Jane Shaw and Steve Haines

Jane Shaw and Steve Haines

Click here to listen to the interview:   Jane Shaw and Steve Haines 2015-07-09

Jane is a senior tutor on Body Intelligence Trainings, organises the Breath of Life conference, runs a busy cranial practice in Northern Ireland and is currently doing a MA/PhD in Depth Psychology.

Here she talks about creating safety in clinical practice, tips from meeting Stephen Porges at the BOL and some simple recommendations for clients to help them practice feeling safe.

Transcript of the Interview 

Steve: Hi, Jane. We’re in Dublin right now, teaching seminar nine of the cranial course. I’ve realized we’ve known each other for a long time; about 10 years.

Jane: Mm-hmm, 10 years.

Steve: Amazing. I thought I’d pick your brains. You’ve done a whole bunch of stuff that I know of, running the Breath of Life Conference. You’re studying an MA in…? 

Jane: MA PhD in Depth Psychology.

Steve: Wow. You also have a busy practice in Ireland, and you’re a tutor now in Body Intelligence courses. What are the highlights for you in your work right now?

Jane: As you say, I’ve got a clinical practice in Northern Ireland, and I also do a lot of traveling with the Psychology MA PhD in California, and teaching with BI, but my clinic in Northern Ireland is focused around working with people who have suffered trauma. That’s always been my interest since I graduated almost 10 years ago. That’s the area that I’ve focused on in my training and in my clinic.

Steve: Great. One of the big things that I’ve learned from watching you teach is a real emphasis on safety. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that, and why that’s so important for you in healing?

Jane: For me, safety is one of the fundamentals that our body can’t heal itself unless it’s safe. I have found that from my own personal experience, and of course, then working with people who have suffered bad experiences. People who have suffered bad experiences in their life, whether that be involved in a car accident, or being caught up in a bomb, or maybe raped, or something really horrible – their body tends to be on high alert in case it happens again. Their bodies are scanning for danger constantly, and while our bodies are scanning for danger, they can’t heal themselves. We have the two main parts of our nervous system, the fight or flight, and the rest and repair. Unless we’re in the rest and repair part, our bodies can’t start healing. Safety switches that on.

Steve: I know you’ve had the privilege of meeting Stephen Porges, a major theorist around how trauma works. You tell a great story about him helping you feel safe before you were talking. 

Jane: Yes. One of the things I do is I run the Breath of Life Conference, which is a big international conference in London, where we get neuroscientists, and craniosacral practitioners, and other pioneers in the field to come and speak. We’ve had Stephen Porges over a couple of times.

There was one occasion when I’d been going through all sorts of difficulties, and my nervous system was running at high alert. I was about to go on to stage to introduce Stephen, standing up in front of 300 people, and introducing this eminent neuroscientist from America. We were standing in the green room, and he of course picked up my nerves, and he said: “Jane, one of the quickest, easiest ways to reduce your activation in your nervous system is to talk slowly in long phrases.”

Why that works is because when we do that, we are breathing out, we’re exhaling, and when we exhale, we switch on what’s called our vagus nerve, which is one of the key parts of his theory, and it’s one of the keys to creating safety.

Steve: Really nice. I really like that story. We can do simple, everyday things that will change our physiology. We don’t have to have huge understandings or journeys to discover why we’re activated, it’s just there are some skills in the present moment in your body that you can do right now. That’s a very nice one, take speaking more slowly (I’m terrible at that) and taking longer breaths, and it switches on your vagus nerve. Is that correct?

Jane: Yes. I particularly like that one, because we can know the theory of exhaling with long breaths, which is one that helps us to stop being nervous, but sometimes it’s difficult to do that. To speak slowly I think is an easier construction.

Yes, you mentioned also without having to know the whole story. I think that’s key to my practice as well. People come into my treatment room, and they want to know why they’re like this. Yes, that can be interesting to know why, as a 45 year old, you can’t sleep and you can’t digest food, and you are maybe irritable of whatever it is. Actually, if we just learn how to control the physiology by becoming more embodied, knowing our body, being able to differentiate all the different parts of our body, that actually is the major step, and certainly the first step to your body becoming more regulated.

Steve: Very nice. We don’t need to understand, we don’t need to remember necessarily; what we need to do is come into our body in the present moment.

Jane: Yes.

Steve: What are some of the steps that you might do? Maybe setting up the treatment room, or those initial things that might help the process of someone feeling safe?

