‘Soft Spine, Bony Spine, Fluid Movement and Structural Integrity’ – is the title of a workshop I’m running in Suffolk this weekend. In preparation, I explored some of these themes with my classes during week. We began with a look at a picture of the vertebral column – the bony spine. Then we looked at this picture showing the brain and its connection to the spinal cord – ‘the tail of the brain’.
There are spaces within the brain (ventricles) and there are spaces around the brain, around the spinal cord and within the spinal cord. These spaces are filled with fluid – Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF). There is interplay between the bones of the skull, the sacrum and the CSF – creating the ‘cranio-sacral rhythm’.
After looking at the pictures and discussing them, class members chose partners and practised a ‘hands on’ exercise where one person lay down on his/her side; the other person placed one hand to head and one hand to sacrum. (see pic) The aim was to stay present, be aware and to support rest, rather than ‘doing’ anything. We spent several minutes quietly observing any sensations.
To bring the exercise to a close, the ‘giving person’ gently stroked the mid back of the ‘receiving person’. This is a gentle way to return the nervous system to a more alert state from the dreamy, restful, cranio-sacral place.
When we discussed the exercise, a lot of people said they’d felt a pulsation or wave and that they found the experience very relaxing. One person saw colours. We discussed Craniosacral therapy and the benefits people had gained from the treatment. In a simple, basic way we were working with a principle of Craniosacral therapy.
This quotation by Sandra Sabatini resonates with what we were doing in class:
how we respond to something
very very simple
like the earth below
the warmth of hands
silence and space”
The CSF moves slowly and has a timeless, spacious quality. During asana practice I suggested students move their awareness inside the bony container of their vertebral column and skull, to the soft spine and brain – floating in CSF – and then see if they could initiate movement from there – from the soft spine. I also encouraged students to visualise the fluid-filled spaces within the brain in Warrior 1 to create a sensation of spaciousness and weightlessness.
We spent longer in the poses than usual, to resonate with the pauses in the flow of CSF and its slow and sustained quality. Then as an experiment I introduced three killer arm balances – variations of Vasisthasana – one after another to see if the effortless and weightless qualities could be maintained.