Where do you move your limbs from? I guess in terms of body mechanics most people would say the hip and shoulder joints along with the spine. However there’s another story, a story of fascial connectivity. You move your limbs from your Thoracolumbar Fascia (TLF).  This is a key natural fulcrum in the fascial network of the body. The fascia fulcrums off the lumbar, lower thoracic and sacral areas. It is integral in offering an anchor for smooth movement of the body limbs and the cranium. Like all fascias it’s part of the connective tissue body and fascias from key muscles blend into it. In particular from the trapezius muscle via the nuchal fascia therefore connecting it to the back of the head, the latissimus dorsi connecting it to the arms and the gluteus maximus connecting it to the legs. The three biggest muscles in the body. Here’s an experiential exercise to help you connect with it and then a movement exercise to notice how you engage it when you walk.

awareness exercise:

Open up to whole body awareness. Drop into sensations. Open up to the felt sense of your arms and legs within whole body awareness. Take a couple of minutes to do this and at the same time connect with the feel of the TLF which is diamond shaped. Now you have opened up to the natural fascial connection between your limbs and this important fascia. How does it feel? Do you have a clear sense of relationship between all the limbs and the fascial diamond. Finally open up to the connection between the back of your head through the trapezius. Does that feel like a vivid felt sense. Now stay with the relationship of all four limbs and the cranium with the fascia and follow how it reorganises itself.

movement exercise:

Stand still for a minute and become aware of your alignment. Open up laterally to your sides and to your front and back so you can orient in space. Find the connection between your TLF and your limbs and cranium. Now slowly walk forwards for about ten paces and notice the movement and relationship between these places. Do you feel like you are walking from this fascial meeting place?  Or somewhere else? Turn around and walk another ten paces just observing how things move together. Now if you can, try running and notice how you engage with the fascia at the bottom of your spine. Notice too how your running changes as you keep a gentle awareness to the fascial relationships.

treatment exercise:

The next time someone comes into your treatment room and you make a contact with their sacrum or lumbosacral area. Invite a relationship to the TLF along with its natural fascial flow to the limbs and cranium and just observe how the body responds and tries to bring these important relationships into optimal balance.

Ged Sumner and Steve Haines in Conversation, March 2018, Calgary

Part 3: Teaching and Transformation, Transcript


‘It’s quite a journey, coming through the training.’ Ged Sumner


‘What is it to perceive? What is it to know? What is it to try to facilitate that in someone else?’ Steve Haines



Ged:    I notice people go through incredibly powerful transformations. When you came into the course, you must have noticed this. It has just become more and more remarkable, hasn’t it? What do you make of that?

Steve:  I always find the last graduation seminar incredibly moving, because all of the stories about how cranial work has changed people’s lives. People do the course for many reasons, but one of the big things, and one of the hardest things when you’re attempting to work in a healing profession, is meeting yourself. That’s one of the big processes we explore as we put people through a journey of personal growth – to meet the projections, stories, and fears that get in the way of you being present for someone else. To be present for someone else, you have to learn to be present for yourself.

We have some very rich teaching material around meditation exercises. Your book on Body Intelligence Meditation is a really wonderful piece of work that’s come out of our teaching experience. Giving people a real structure about somatic meditation, and coming into a sense of safety.

Out of that rich work is practicing staying present to yourself and being able to be present for someone else. Even if you don’t go on to become a craniosacral therapist with a practice, that’s a life skill that you can use to negotiate all the struggles of life and interactions with difficult, challenging people.

Ged:    Yes. It’s quite a journey, coming through the training. It’s just 10 modules and 20-odd months, but actually it’s quite intense in a way. People go through the most remarkable ups and downs, and the way the therapy has become this process-oriented phenomenon, and obviously students go through that as well. At the same time, there’s this learning space which is very open. I don’t think we’re dogmatic; it’s like an open exploration – I love that.

Steve:  Absolutely. Different courses go in different directions, but there’s a chance for real rich exploration, real intellectual depth, and satisfying models around how pain works trauma works, and: “What’s an emotion?”

Also an attempt to meet the mystery of life and acknowledge what I call, “embodied spirituality,” the sense we connect to ourselves, connect to others, connect to nature, connect to mystery; and a chance to directly experience that, through my relationship to myself, through my relationship to other people; and then trying to feel into the space around us, what we call a relational field.

That somehow enhances our sense of who we are; we can include more in our sense of self. That generates all sorts of interesting belief systems that we try to create an open space for, without imposing a form of spiritual belief, but really just an inquiry into the mystery: “What is it to perceive? What is it to know? What is it to try to facilitate that in someone else?”