Jane: Someone initially comes into my treatment room, they need to feel safe in that room. Say a woman had been raped. She needs to know that she’s safe sitting there with me. Her body probably thinks the whole world is unsafe, at least that’s probably why she’s come to see me. There are all sorts of physical symptoms going on, that she maybe hasn’t necessarily connected with that experience 20 years ago. Very simple things I do is I will show her where the door is, so she knows how to get out. If she needs to get out, she can get out.

Steve: Yeah. I really like that one. I don’t sit between my clients and the door.

Jane: Yeah.

Steve: Really nice.

Jane: If there’s noise outside the room, I name it. I say: “Oh, you might hear noise, and it might be X, Y, and Z.” I live on a farm, it might be a tractor. Things like that can disturb people, and they start getting distracted, and they come out of their body, because they’re off wondering what that noise is. Is it going to be the old danger? They’re not thinking that cognitively; they’re thinking that with lower parts of their brainstem.

Steve: Excellent. It’s really a whole package of things, but you do a lot of work before you put your hands on people.

Jane: Yes, absolutely. Yes. I get people to notice their body before I put my hands on them. I create the safety in the room. The other thing, this is also come to Stephen Porges’ work, his social engagement. We didn’t name that, his work around the social engagement system. This is using all the parts of our face and our voice that create safety.

One thing I will do is I’ll speak slowly, and I’ll probably speak with a bit of intonation in my voice, and I might speak with a slightly deeper voice. If I speak very quickly in a high-pitched voice, somebody’s not going to be able to feel safe.

Steve: Yeah. Very nice. That’s been a huge learning for me, because often when I was a practitioner at the start of my career, I used to try and get people on the table straightaway. I didn’t perceive myself as a great talker, and just needed to use my skills to touch people. In a sense, I had to become an expert at chit-chat, just simple, ordinary, human interaction of welcoming people, engaging them. How did they get here today? In England, I always talk about the weather. That really helps create safety, I believe. I think Porges teaches us that we, human beings, seek safety in other human beings. If you’re the therapist, you need to be the safest thing in the room. 

There’s also some very, very small things about just being an ordinary human that I think you describe very well that start that process of: “I can trust this person, because they’re looking me in the eye, because they’re not speaking quickly, they’re not rushing me, and they’re listening to me.” Is that fair, do you think?

Jane: Yes. “Listening to me,” listening with presence, that’s huge. In fact, I think that is a large part of what I do as a practitioner. I’m embodied. I know all parts of my body as much as I can while I’m with that person, and the other person’s system starts to entrain to mine, rather than me to theirs. I will be picking up all the nuances in their body right from the start. Creating that environment where they can trust me is huge. Listening with presence is an undervalued skill, I think.

Steve: Very good. As you work, helping people feel safe in the room and environment, helping them feel safe with you, what about when you’re actually working as a craniosacral therapist, as a touch therapist, what sort of other things might you be focusing on?

Jane: Again, keeping them engaged the whole time, so that I’m not leaving them hanging. They’re not going: “I wonder what she’s about to do next?” So: “When I put my hands on, I’m going to put my hands on your…” I don’t even say: “I’m going to,” I say: “How would it be if I put my hands on your shoulders?” So that I don’t just come and put my hands on, because that would be coming from behind, and that would again, would spark all those defence responses.

I’m constantly asking them how it is in their body as I’m working. As I move my hands around the body, I’m asking them to track the changes, and to notice… Sort of to map their body, to map the picture, it’s like creating… Maybe they start with a blank canvas, we then have an outline of the body, and then we can fill in the detail of it. The flowers, and the meadow, and the greens, and the blues, or whatever language they want to use. Some people might use colours, some people might use the physiology, but I use their language. That’s very important, to use the language that the client uses, and then to maybe reframe that for them to my experience.

Steve: You’re using touch, and negotiating that touch, and really orienting people to their own experience of their body, and continually helping them develop skills to find their sense of the body.

Jane: That’s right, yes.

Steve: Wow, sounds good. There are lots of things we could talk more about, cranial skills. Maybe we’ll do that one another time. 

Any top tips that you give to your clients, the things they can do for themselves to support their experience of safety?

