History of Craniosacral

Cranial Osteopathy

There are traces of craniosacral work in many ancient traditions; from India, China, the Middle East and North America. However in the Western world this system was unrecognised and unknown until one day in 1899 a young Osteopathic student named William Garner Sutherland observed a disarticulated skull.

Gazing at the articular surfaces of the individual bones and noting the peculiar way in which they are beveled he had an amazing insight. In his own words “Beveled like the gills of a fish, and indicating articular mobility for a respiratory mechanism.” He was to spend the rest of his life studying this ‘mechanism’. It was in fact, the underlying membrane system and the craniosacral rhythm, which he called ‘The Primary Respiratory Mechanism’. Dr Sutherland developed specific techniques for improving the functioning of the entire system. However, he was a mystic and despite astounding successes his work was largely considered unscientific. He died in 1954 at the age of 81, having taught his techniques to only a small number of people.

As he grew older, Dr Will (as he was known) became more and more spiritual. He moved away from the practice of cranial bone adjustment and began working more with what he referred to as the tide, the potency in the fluid and the Breath of Life.
In the last decade of Dr Sutherland‘s life Dr Rollin Becker spent much time with him. Dr Becker was to become president of the Sutherland Teaching Foundation. A modest man, he maintained a simple osteopathic practice and taught fellow osteopaths his approach. Following on the insights Dr Will had shared with him, he developed a way of working which he referred to as bioenergetic. Dr Becker lived until 1996.

Craniosacral Therapy

John Upledger, also an osteopath, began studying Dr Sutherland’s work in the 1970’s. He spent years at Michigan State University’s department of biomechanics, where he carried out original experiments. He developed a more scientific theory, essentially demystifying Craniosacral.

In the 1980’s Upledger began teaching Craniosacral Therapy outside of Osteopathic schools. He is responsible for the world wide spread of this work.

Craniosacral Balancing

In the late 1970’s an enlightened Indian master, Osho, began attracting many Westerners to his ashram in Poona, India. Realising the particular conditioning of his new disciples he developed special active meditations and encouraged therapists to work in his ashram – to prepare the ground for meditation.

By 1989 the Osho Commune was home to the largest centre for alternative therapies in the world and included The Academy of Healing Arts, specialised in bodywork therapies. A former student of Upledger’s, Bhadrena Tschumi, taught the first course of Craniosacral Balancing here.

While initially based on the Upledger Model, Craniosacral Balancing gave more emphasis and space to the spiritual and meditative experiences and connections which can arise from this work.

Bhadrena established the International Institute for Craniosacral Balancing in Europe and in 1991 taught the first craniosacral training in Australia. Dhyan Trevor assisted the course and participants included Najma Ahern and Satyesh Pelgrave.

Biodynamic Craniosacral

James Jealous, was born in 1943 and seemed destined to become an osteopath. Once graduated he worked with and was mentored by ‘the elders’ who had been taught by Dr Sutherland himself. Dr Jealous continued the work of Rollin Becker, bringing Cranial Osteopathy back to its original spiritual base. In 1994 he commenced teaching his concept of Biodynamic Osteopathy, aligning his work with the latest theories of embryology, which saw the foetus developing around an energetic midline. He linked this energetic force with Dr Sutherland’s concepts of the Breath of Life and Primary Respiration.

In the non osteopathic cranial field Franklyn Sills built on the base created by John Upledger and spread biodynamic concepts around the world. It is now the foremost model in craniosacral work.

Craniosacral Australia

Australian born Dhyan Trevor had first studied Craniosacral Balancing in India in 1989 and moved to Europe to further his studies. On his return visits to Australia he taught occasional Craniosacral Balancing courses in the Byron Bay area. Eventually resettling in Australia in 1999 he established Craniosacral Australia, an association of committed practitioners, which continues to develop and deliver trainings.

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