in the UK the eczema disappeared. Eventually I realised that this was to do with an increased stress level that I experienced during my visits to home. I also noticed how the lack of sleep, hormonal changes and even small quantities of alcohol seemed to have an adverse effect on my skin condition.

For years, I searched for the answer to heal my skin. I realised that it was not the skin itself where the problem lied as it could heal or get worse very quickly without any apparent reason. Doctors have never been able to shed light on the situation. I realised that the real reasons for my skin problems were much deeper inside me.

It wasn’t until I started studying cranio-sacral therapy at the age of 34 that I became aware of how over-stimulated my sympathetic nervous system was. The sympathetic nervous system is our fight or flight response to any given stressful event in our lives, whether it be physical, mental or emotional stress. My body had learnt to be constantly alert which was obviously very taxing to my health in the long term. My skin was the weakest link and first to gain symptoms. I didn’t have a violent or abusive family upbringing - I would say I had a good family. I can’t recall any particular traumatic incident in my childhood that could have contributed to the over-stimulation of my nervous system. However, there was - and still is - a fairly stressful atmosphere at my family home with constant busyness that I probably learnt as a child as a way of being. My parents get easily nervous and anxious, they hate being the centre of attention or any kind of confrontation with other people and they worry an awful lot about small, unnecessary things.

I had to re-learn a new way of being, particularly when around my parents. This wasn’t easy in the beginning, but cranio-sacral therapy treatments and meditation helped me, first of all, to become more aware of the busy nature of my nervous system. I also learnt useful tools that I use to ground myself and to calm myself down. I have cranio-sacral treatments once a month, which considerably slows me down. Afterwards it is easier to face challenges in life without feeling stressed out. Calming the nervous system directly helped my skin to heal, leaving only small patches of eczema on my hands.

The skin didn’t heal completely until I started taking Synergy’s food supplements: ProArgi-9, Mistify and PhytoLife. These are specifically developed to improve the health of our blood circulatory system, clearing the blood vessels (particularly the blood flow in the extremities) and improving their flexibility. The combination of improved blood flow and calming my nervous system did the trick and my skin is finally well.

I will always be prone to react to stress with eczema and it appears on my skin quickly if I don’t actively and regularly de-stress. Don't ever underestimate the power of the body-mind connection and its influence on your health.

By tanja, Apr 6 2016 05:12PM

Today I attended a singing bowl massage for the first time in my life. I have previously heard about the practice and I have been curious to try it out for a while.

I went to see Katja Nikkanen, who practices singing bowl massage in the North of Oulu. She played and placed the different sized singing bowls on my body – first at the back of my body and then on the front. Some resonated with deeper sounds others were higher and lighter. I could feel the vibrations enter right into the core of my body. The experience was deeply relaxing. I could have stayed in that gentle vibrational state for a long time. At the end of the treatment, I had reached a relaxed state similar to that between wake and sleep. It felt comfortably like the state I usually drop into during a cranio-sacral treatment. I loved it.

At times, I tend to collect tension and get stressed. Reaching a deeper state of relaxation during a treatment slows me right down and the challenges in life feel more manageable.

Singing bowl healing is based on ancient healing practices, with roots in India -particularly in the Himalayas.

Some of the benefits of the treatment are considered to be a gentle massage and harmonisation of body cells through sound, relief of tension, re-activation of self-healing processes and letting go of old patterns. In a similar way to cranio-sacral therapy, the singing bowl treatment encourages the internal healing process that can carry on for some time after a treatment - from a few days to weeks. I tend to notice these changes in my dreams. I am looking forward to discovering what might happen over the next few nights.

“The sound of the singing bowl touches our innermost soul and brings it into vibration. The sound breaks tension, mobilizes self healing forces, and sets free creative energies.” -- Peter Hess

By tanja, Feb 17 2016 02:25PM

It has been nearly nine months since I moved back to Finland after living in the UK for 18 years - the previous 11 years were spent in Wales. I expected it to be hard, both practically and financially, to get everything sorted here: register, become part of the Finnish system, find a place to live and school and nursery for the children to attend, gain work… The list goes on. I knew what to expect in this sense. I had already done this twice before in my life. I moved to Estonia to study when I turned 20. This was me living on my own for the first time and it was a disaster and returned to Finland after half a year. Valuable lessons learnt, I moved to the UK two years later to study and then to work.

Although my previous experiences of living abroad were filled with a range of emotions, the internal process of change was difficult. It felt as if I was trying to push myself through a weirdly shaped and tight tunnel. I managed and emerged from the other end eventually. I adapted. I am now back in my homeland. Is it what I expected?