Jane: As I’m working with the client in the treatment room, I’ll be asking them to orient to certain parts of the body, and these skills I then suggest that they practice when they go home. Really simple tips. This is another one that came from Stephen Porges, was in a room full of people, we are scanning for danger. Especially if we’re on that high-activation path. A very simple tip is to stand with your back against the wall, because then you only have 180 degrees to scan, rather than 360, so your nervous system immediately, it takes a huge load off your nervous system. To speak in these low, long phrases, or to do breathing exercises where your exhalation is longer than your inhalation. A very easy way of doing that is to sing.

Steve: I feel stressed when you say that.

Jane: So sing in a car, where no one can hear you. Sing. Some people do chanting. Singing at football matches. The singing really helps to regulate that social engagement system.

Steve: So breath is a very powerful tool, isn’t it?

Jane: Breath is a very powerful tool. Children playing wood or brass instruments, they use their breath. That’s very good for children with ADHD or overactive syndromes.

What else do I ask people to do? I suggest that people orient to noises in the natural world. Birds. If you’re going for a walk in the park, or if you live in the country, orient to the birds and see if you can differentiate the birdsong. When we can hear birdsong as a human, there’s no threat. Because the birds would fly away if there’s a tiger around.

Steve: Nice.

Jane: If you can’t hear birds, your nervous system tends to be a bit more hypervigilant. If you can train yourself to orient to the birds, then you will reduce the activation.

The last really simple one is to get people to push their feet into the ground, and push their back into the back of the chair. Noticing mapping the body, which is switching on the vagal response.

Steve: All right. Thank you. Nice talking to you.

Jane: Thank you.

Marina Collard has been dancing and/or teaching movement, dance and somatic practice all her life. She is also a biodynamic craniosacral therapist. Steve Haines teaches cranial work all over the world and is the co author of ‘Cranial Intelligence – A Practical Guide To Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy’ and ‘Pain Is Really Strange’.

The video above is based on an interview with Marina in May 2015. We had just taught a post graduate workshop for craniosacral therapists on ‘Movement and Stillness’ in Switzerland. We have the run 4 successful workshops on the theme of ‘How can the relational principles of our work in craniosacral therapy be revisited from the perspective of movement?’ We explore embodiment using movement, relational touch and presence. The next workshop is in London, 22-24 Aug 2015.

An extended edited transcript of the full interview is below. What is the essence of movement? Why is presence more compelling to watch? What are the problems in ‘letting go’? Why is T12 such a great place to pay attention to when moving?

Steve: Hey, Marina. We’re teaching at Da Sein near Zurich, ‘Movement and Stillness’, our fourth go at this workshop. I’ve really enjoyed working with you. I thought I’d ask you a few questions about movement and how you perceive that.

Could you start by giving me a short overview of your career?

Marina: I started dancing when I was five, and did quite a lot of ballet for evening classes for kids and things, and just really loved it. I was a bit obsessed, and just did everything I could. Then from about the age of 13-14, I was still dancing because I really loved it, but wasn’t very comfortable in the ballet thing so much. I did jazz, was not great at that. Then at about 15 I found contemporary dance, and that was it. I kind of knew that’s what I wanted to do.

When I was 18, I did a three year training at Trinity Laban. It was a big shock, because I really didn’t know what it was, I just saw a couple of shows and thought: “I want to do that” I had a really great, really interesting training, got opened up to all kinds of things I never knew were possible, and then I’ve never stopped learning. I think that’s what has kept me in dance all this time.

Steve: You do a lot of teaching now?

Marina: Yes. From doing a lot of dancing, performing, to then teaching professional class, teaching company class, and then coming down into starting to teach at the schools. Now I spent most of my time teaching young dancers.

Steve: With the odd solo project thrown in. (Click here for a recent performance)

Marina: Yes.

Steve: At one stage, you worked with people in wheelchairs. Is that right?

Marina: Yes. I worked with Candoco Dance Company, and that was a big learning curve. Great as a dancer, but more provocative in terms of challenging and thinking of how you run a class that’s really inclusive, but challenging. You’re still training people.. With a mixed company, they’re all ambitious to get better. They all want to be pushed. How do you do that, when someone has a very different experience of their own body? There was a big learning about how I push people who might be in a wheelchair, or have cerebral palsy, or whatever. A quite different experience to what I do in my body.

Steve: We can all learn to move in different ways.

Marina: Yes. And be great performers. It’s that thing of how do you challenge someone, and how do you not fall victim to the: “I am afraid of their difference?”

Steve: Working with you over the last few years, I notice you’re always moving. What’s it like for you when you don’t move?

Marina: Horrible, and quite quickly painful. If I don’t move by the third day, I start to hurt, and it’s really uncomfortable.