That’s very, very rich; and leads us endlessly into interesting discussions and places based on the experience that people are continually trying to create a space where we’re meeting something that’s more than just a narrow, conditioned human being; but something that expands and includes their history, but also their relationship to the world as it is around them right now.

That’s a lot, isn’t it?

Ged:    Yes, it’s amazing. How do we do that?

Steve:  Yeah, I know. It’s just fun. It just naturally emerges from people inquiring into health with this philosophy of non-doing, but being present to a body.

Ged:    Kind of spontaneous and intuitive in the relationship, totally. I like what has occurred over the 10 years the program has been going where we’ve really given permission for tutors to be who they are, because I think we both recognize you are a unique expression of biodynamic work; and therefore, people need to teach from where they are with it. I really like that.

Steve:  Most courses will have a range of senior tutors, two or three I suspect, and we’ve really learned to celebrate that different tutors bring different things to a course; and that’s really, really valuable. Things I get really excited about I know would annoy the hell out of some other teachers, and we allow that.

We do have a structure and there’s core material that we’ve laid out, and we’ve learnt to teach in a variety of ways; but within that, we can allow contradictions and allow an ability to find your own truth and answer to those mysterious questions with this deep ongoing practice of touch, relationship, and meditative awareness.

Ged:    Yes.

Ged Sumner and Steve Haines in Conversation, March 2018, Calgary

Part 2: About Body Intelligence, Transcript


‘One of the things we’re really good at is a really down-to-earth, a stripped-down version of biodynamics, really focusing on simple and practical interventions that work consistently.’ Steve Haines


‘What we do in the course is empower people to feel confident about treating a whole range of clients, so they can go out there and actually do that, and have a full-mixed practice with all kinds of people.’ Ged Sumner


Steve:  Ged, Body Intelligence is huge now, isn’t it?

Ged:    Yes.

Steve:  In over 40 cities, been going for 10 years. We’ve rocked out a lot of graduates. What do you think are the core things about body intelligence?

Ged:    I think it has gone through a beautiful evolution, from the first training back in 2008. I like what we do in terms of that we’re constantly tweaking the program and obviously we’ve changed some bits quite powerfully. I like the: “Let’s orient to the neuroendocrine-immune system,” I think that’s one of the big fixtures of the course. You might not say that in some of the seminars, but it’s an underlying process, really. It’s just such a powerful place.

Steve:  It fits with your model of fluidity as one of the central features.

Ged:    Totally.

Steve:  Not just the nervous system, but a fluid chemical milieu where cells communicate and processes stream. I agree, that’s a big part of what we teach. What are the other key features?

Ged:    Simplicity of touch. We’ve really honed-down what we do in touch fairly well. There’s a lot more to go, but the orientation to felt sense awareness and getting people to come into connection with all of that through a whole series of exercises has spearheaded the way into the practitioner embodying in a very quick and powerful way.

I’m actually amazed at how quickly people do it. Go away, do a few felt sense awareness exercises, and then suddenly people are breathing better, walking better, and thinking better. It’s quite amazing. You need that in the practitioner, don’t you, really?

Steve:  Yeah. One of the things we’re really good at, one of the things I’ve learnt from being around you, is a really down-to-earth, a stripped-down version of biodynamics, really focusing on simple and practical interventions that work consistently.

I always say one of my biggest learning experiences was running a student clinic with you. We had a big room, a screen in the middle, and it was chaotic. Not your normal middle-class people coming for cranial work, but people from a housing estate who have smoked too much, drank too much; and had really difficult, challenging lives. In the chaos – students were there, you could hear what was going on – we did really beautiful work without having some of the things that can be associated with cranial work. It can feel a little precious sometimes trying to create a certain space; whereas this is: Be safe in your body right now and we can be safe in a relationship, whatever the chaos around us. That real ability to find that ground is a simple quality: Let’s just touch, feel, explore, and play with that, without needing to worry too much about strange biomechanics or worrying to much about expanded notions of spirituality. It’s just: Let’s touch, and feel, and explore.

Ged:    I’m the same as you. That emphasis on clinical work, clinical practice and treating real people who are out there with all kinds of health issues and struggles in their lives – I love the way this therapy can meet people where they’re at, whatever is going on for them.

I like the way we always talk about different case studies and these different clients you might come in contact with, right from acute to chronic; people coming in with Parkinson’s or coming in with a bit of a lower-back issue – it works for all those things.

What we do in the course is empower people to feel confident about treating a whole range of clients, so they can go out there and actually do that, and have a full-mixed practice with all kinds of people.