The last three months have been very hard in every way, which have resulted in old symptoms of eczema beginning to appear on my skin (my typical stress response). I have been trying to analyse the cause of it without getting to the root of the issue. I have just visited a colleague of mine at Neo Eheä Olo and had a cranio-sacral theatrment, which brought some thoughts to the surface. I now realise that being busy with sorting things out for my whole family I have been neglecting the need to process my own inner change. There simply hasn’t been any time. I am faced with this angular and tight tunnel called ’change’ again. I can now see that sub-consciously I have been fearing to go through it again. I have been prevaricating and hiding behind the busyness.

Now that I have identified the issue I hope that I can deal with it better. I hope that I can give it the time and space that it needs to resolve. After all, I am a different person now than in my early twenties. I have better mental and physical resources, tools and experience to cope with the change. At the end of the treatment, I had an image of me flowing through the tunnel in a more liquid form needing less effort and being less restricted by it. I believe that everything is going to be just fine in the end.

By tanja, Dec 19 2015 06:40PM

Yesterday I attended a TRE (Tension, Stress & Trauma Release Exercise) course by Niina Ailovuo (Sielunliike) at Joogastudio Oulu, in Northern Finland.

TRE® (Tension, Stress & Trauma Release Exercise) has been developed by Dr. David Berceli, PhD. TRE® is a series of exercises that aim to release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma. The exercises activate our natural reflex mechanism of shaking which is our natural way of discharging muscular tension and calming down our nervous system. Shaking after a fight-fright-flight situation is our in-built mechanism we share with other animals that aims to return our nervous system back to a state of balance. I say shaking is natural to us and yet if we see someone shaking it can seem odd or even scary and most often people feel embarrassed by their own body shaking uncontrollably.

The problem with inhibiting shaking after a traumatic event (whatever the cause of trauma) is that our nervous system might not manage to calm down back to normal after the hightened state during the traumatic event or period. A prolonged period of hightened nervous activity is taxing for our wellbeing. TRE® exercises simply decrease the level of physical and psychological stress, tension and trauma that we accumulate in our lives.

Shaking and trembling can happen as part of cranio-sacral therapy treatment too. The difference with TRE® is that during TRE® session shaking is induced whereas in the cranio-sacral therapy treatment shaking usually arises in its own time, but it is not actively encouraged and it is not the main aim of the treatment.

I believe that TRE® provides very good tools for reducing stress in our lives and it can benefit most people, particularly those who work in traumatising situations. My only concern is that sometimes our conscious and sub-conscious minds disagree with each other. Our rational mind might want to process our deep traumas from our childhood, for example, but sub-consciously we might not be ready for it. There might be such deep underlying fears that grind the healing process to a halt or even cause re-traumatisation if actively induced too quickly. I am looking forward to learning more about TRE® in the future and using it as a tool to maintain my health and wellbeing.

By tanja, Nov 12 2015 04:32PM

Touch is a subject that I have been interested through my work as a dance artist and as a therapist. Touch is powerful. It is considered the deepest form of communication and has a profound influence on us. Violent and abusive touch leaves the victim deeply effected - often with life-long traumas - especially if it has happened in childhood. Gentle and caring touch, on the other hand, has many emotional and physical health benefits and there is no wonder why warm and non-sexual touching is a very important part of many ancient and current healing and therapy practices.

According to Finnish child psychologist, Jukka Mäkelä in this interview, gentle touch is as vital for a child’s development as is good sleep, food and exercise. Touch has a profound influence on our brains and our development as people. It is commonly known that skin-to-skin contact helps babies to calm down, reassures them and supports their immune system. It is also commonly known that a parents’ loving touch enables premature babies to gain weight quicker and to regulate their bodily functions better.

During gentle touch our brains secrete a hormone called oxytocin. It makes us feel good, improves our ability to deal with stress, as well as reduces blood pressure and pain. It also promotes trust in other people. Swedish research found that gentle massage amongst young children in pre-school reduced aggressive behaviour in them.

Touch is important to an adult’s health and wellbeing too. Our Western cultures, however, can be touch-deprived as Dacher Keltner, professor in psychology, says in his article: Hands On Research: The Science of Touch. Warm touch signals safety and trust, which calms down cardiovascular stress and activates our vagus nerve that is linked with compassionate responses. According to Keltner, people who are more tactile can even succeed better economically.

There are many reasons to give a hug to someone!