Steve: When we stop moving, it quickly becomes a downward spiral, doesn’t it?

Marina: Yes. If I’m teaching class, sometimes I teach at 8:30. I am human; I don’t particularly want to dance at 8:30. I’m quite happy to just hang out and have a cup of tea. But I know that physically, my body’s happier moving than it is sitting for the rest of the day.

If I allow myself to go into that place where I start to feel pain, there’s that fine line between wanting to just stop moving completely because any movement is painful, and you just really want to retreat and fall away, and just not do anything. I know that if I can just overcome that, then I’m much better.

Steve: Nice. I think that’s true for clients, movement promotes health. The less you move, the harder it is to kick start that sense of being in a body.

Marina: Yes.

Steve: Okay. What’s the essence of moving, for you?

Marina: Being at home. Just inhabiting your own self, and your own physicality. It’s not about the shape or the aesthetic, but the engagement with being present in the body.

Steve: How does body awareness and presence then feed into movement? Is that a useful thing?

Marina: Yes, it’s critical, I think. In performance, you really need to be present, or you’re not doing the job. I think there’s a lot of inquiry into presence and what it is to perform and be present in performing for a dancer. If the actions are empty, it’s just very different. You’d have to put two dancers side by side, and see one that’s present and one that’s not, and you’d know who you want to watch.

Steve: Tell me more about that. What’s the thing about presence that makes you curious?

Marina: I think it’s the humanity. There’s a vitality and a humanity. It’s lived. There’s that thing of being in the moment; it’s vibrant and alive, and it’s being lived. It’s not still life.

Steve: Great. I’ve heard you talk a lot about problems of letting go. Often in cranio work, there’s this real emphasis on relaxation, and of letting go of tension, of something about releasing. I’ve really enjoyed hearing you talk about how that’s not always the goal. Can you expand on that a little?

Marina: Yes. I’ve had clients that seem to have this kind of big fantasy that if they could just let go, everything would resolve. I just get a bit nervous around the idea of letting go as a giving up of everything, of all of your tension. There’s something so potentially flaccid and switched-off about that, that really worries me. Yes, we don’t want to work with tension, we don’t want to be hanging on to unnecessary tension, but the muscles want to be switched on. Exactly what are we letting go of? I just find that term slightly problematic, because it usually means just flopping out.. In dance terms, it’s really injury-provoking, but it’s also a mess. I’m not interested in a flaccid body.

Steve: Really good. Also, I’ve heard you speak passionately about: “You’re not an animal at this stage.” In your performing and in your work, there’s a precise, conscious awareness, rather than descending into a more primitive state. Can you tell me about that a bit as well?

Marina: It came up on the last workshop that we did. We did some crawling, and we were looking at the movement of the spine and the switch to allowing the body to start to move itself, so you’re kind of going along for the ride. That lovely being in the moment of really listening to the body as it moves, rather than directing the body and the body goes a little bit after. When people found that in the workshop, there was this idea that it was some kind of primal thing, and that it was animalistic.

I think the tension for me is that my refinement of movement isn’t accidental; it’s years of investment and work. Where do we start, at the age of 5, or 18 when I started training, or 21 when I started working, I’m nearly 45 now; it’s a lot of inquiry, and a lot of investment, and a lot of daily practice. It’s mindful, it’s really aware, it’s highly tuned. I’m not waiting for something else.

Steve: Beautiful. Yes. It’s not a descending into primitive, it’s a learned engaging of the body that’s incredibly detailed, and nuanced, and practiced.

Marina: Yes.

Steve: How can we take the insights from movement into working as biodynamic craniosacral therapists. Traditionally in cranio work, people are very still, lying on a table. As a practitioner, sometimes the most movement I do all day is just walking to the door to let my clients in. How might you introduce principles of movement into your practice as a craniosacral therapist?

Marina: One of the things I’ve learned from you is the sense of using a movement within the context of the treatment rather than as a resultant thing. They might push a leg into the table and by changing the activity of the missing or vanishing limb or body part, it helps to switch it on and to become present.

Steve: That comes back to the earlier question. It’s not about letting go, it’s about engaging the body and switching it on. We can use precise micro-movements, we actively move the body rather than just passive receiving. In the workshop you’ve helped people do very simple things like lying in a connected, grounded way. Then just lying with your knees up and rolling, and rolling to crawling, crawling to standing, and all sorts of very small things. They’re ordinary actions, but they can involve an awful lot of precision. All of them involve, to some extent, switching on your body. We can do that in a small, repeatable ways on the table.