Ged Sumner and Steve Haines in Conversation, March 2018, Calgary

Part 1: What is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Transcript


‘A self-organizing, self-regulating organism that expresses health through coherence and rhythmic pulses. Generally, the slower the rhythm, the more seems to be included, the more someone’s sense of their self expands.’ Steve Haines


‘People seem uninformed, a bit baffled about what’s going on within them at times; and the richness of the trauma model in our training is stunning. In a way I feel like I’m offering that to clients and saying: “Hey, your system is hyper aroused,” because that can be quite a surprise to people, or: “Your system has gone to a freeze mode, and you have a degree of dissociation.” Just to name those things is so remarkable.’ Ged Sumner


Ged:    We should talk about: What is biodynamic craniosacral therapy? I’m just wondering how it is for you at the moment, what’s interesting, and: What are the important features of the work at the moment?

Steve:  It’s gotten simpler and simpler for me, endlessly simple. The most important thing is we’re about embodiment, so: “Creating safety in a body through relational touch,” relational touch is a really nice phrase we use a lot. Just the simple power of feeling connected to the inner world, of often very messy, feelings – we have an enormous skill and helping people meet and negotiate a difficult territory.

The difference with us from most other therapies is non-doing, so a very permissive, gentle exploration. It’s not primarily verbal. The verbal skills can be a very important, adjunct to the work, but it’s an embodied negotiation, an interactive process of meeting messy sensations and exploring the business of feeling.

Ged:   Good. I like the simple thing a lot, because that’s what’s happened for me; this touch, presence, contact, and felt sense awareness just seems to be the order of the day. It’s really starting to explore that whole world, really. I feel like it’s just opened up.

It’s all about health and orientation to what’s going on in terms of wellbeing and how the body’s health is organizing the physiology. That’s changed my practice enormously – I just got really good at listening to health and its expressions, in me and in clients.

Steve:  What do you think the key feature of health is, as we experience it?

Ged:    Probably the fluid body, what we call the fluid body. It’s a beautiful concept, that Sutherland had originally, that’s just still a big deal. I think that when people’s bodies are going in to that amazing amorphous state and just start to drop into a fluid body state and then their inner wholeness – they’re in an amazing high-potent place where suddenly they can re-organize themselves with a degree of ease.

Steve:  I agree. That feature of a self-organizing, self-regulating organism that expresses health through a sense of coherence and rhythmic pulses. Generally, the slower the rhythm, the more seems to be included, the more someone’s sense of their self expands. Very much an inside-out process for me, but a sense of deepening into connection, and that’s expressed as a rhythmic body. All sorts of rhythms, but the sense of everything coalescing into a coherent tune or song – I like that metaphor: An orchestra coming together to create a coherent tune.

Ged:   It’s coming back to original health and wholeness. We use those words a lot, coming back to that embryonic baby state that life can disrupt and you can get all kinds of fragmentations in the body. The beauty of this work is allowing people to find that again; and the fluid body being, in a way, an ability to almost go underneath the autonomics, just drop away from it a little bit. We see people – don’t we? – just going very still, finding this fluid expression, and then coming back into their physiology and doing the most remarkable reorganizations. What are we doing? We’re sitting there in a very simple place, aren’t we?

Steve:  Yes, but, creating some boundaries around a slow, gentle introduction to finding safety. Sometimes when we begin to feel or meet those places it’s unusual, strange, and scary sometimes; but that ability to have a guide, a witness, or a facilitator to that process really enhances.

There’s a really important point for me around trauma-informed body work. Absolutely about the body, absolutely about the joy and sense of ease that can happen through embodiment, but recognizing that bodies can get stuck in overwhelming patterns and get lost. There’s this huge understanding of dissociation. Sometimes a long, slow journey of reconnection and coming out of dissociative states, as well as turning town overactive chronic contractions, and tightnessess, and holdings.

Ged:   Totally. That’s been a big advance for the last 15-20 years, just this idea the therapy is trauma-resolution therapy, and that is superb. I just don’t know anything like it. People come in with decades of trauma sitting in their physiology, and straight away the body is trying to do something about it.

How do we even do that? Part of it is a balanced awareness. We’re sitting there in a mutual state, but I think it’s understanding the nature of trauma, and how it feels, and this idea that the body needs a safe space. The relational feel idea has become about a safe space, really.

Steve:  The part about understanding is really important. For me it’s very important that my clients are actively engaged in the process. Part of that is a clarity around: “You’re not mad, bad, and broken,” but there’s reflexes inside you that are running and high-jacking the functioning.

