When I first graduated from massage school, my work felt like coming home. I loved connecting with people in a manner that brought them relaxation. People liked my touch, and I deeply enjoyed what I did. Yet, over time I realized I wanted something more. I wanted a way to make an even deeper connection with people, to have more variety in what I was doing, and to get to the root of what was causing my clients' chronic tension, which I was massaging week after week.
CranioSacral Therapy (CST), as taught through Upledger Institute International, gave me that capacity and taught me how to listen more clearly with my hands to the entire human being on my table-in mind, body and spirit.
Here are four reasons to integrate CST into a massage practice.
1. Find the root of the problem
In massage, I was used to moving through whole areas of the body with long strokes and utilizing deeper pressure for extra-tense spots. Often with repeat clients, I treated the same areas over and over again. CST taught me how to get to the root of the issue and uncover the mystery as to why that area of the body continued to hold excess tightness.
Using techniques I was taught from CST I and beyond, I learned how to listen with my hands for the exact spot, in order to more effectively pinpoint my techniques. This is one major way to work smarter and not harder; we call it CST listening skills, and these skills are deepened through all levels of training. Even if you choose not to make CST your specialty, hands-on listening skills can greatly enhance your massage practice.
2. Slow down the pace
In basic CST training, we learned about the listening stations of the body. At these places throughout the body, from head to toe, we were taught to hold and listen with our hands, noninvasively, for the craniosacral rhythm or lack thereof. This exercise taught me to slow down. I let my hands rest in stillness and quieted my mind to hear what the client's system signaled to me. This technique also helped me work smarter, not harder.
After this class, I returned to my massage practice and used these listening stations for five minutes at the beginning and end of each massage. I wanted to master how to feel the more subtle signals from the body, and I knew I needed practice in order to do that. Over time, more clients began to comment on "that wonderful thing you do where you hold me gently in the beginning and end of my massage." I was delighted to discover my newest practice was significantly enhancing their sessions.
3. Enhance your palpation skills
The listening stations of CST I , arcing learned in CST II, and other techniques learned later in the curriculum greatly helped guide me to the deeper sources of clients' tension or pain. When I slowed down and used the assessment skills I had learned, I was astounded by how much more I could feel.
In my massage practice, my palpation deepened to the point where it became easier to unlock restrictions in the nerve sheaths that were signaling the muscles. With that kind of release, the muscles simply melted under my hands.
Whether we are talking about traditional massage or CST, research has indicated the value of nurturing touch for people. I still receive regular massage and love it-and there are still a few massage strokes woven into every session I do. However, the depth of what I do with my clients and CST is of a different order than what can be accomplished with other forms of bodywork.
4. Partner with clients
Work with your clients so they learn how to listen to their own systems and, therefore, can take better care of themselves. Bodywork clients are becoming more active in their own health care, and massage-and-bodywork therapists are seen as an integral partner in the overall health care picture.
My clients' regular appointments with me are a priority: if they take a fall and want to recover more quickly; if they want to prepare for a surgery or recover quicker from surgery; if they become pregnant or want help preparing for delivery; if their babies are colicky or not nursing well; if a migraine headache presents and they need relief; or if a loved one is ill or dying and they need to keep their stamina up in order to be able to assist. I continue to be in awe of how much I can help people when I am able to slow down, tune into their systems and listen carefully.
In my experience, it was easy to transition my practice to a CST specialization. Once my clients experienced the act of slowing down and being listened to deeply, it was rare for them to want to go back to just massage strokes.
Every session is different; even returning clients bring in new things each visit for us to explore and resolve together. If you're interested in learning a new technique and working smarter, not harder, explore how CST can benefit you, your practice and your clientele.