Marina: Yes. Of course everybody gets up and down, but paying a very particular attention to doing that invites such a different awareness of the wonderful complexity of the body. If we can be coherent in how that body functions, just moving becomes pleasurable, easier, and not something driven by the musculature.

Steve: Yes. How a slow, contained awareness in movement can really switch on our awareness. It’s much easier if you do a movement slowly, to feel your body, to be embodied, and to have that awareness of flesh and form. It’s a very quick way of helping clients meet their body; get them to do small, contained movements in precise ways, and that’s more efficient in my experience than just reaching down with the mind to try and feel things.

Marina: Yes.

Steve: The other big thing around the movement is I learn about my own body, so the more I challenge myself to move differently, the greater sense I have of my body. Is that your experience?

Marina: Yes. Definitely. It’s also overcoming the idea that movement has to be or appear a certain way, or be about the outcome or how we look. The external that can get in the way. Just by doing small things, it can bring focus deeper inside the body in terms of what’s working, rather than creating an external shape.

Steve: One last question: when I’ve been working with you, there is a lot of focus around T12, and I really enjoy hearing you talk about that. Maybe some of the key ideas around that region of the body?

Marina: Yes. I love T12. It’s just that lovely central pivot of walking, and diaphragm. In training dancers, I spend most of the time trying to connect the body. The more coherent their body is, the more efficient their movement is, the more beautiful they move and all of that, so that there an aesthetic that… There’s an outcome that can be aesthetic. Of course in these workshops that’s not what we’re interested in. It’s just that central point in the body where we can go out to fingertips and to the toes. It’s a lovely kind of cross of access, also connecting to the skull and tailbone.

Steve: There’s a very nice phrase you have about your legs hanging from your diaphragm, and that was a theme that worked very well in this workshop.

Marina: Yes. The sense of the length of the legs hanging down, and working from, the diaphragm and T12, means that the lumbars are active in our walking. The legs are not something that are just mechanically working from the hip sockets, and the spine just isn’t involved in that. There’s a real continuity from T12 right through to the feet.

Steve: Nice. Then also you’ve done work of brushing along, and up, and out the arms, and you’re keen on a connection from the arms into T12.

Marina: Yes. The sense that the arms can move with a support from underneath, rather than lifting up from the musculature at the top of the shoulders. We need to understand that connection from T12 to get it to feel that the arms are moving freely, but not disengaged. To me, the diaphragm and T12 can feel a bit like the ground to the fingertips, if the fingertips are in flight.

Steve: Just one last element I’ve heard you talk about: the sense of moving up through the heart, throat, front of the spine, up into the neck, jaw and roof of the mouth, with the root down to T12. Is that true?

Marina: Yes. I find it really useful to think about movements of the head being, again, supported from T12, diaphragm area,there’s much more continuity through the spine, so the cervicals aren’t doing more work than they need to. The body continues to connect, and the thoracics are not this solid lump in the middle of the body.

Steve: Thank you. It’s been great working with you for the last four days.

Marina: You, too.

bi wiki skull dasein split bi wiki skull dasein split left vomer bi wiki skull dasein split right fused sbj bi wiki skull dasein lateral inferior

I have just uploaded some photos of a real skull. The skull lives at the Da Sein Institut near Zurich.

It has been split in half, so you get some great views of the facial complex, the fused sphenobasiliar junction (thats not moving anytime soon) and the vomer

You can see all the images, and much more, here:


Social Engagement Traffic Lights v1

Social Engagement Cranial Nerves v1

simple hands v2

I love biodynamic craniosacral therapy; the art of using touch to support health. When you touch people they change. It is that simple.

Many people struggle with safety; it can be hard work negotiating being in the body. Coming into relationship with a skilled therapist can ease the pain. The inherent drive for self-regulation within our physiology is very powerful. Appreciating how the human body strives for health, and how health is expressed as coherence, connection, and a pulsing flow, is the skill of cranial work.

The essence of my work uses presence, education, movement, and touch to help people reconnect with health. I use embodied presence supported via non-doing touch.

Awe and wonder is a huge part of biodynamics. It is mesmerising being alive, being conscious, and being part of nature. There is is lot of spirituality in the writing about biodynamics. It often over complicates the simple process of touch. When people use the word spirit I just insert the word nature. Spirit does not speak to my experience, it is frequently far too speculative. There are many responses to the mystery of why there is ‘something other than nothing’. Religious frameworks are not part of my practice or teaching of biodynamic craniosacral therapy. I find they tend to obscure and confuse the simple path to the body.