To give people a framework where they have agency, and the ability to act, feel, and negotiate these difficult states. This is not just done through the therapist, though primarily that’s the initial starting point, but it’s really people taking away skills where they can ongoingly learn to check in with feelings and feel safe in that space, and negotiate more and more complex and difficult sensations out in the real world.

I really don’t like the idea of cranial work as a passive process where we do something to someone. I don’t like my clients falling to sleep, sometimes people are just exhausted and you have to let that system recover. This development of a quite precise, nuanced, detailed awareness and ability to track and negotiate the sensations – that’s a huge part of what we do. Education around how bodies work, what it is possible to feel, and then skills building to interact with complex feelings.

Ged:   As they arise, yeah.

Steve:  That’s inherently empowering, the idea that pain, anxiety, depression, existential angst is all something you can negotiate, and you can find safety to reconstruct and unpick that, and find safety within that.

Ged:   That’s a beautiful thing. It’s an education process these days. People seem uninformed, a bit baffled about what’s going on within them at times; and the richness of the trauma model in our training is stunning. In a way I feel like I’m offering that to clients and saying: “Hey, your system is hyper aroused,” because that can be quite a surprise to people, or: “Your system has gone to a freeze mode, and you have a degree of dissociation.” Just to name those things is so remarkable.

Steve:  I like that inherently there are intelligent processes in the body, so there are mechanisms that are striving for health, intelligence in the nervous system, but intelligence in this fluid cellular body, so the immune system; and this sense of information flowing is something that we can feel, like we feel a surge in the blood flow or a softening in tissues, or something reorganizes in terms of reflexes and there’s a ripple or a shiver that goes through the body.

I don’t do much more complex than that, actually. There’s flows, shifts, morphings, ripples, tightnesses, something warms up, something gets colder – that’s plenty to support someone to feel engaged. Then we dialogue, maybe, their experience of what it is and how they create meaning out of that.

Ged:   It’s fantastic that people can strongly respond as well. They can be a little shocked by that. We’re holding their head or the sacrum, and the body is getting into some quite serious connection to health and reorganization of body.

I love the body workness of this therapy, because it is such a body work. In a way, for me, it’s got more about that. People’s spines are shifting around and their fascial body is doing some kind of remarkable reframing, and so on. It’s just absolutely so special. Then the organ systems’ art form. Then the brain seems to be doing this remapping and coming back into the beautiful neural balance. That just seems to be all of the day, really.

Not that long ago I couldn’t really feel the central nervous system, and now it’s just coming through in this beautiful glory and everything is talking to each other in a very new way.


The other day i was in an art gallery and there was a main atrium area with a domed glass roof. For quite a long time i felt myself just stand there and stare motionless.  It felt like i’d gone into a stillpoint automatically.  I also felt my body adjusting along its length in remarkable ways. Then i realised that the dome was effecting my inner domes. We have our own domes. The body has lots of them in particular the dome of the cranium. Domes of buildings resonate powerfully with the cranial dome. It’s a bit like the dome of your building. There’s some remarkable resonances through the body’s domes from top to bottom. To name a few: Dome of the mouth.  Dome of the diaphragm. Dome of the feet. There’s a feeling when you enter a building that has a big dome as the roof.  it could be a museum, a holy place or a gallery. The feeling is of space and connection. The undertow to it though is the effect it has into your system as a resonance. 

Here’s an awareness exercise to access your domes……….Try standing with an easy posture. Spend a minute making sure you are relaxed in your legs and joints and come into a sense of alignment. Check in with your breath. Stand still for a couple of minutes. Open up to the earth below and know that this is curved too like a dome as is the sky above you.  Let your inner domes resonate with the earth and the sky and track through your felt sense awareness what starts to change in your body. Particularly certain areas and regions. Which structures do you notice become highlighted? Stay with it for five minutes or more and you will feel how remarkably your system transforms.

04_cranial_perspective_v06 steve haines 600px

Biodynamic craniosacral therapy is an interactive process of embodied connection. The main tool is non-doing, relational touch, informed by meditative awareness. Biodynamics is a simple and powerful practice that supports presence, groundness and health.

Craniosacral therapy is an active engaging with the complex business of feeling. There is an explicit goal of supporting embodiment and perceptions of safety inside the individual.

In the dynamic of relational touch, there is the potential for new feelings, new stories and new meanings to arise. Truth emerges as a shared story between client and therapist, informed by phenomena of being within a sensitive organism. We aim to generate concepts that promote health and sensations of joy, ease and agency.

