I've shared many times that my Aunty Mano was the village herbalist and folk medicine healer. She was famous for her healing hands and a form of Caribbean touch therapy we called in Kweyol "Panse". Now living decades later in a Metropolitan London, I read about a touch therapy called Craniosacral Therapy which bears remarkable similarities in belief to Caribbean African heritage inherited - Panse and of course I had to learn more. Join me in an Un Common Conversation with Imogen Little, a Craniosacral and Stress Therapist and explore more on this modality.
Hi Imogen, thank you for having an Un Common Conversation about craniosacral therapy, what exactly is it?
Craniosacral therapy is a very gentle touch therapy which works on a subtle but profound level, influencing and supporting the central nervous system to relieve pain and dysfunction.
In practice, it triggers your self-healing mechanism to rebalance and restore itself, relieving trauma and restrictions in your body, which are often caused by stress. In doing this, it can really improve your whole health, performance, and quality of life.
Wow! So what is its History?
Gosh, I don’t really think I’ll do the long version any justice, so in a nutshell…
CST originates from osteopathy, which all began in the 19th century with Dr William Still. He wrote that “he who is able to reason will see that this great river of life must be tapped and the withering field irrigated at once, or the harvest of health be forever lost”. He was talking about cerebrospinal fluid – and that’s essentially the whole basis for osteopathy.
But it was really Dr William Garner Sutherland, with his specific study and understanding of the bones in the cranium, that kicked things off for Craniosacral therapy. And from there, John Upledger and a few others developed that original thinking into what we now know as CST.
From your explanation seems like you have to be open minded to alternative therapies – what would you say to a non-believer?
I’d say that the personal accounts of thousands of CST patients, who have experienced huge – often life-changing – benefits, speak for themselves. But also that Craniosacral therapy is fundamentally a careful and natural practice that can help not-just stress but everything from chronic pain to headaches - and without any of the health risks of, for example, prescription medication.
So… what have you got to lose?
How does CST differ from Reiki? It seems very similar!
Well, that depends on who you ask!
People who aren’t ‘au fait’ with alternative therapies like CST or Reiki often ask if they are the same thing. In these instances, I often tell them that, yes, there are of course similarities. To begin with they’re both healing modalities, they both work with energy – though in different ways. However, as I have trained in both, I can honestly say they are significantly different in their approach.
Reiki primarily deals with ‘the energetic body’, with the therapist acting as the conduit channelling the universal life force energy to the patient in order to promote healing and relaxation. CST, on the other hand, works mainly with addressing the physical body, the individual’s own system and the various blockages and restrictions that are unique to them, in order to increase health and well-being.
Having studied both and also having treatments in both, I find the two deeply profound but in different ways. CST is much more intricate in terms of anatomy and physiology. There is certainly a lot more that you have to know about the human body in order to be a craniosacral therapist, and you do also have to know much more about the person you’re treating, which is why we take detailed case studies before we begin treatment. That’s vital to CST, and not part of practice in Reiki.
I do sometimes bring Reiki into my CST treatments and think the two really complement one another. As I said before, I love them both, in different ways.
Usually I start by asking my guest to introduce themselves, but I got totally engrossed in hearing more about craniosacral therapy .Please tell me a bit about you and how your journey has led to your current field of work?
I was born in Sydney and have spent the last 30 years between the UK and Ibiza. The sunshine and sea have always been a constant in my life – and for that, I’m truly grateful, as it is what I find most healing.
Currently we - that’s myself, my husband, daughter and puppy - are based in Hampshire, which is where I set up my practice, Heal and Now, last year. There is a lot of beauty and peace to be found in the English countryside too! So, for now, I’m practising between here and London.
In terms of my journey, my mother has always been in the know about alternative therapies and took me for acupuncture at quite a young age, to help with various back issues I had due to my height. At the time, I remember thinking it was pretty far out - I was 13 and it was the 90s! - but it totally cured me of my back pain. So naturally, that was when my interest was piqued.
It wasn’t until 4 years later, however, that my real passion for healing took hold. I had just moved to Sydney to further my modelling career and was struggling with homesickness and working in a very lonely industry, so far from home. An older modelling pal of mine suggested I try Reiki - so I did and responded to it almost immediately. I just felt so comfortable with it and have adored it ever since. In fact, I actually went on to do courses in Reiki and am also a fully qualified Reiki practitioner.