The other big complication for me in the field of cranial work is a focus on alignment models. I am deeply uninterested in the position of bones and in trying to line up, stretch, and balance tissues if the focus is on an external model of how something should be positioned. Cranial work, despite the unfortunate name, is really not about how bones in the skull move. Sutherland’s model is in urgent need of an update in the light of so little evidence supporting rocking bones. The head probably creaks and accommodates tensions in membranes and muscles, but it is becoming increasingly hard to justify more than that.

There is wonderful evidence to support what happens in biodynamic cranial session. There is good science on the power of mindfulness and presence, touch feeding our sense of self, and on how education about pain and the nervous system works as a tool to relieve pain. We know that being in relationship with other people and the wild and natural world supports health. There are clear models on how interacting with the neurology of creating safety helps to overcome trauma. Systems theory helps us understand how intelligence emerges from complexity. That is a lot of great stuff without recourse to mysticism, esoteric anatomy and outdated paradigms of ‘issues in the tissues’.

Keeping it simple is my constant goal. I try to be as present as I can whilst using a light touch. As the relationship deepens I can be a witness to the patterns held in my client’s gently pulsing body. Something happens, always.

Easy really.

Asprey labrador


Above is a great audio clip on how the old parts of the brain can govern behaviour. The clip is from a talk by Dave Asprey. I am never entirely sure about many bio hacking claims, but this is a novel way of explaining the triune brain.

Note Asprey is talking about an untraumatised brain. Even without trauma, the old parts of our brain are easily distractable, prone to trigger random eating, focused on sex and biased to hardwired reflexes in response to danger. In a sensitised nervous system the reptile and mammalian elements react even quicker and limit the prefrontal cortex even more.

I like the idea of the energy economy of the body being stacked to deal with reptile brain, then mammal brain, and only then conscious processing. So, for example, if there is inflammation or toxicty in your liver (Asprey is very keen on not stressing the liver with molds) then the resources of your system will be diverted to the liver by the reptile brain. You will not be able to think clearly or maintain energy, focus and willpower.

Watching the video made be think of an old friend – Mike The Headless Chicken. Another example of how many of functions can be done without thinking. For Asprey that is scary – we need to learn how to exert control on these unconscious systems or they will control us. He likes meditation, gratitude, sleep and clean diet, all aided by bio feedback, as good starting points to influence what is happening in the old parts of your brain.


Mike the headless chicken


Our body’s emergency control centre – the amygdala. The amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped structures on the left and right of the brain’s medial temporal lobe, is particularly involved in emotional memories like fear, but also in pleasurable memories associated with food, sex, or recreational drug use. When a memory is particularly striking and unexpected, it activates this emotional memory system.

Nice article on fear and memory and some research on how to change memory.

They talk of giving beta blockers within 6 hours of a traumatic event (being used by the Israeli army) or stimulating the fear response some time later and then giving beta blockers (done on rats and a small human study). The beta blockers down regulate sympathetic activity. The goal is to uncouple the memory from the fear response.

Cranial touch, presence and being in relationship whilst someone is meeting the edge of a difficult memory could perform the same role as beta blockers.

  • “This suggests, says Phelps, that flashbulb memories differ from memories of more neutral events not because the details of the memory are preserved any better, but because we think they are. “With highly traumatic events we think we have this incredibly accurate memory,” she says. The truth is, many of the details we think are accurate are not. “Emotion focuses your attention on a few details, at the expense of a lot of others,”
  • We’re not changing your knowledge of what happened. We’re just changing its association with these fight or flight stress responses that we get”


Ged: ‘I’ve got this thing that you need to get to a sort of proficient skill level, then we’re all the same; all practitioners are equally effective. You don’t need to be in practice for 20 years. You know what I mean? It’s like the body needs a certain amount of skilful listening. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter, it can do it itself.’

You can download the transcript here http://bit.ly/ged-steve-2014-04-transcript


Ged: As you get more experienced and you’re in practice longer, I think it’s fairly typical that you do get simpler. I think that just goes across the board about anything actually. Don’t you think the more expert you get tends to be..? You just know the terrain, you know the way the body moves in these sessions. It tends to morph and shift in very idiosyncratic ways. Plus, I think your touch just becomes much more knowing. It’s like: “Yeah, I’ve felt that many, many times. Oh, that’s the pulls of the liver.” Or: “That’s a membranous, this or that. That’s the cymatics. Now there’s a visceral thing going on. There’s the vertebral column,” and so on.