We are shaped by experience. Biodynamics attempts to work with the whole person and the totality of their story. From pre and perinatal experiences, to adverse childhood events, to being embedded in oppressive and unequal power structures in society and culture. We support people to self-regulate and develop resilience in the face of a morass of intense, and often overwhelming, feelings, drives and behaviours.

There is a enormous power inside all of us to learn and grow from adverse experiences. We have a body that is self organising and always striving for harmony. Health is expressed as connection and coherence in a rhythmically pulsing body. In biodynamics health is met as an active seeking for balance that is inherent to being alive.

Biodynamics, as taught by Body Intelligence, is trauma-aware bodywork informed by neuroscience and pain research. We aim for coherence, clarity and repeatability and avoid complex esoteric anatomy. ‘Keep it simple’ is one of our mantras.

However simple is not simplistic. We teach in-depth understanding of the anatomy of the body and the physiology and psychology of the defence cascade in response to the perception of threat. People learn life changing skills to support down regulation of overprotective reflexes. We celebrate complexity in our ability to make and remake meaning as we respond to body events and stimuli.

Biodynamics is fundamentally hopeful in our belief that even the most painful stories and constructs can be reshaped with the right support and enough resources.

Body Intelligence focuses on down-to-earth biodynamics, stripped of outdated biomechanic paradigms, cautious of mysticism and of imposing spiritual paradigms on healing. Embodied spirituality is explored as a sense of connection to self, to others, to nature and to mystery. The wider field of connection is rooted in deep embodiment.

Biodynamics is a process of learning how to feel with the therapist as a somatic guide. A guide who is focused on supporting clarity and connection to the world of sensations. A guide who is skilful in promoting self regulation to safely discharge cycling defence cascades. A guide who can help us feel more than our history and open doors to new feelings of joy, connection and ease.

Steve Haines




20 mins of Steve interviewing Ged


On being a good enough practitioner:

‘You don’t need to be this absolutely perfect example of being completely sorted out and balanced, but you need to have some ability in your own system to be able to modulate your own system and to just be settled around trauma states.’

On the main presentations in clinic work:

‘Hyperarousal and hypoarousal. Without a shadow of a doubt. That’s what everybody is suffering from, isn’t it?’

‘The more embodied people are, the more in contact with the living presence within them – the better they do. They’re happier. There’s joy. The mind, the brain, the central nervous system runs better. Hormones like that kind of environment as well.’

On the core assumptions of cranial work:

‘Are we that interested in the movement of cranial bones? It just seems a bit of a sideshow, to me. All of those things that are barely interesting anymore. It’s about organic, natural processes taking place through a whole number of systems in the body.’

Below is the full text of the transcript. You can also download the transcript as a pdf  6Q Ged 2015-12-04 v2

(NB This podcast is Steve interviewing Ged – coming soon Ged interviewing Steve for 20mins)

Read the rest of this entry »

Slime mould has long fascinated the cranial community. The 1950’s film by W Seifriz is shown on biodynamic cranial courses worldwide. The protoplasm of slime mould shows rhythmic flow at 50 sec cycles – the same rate as long tide as described by Rollin Becker.

The Creeping Garden – video trailer above – is a whole film about slime mould. In the trailer you can see the flow and its natural reversal. I have not seen the film but it looks great (not sure how to get a copy from poking around their website, not sure it has been released?). There is a book of the film.

Aeon Magazine

‘Intelligence is often regarded as residing in some form of central processor that filters information and sends instructions. But an organism without organs – the slime mould – threatens this conception, suggesting that intelligence could be a distributed phenomenon.’  Aeon Magazine

The Creeping Garden

‘There’s something mysterious about organless plasmodial slime mould that suggests intelligence where we least expect it’

Quotes from Seifriz

‘The rhythmic forces in protoplasm are even more basic than the flow.’

‘The rhythm has continued underneath, so to speak, even though the protoplasm has been asleep, there is still something going on. We must be very close indeed to the question ‘What is Life?’’

‘There is not one rhythm in protoplasm but many rhythms. Protoplasm is a polyrhythmic system.’

Seifriz W (1950?) The Protoplasm of a Slime Mold DVD

‘One of the things that makes people special is we are so social, we are hyper social……social capabilities are a key part of what we think of as our own awareness.’ Graziano

Currently reading Michael Graziano’s book ‘Consciousness and Social Brain’. His theory presents awareness of ourselves and awareness of minds in others – social awareness – as a fundamental feature of how brains construct consciousness.

He does all of that with out referencing Stephen Porges or mirror neutrons. Brains rely on social awareness, its just deep in the fabric of how we function. Really interesting so far (and relatively easy to read for a book on consciousness.)

Here is a good blog laying out some of the main theory.

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.

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