What Is the Cranial Rhythm?

Carl Hendel,M.D.


Dr. Sutherland (the Father of Cranial Osteopathy) and his students are a great source of information about this controversial subject of motion, life and vitality in the head (and body, of course). Visit several informative web sites (shown below) to further your own knowledge on this topic. Below are just a few of my thoughts and experiences in this area.

What is the "Cranial Rhythm?" I don't really know, and although many people have speculated about it, created scientific models to explain it, and more, I don't know that anyone really knows what this palpatory experience is really about. When I put my hands on another person's head and quiet my own body-mind-spirit, I listen. I listen with curiosity and patience. Soon I notice that this head feels different than a rock or a coconut. It is alive. So am I!

We are "Rhythymic Energy Beings." This is a vibratory universe. Some rhythms are long-term and some are quite noticeably short. We have a life cycle with its internal rhythms (?7 years). We have seasonal rhythms, monthly, daily (circadian), and a 90 minute ultradian rhythm. Our heart beats 72 times a minute, our lungs inhale and exhale 14 times per minute. And my hands feel a wave-like motion that seems to be centered in the middle of the head.

We all feel different. There are variations in hardness, stuckness, vitality, temperature, and more. And different regions can feel more or less stuck. The goal is a freely moving harmonious rhythm. When I touch a head I probably change it, just by my contact. If we can both relax, a gentle, loving, healing intent can be experienced.

I breathe, the person breathes. My heart beats and so does the person's. I have my own innate "cranial rhythm." What is me and what is the person I touch? I find my own breathing, and quiet it so that I can perceive the breathing of the person. This is a potential problem in the debate over the "correct" cranial rate. If the examiner is just counting waves that are perceptible to his hands, he may include his own breathing. Maybe that why some counters get a rate of 4-6, others feel a 6-8, and some people feel an 8-12 cycles per minute. Very curious!

I often hold my breathe intermittently as a self-teaching tool to verify that what I am feeling is not my breath. I feel the person's body expanding and contracting. Sometimes, this is a harmonious and vibrant experience. When a well person is relaxed , I usually notice a slower respiratory rate. I feel the body in sync. with the breath and the head gently "breathing".

Often, however, if a person has a headache or a symptom, there is disharmony. The respirations might be quickened, irregular, held at places during the respiratory cycle. The arms and legs seem energetically disconnected, and the cranial palpitory experience may reveal places of impaired motion and vitality. What to do as a healer? The answer is almost too simple to believe. Relax body and mind completely and bring about a sense of the healthy rhythm. Consciousness, awareness of the underlying structure, a desire to feel healing and tranquility...and somehow, it manifests. Remarkable! If I can share my mind intent through my hands to another, maybe its like two heart cells, beating at their own rates in separate culture dishes, but finding the common rate as soon as they touch! Isn't nature marvelous!

In my experience, it is easier to get the process moving when, after initial contact and impression, and a bit of listening, I facilitate the cranial motion with my hands as I encourage the person breathe fully, quietly, and rhythmically.

I encourage all of us to not forget that the cranial rhythm is an expression of body-mind-spirit harmony. I do believe that the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid)is the highest of fluids in our bodies, filled with the essence of life.


Cranial Osteopathy Links

Osteopathic Center for Children Dr. Viola Frymann

osteopathic medicine resource

cranial osteopathy

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