I think that just starts to colour in wonderfully, so you know that. You know the feeling of: what’s the body doing in terms of health? How much health is showing? Maybe that’s one of the biggest things actually. Thinking back in time, I’m not sure… I think I’ve got better at relating to health, listening to health, and actually what it is. What’s the feel of health? Even people who are not well at all, chronic this or that, really strong pathologies – sometimes I touch them and think: “What pathology?” Because I think you’ve just become very honed at the skill of listening to the vitality of the body.

Read the rest of this entry »

myodural bridge

Myodural Bridge, Enix DE et al 2014 J Can Chiropr Assoc 58: 184

Myodural Bridges

This is a great review of connections between the sub occipital muscles and the cervical dura. There are some more images in the article. Here is David Butler discussing the anatomy:

The Myodural Bridge
‘What a name! I was always intrigued by the difference between a group of patients who could quite easily elongate their upper cervical extensor muscles (“pull your chin in”) and another group where upper cervical flexion was particularly sensitive and easily evoked headache. The repeated clinical anecdote is that the second group can flex their upper cervical spines more easily in sitting or even better, in supine with their knees flexed. This may well unload the myodural bridge.
Myodural bridges are connections between the cervical dura mater and the cervical extensor muscles. These connections probably anchor the dura and stop it folding in on the cord when you look up and extend your head back (Hack et al 1995, Rutten et al. 1997). This may have been an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors as they gazed up in awe at the firmament! There is a great recent review out by Enix et al (2014), updating the anatomy of the bridges including sub occipital bridges and proposing clinical implications. Think of it next time you are having a look at a patient’s posture as they sit in front of you with their worries and concerns? or ask someone to tuck their chin in. It also remind us that everything is kind of joined up in the body; discrete anatomy is for the textbooks.‘ David Butler NOI notes July 2014

Enix DE et al (2014) The cervical myodural bridge, a review of literature and clinical implications. J Can Chiropr Assoc 58: 184

Atlantoaxial Instability

Here is a good article on why it pays to be cautious in bodywork. I am so glad I do not introduce strong forces into the neck when I work. The biodynamic paradigm makes working with the upper neck and cranial base much safer. I was taught tests for vertebrobasilar insufficiency at chiropractic college but not that much about atlantoaxial instability.

‘Either atlantoaxial instability or vertebrobasilar insufficiency causes severe dizziness and vomiting after massage therapy, with lessons for health care consumers’


Pain Throw Amputated Leg

This is a great story of how extreme the body can be in prioritising threat.

Pain has a geography in the body. Suffering is a bigger category and existential?

This is tricky territory, hence the question mark.1

My view is that in pain there is an explicit representation that involves the body. Considering suffering as initially experienced through thoughts and emotions is a broader category that acknowledges that thoughts feel primarily psychological. Of course mental events have correlates in body physiology, they have to; there is no such thing as a pure thought or pure mind outside of body.2 However it is an achievement to be embodied. Tracking psychology, thought, or emotion in our bodies is a skill that requires practice and discipline.

It is not efficient to always track every sensation associated with a thought, in exactly the same way that it is not efficient to track every muscle we contract to pick up a glass of water. The goal of the brain is predictions and outputs that work quickly in nature. When we are suffering and in pain then retraining our brain to operate differently necessitates bringing awareness to the steps that make up our thoughts and movements. Only then can we can chose to assemble the simple building blocks of how we think and move in more optimum, non painful ways.

‘I think this is a quote from Antonio Damasio that is worth repeating: “The mind is embodied, not embrained.”
Let’s consider some of the evidence that shows how important the body is to the mind. For example, the role of emotion. We’ve talked in the past about the importance of the parts of the brain that monitor the body’s internal state. Antonio Damasio is the one that has shown that when parts of the frontal lobe that are involved with getting emotional input are damaged, a person can’t even make decisions. So we need the body’s input. That’s why separating the brain out by itself is a dangerous example of reductionism. It’s the whole person that has experiences, not the brain.’ Ginger Campbell (2009)3

Pain is a conscious experience

‘Pain is an unpleasant conscious experience that emerges from the brain when the sum of all the available information suggests that you need to protect a particular part of your body.’ Lorimer Moseley4

You cannot be in pain and not know about it. Your body can be working poorly, be inhibited, have silent tumors growing, and have metabolic disorders humming away all outside of your awareness. That is disease. Pain is something that grabs attention as the brain decides the information it is receiving is dangerous. The goal of acute pain is to change behaviour to protect.