My career has always been quite transient. Being an empath made it pretty arduous working within the industries I chose. However, I did learn a lot and it only pushed me closer to doing what I’m doing now.
I found Craniosacral therapy (CST) 5 years ago, after my daughter was born. She was super unwell with reflux and allergies. I had heard about CST for babies and how it can help after traumatic births, as well as with various structural and visceral issues. It was while she was being treated and cured of these issues that I decided to give it a go for myself as, unbeknown to me, I was suffering with symptoms that I later found out were PTSD.
After a truly profound session, I went home and slept for 12 hours straight. It was from there that my passion for CST really began.
I studied at The College of Craniosacral Therapy throughout the whole of the pandemic. It was a bumpy but necessary journey into becoming a therapist. If the pandemic taught me anything, it was how to practice patience and live in the present - two things that I believe are hugely significant in being a good craniosacral therapist.
The pandemic also confirmed to me the fact that we are all living in the midst of a stress epidemic, which only furthered my desire to work with people suffering with both daily and accumulative stress. Every client that comes to me suffers with stress in one way or another. The toll it takes on the body is huge and craniosacral therapy, I believe, can be the cure.
I can tell you very much, like I do, believe in the healing power of touch?
Absolutely. Touch is paramount to a person’s overall health and well-being. It is, after all, the first sense we develop in our mother’s womb. Sadly, with the pandemic and the world becoming increasingly led by technology, the power of touch is somewhat being forgotten. A hug releases the happy hormone oxytocin, which helps to lower anxiety and in turn lowers blood pressure. A hug in itself can, quite literally, heal your heart.
I think this is why more and more people are seeking out these therapies: they feel the need that we all have to be touched, more than anything else.
Are there any practices we can incorporate from this therapy into our everyday life?
Gosh, there are so many. Being present, I think, is the most important. Connecting to your body through mindfulness and breathwork, focusing on feeling, not thoughts, and allowing emotions to come and go. Just being - in the moment, in your body.
Eckhart Toll said, “in today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much and forget about the joy of just being.” I take this away every day from my practice and remind myself to just ‘be’.
What are your favourite stress release rituals and tips?
For me, it’s always my sleep which is the first thing to be impacted when I am stressed – and obviously, sleep is absolutely paramount to health.
When I start to feel myself slide, I often take hot - not boiling - baths, with magnesium flakes. This helps to increase depleted magnesium reserves in the body, often caused by stress. It’s also effective in aiding relaxation and deeper sleep.
I also swear by essential oils, and often use chamomile or lavender - both on myself and also in treatments. The smell in itself is hugely comforting, and I find it really calms the nervous system.
I walk every morning with my puppy. Living where we live and being able to walk in nature every day is very healing - especially on days like today, when it’s cold but with glorious sunshine. The frost is melting and dripping down from the trees – it’s very tranquil, very picturesque. That and listening to Hans Zimmer on my headphones and I’m in heaven.
I’m also really into turmeric oat milk lattes at the moment! I was given a milk frother for Christmas, so this is my daily ritual for now and I love it. It’s the little things!
What does selfcare mean to you?
A time to focus on myself and my needs. That changes daily, to be honest, but I try to set aside a little time each day to do whatever it is I think I need in that moment. If that means going for a walk, then I’ll go for a walk. If it means sitting down for five minutes and having a cup of tea, then that’s what I’ll do. Again, it all comes back to just ‘being’. That’s what self-care is, essentially – being kind to yourself, giving yourself a break.
I think there’s a lot of guilt associated with simply treating yourself properly – especially when you’re a mother or have a lot of other responsibilities. It’s not indulgent, it’s essential - because when you are in a good place in your body and mind, everyone around you benefits from the energy that you bring.
It’s taken me a long time to really appreciate the importance of that, but I truly believe that self-care and presence are infinitely powerful, and that everyone can make small choices, small changes, that make a big difference to their health and happiness, and the health and happiness of those closest to them.
I’ve learnt so much today from Imogen, if you would like to get in touch with Heal and Now I have link their website here.