The body has other ways of changing behaviour. Tiredness is an output that limits behaviour, it is also a conscious perception like pain. Interestingly inflammation is increasingly being understood as a protective output, in parallel to pain but led by the immune system.5 However inflammation has the difference of running outside of our awareness and is non-conscious.

A consequence of embodied awareness is that as you pay attention and learn to feel you may suffer more. What you learn to feel is your suffering. Often as people come out of dissociation what they encounter is pain. The strategy of cutting off from sensation occurred because something was too much. This is why pacing and resources and are essential when meeting the body if there has been trauma. Levine (2010)6 offers that health is the ability to hold increasingly intense sensations and not get activated.

‘Let me tell you something really, really shocking. As late as the 1970’s young infants in hospitals, having major operations, including amputations, are having them without any form of anaesthetic, let alone analgesic.’ Jonna Bourke7

In the 18th century the baby was seen as exquisitely sensitive, there was a shift in 1870’s to infants being considered not at all sensitive and this continued for another century. Small children were not perceived to experience pain in the same ways as adults, it was thought you needed to have the capacity to suffer to feel pain. Presumably babies were thought to have no self consciousness and no memory. Oh dear, a sad example of why clear understanding of pain matters.


1 Bourke (2014 p60-62) gives a good discussion of pain versus suffering and relates it to an historical split between mind and body:

‘Finally, astute readers will already have noticed that I am using the terms pain and suffering interchangeably. It used to be radical to question the distinction between the mind and the body. Not any more. The assumption that there is a clear distinction between the mind (characterized as disembodied, rational, computational, and male) and the body (caricatured as presocial, emotional, impetuous, and female) has been attacked from all sides. Feminists have led the assault on the representation of the mind as some kind of superior, active, unique entity, which ‘feeds’ information to a passive, universal, and inferior physiology. In more recent decades, though, anthropologists, social scientists, and cognitive scientists have enthusiastically joined in the skirmish. Historians have been relatively slow to commit themselves.

Of course, people-in-pain typically highlight one aspect of the pain-event over another (I am in physical pain because I burnt myself while making coffee; I am psychologically suffering because I have fought with my lover). The Cartesian distinction between body and spirit or soul is deeply embedded in our culture. Nevertheless, mental pain always involves physical events – neurochemical, muscular nervous, and so on – and physical pain does not exist without a mental component. My burn depresses me; my sadness weighs down my body. As physician and writer David Biro astutely argues in ‘Is There Such a Thing as Psychological Pain? And Why it Matters’ (2010), ‘psychic distress can itself be painful in a meaningful sense, that it can be phenomenologically akin to physical pain, and, therefore, should be categorized under the same rubric’. Furthermore, the Cartesian distinction made between ‘bodily pain’ and ‘psychological distress’ (often denigrated as the difference between ‘real pain’ and its ‘psychosomatic’ variety) has done a vast amount of ideological work for physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, the pharmaceutical industry, and chronic pain patients. For researchers in the arts and humanities as well as in the sciences, however, mind/body dichotomies have been an impediment to scholarship. There are many grounds to be suspicious of them, including the vast scientific and medical scholarship that demonstrates the interconnectedness between physiological and mental processes. Bodies are actively engaged in the processes that constitute painful sensations. Mindfulness is engaged in a dialogue with physiological bodies. And culture collaborates in the creation of physiological bodies and linguistic systems. The body is mind-ful and the mind is embodied.’

2 Another very tricky bit: no pure, independent mind is the materialist view. Dualists and religions argue that mind/soul is distinct and independent from the body.

3 Campbell, G. (2009) Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? Brain Science Podcast Episode #53: Aired January 17, 2009

4 Mikkelsen S. (2014) Notes on Lorimer Moseley lecture 7 June 2014. Facebook post. https://www.facebook.com/ManuellterapeutSigurdMikkelsen?fref=ts. Accessed 17 July 2014 Manuellterapeut Sigurd Mikkelsen

5 ibid

6 Levine P. (2010) In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

7 Bourke J. (2014) The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers. Oxford University Press. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b046j8z5  Interview July 2014 @10.00mins.


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