The name 'biodynamic' refers to working with the energies that create and maintain life, and is what was meant in the name given to it by the first group of farmers inspired by Rudolf Steiner to put the new method to field-use and practical tests, deciding to call it "Biodynamic" from two Greek words "bios" (life) and "dynamis" (energy). The word 'method' indicates that it was not just about the production of another fertiliser, organic though it was, but rather that certain principles are involved, which in their practical application secure a healthy soil and healthy plants - which in turn produce healthful food for man and healthy feed for animals. The word 'biodynamic' is believed to have been first used in the cranial field by Dr Rollin Becker, who used the term to describe the action of the potency of the Breath of Life.
The biodynamic approach to therapy had its earliest beginnings in Osteopathy from the mid-1800s with the work and teachings of the founder of Osteopathy, Dr A. T. Still (1828 - 1917). Through family tragedy, Dr Still realised the limitations of medicine as a healer and, just as an aside, he prophesized the extent of the legal and illegal drug culture of today. He developed the art and science of Osteopathy, which was initially non-manipulative, as a way to support the body's own healing potential. For example, about the importance of the cerebrospinal fluid, Dr Still wrote:
"Cerebrospinal fluid is the highest known element that is contained in the human body and unless the brain furnishes this fluid in abundance a disabled condition of the body will remain.
He who is able to reason will see that this great river of life must be tapped and the withering fields irrigated at once or the harvest of health be lost forever."
One of Dr Still's students, Dr William Garner Sutherland (1873 - 1954) a profoundly spiritual man, developed an approach to Osteopathy known as the Cranial Concept.
In almost all books about Craniosacral Therapy there is some mention of the lifetime work of Dr Sutherland who, from the age of 25 until his death in 1954 at age 81, researched the inner workings of the human system.
As the story goes, when Dr Sutherland was just a student the bones of the cranium fascinated him because although he was taught that they were fused by adulthood it made no sense because skulls could be disarticulated and cranial bones had sutures that seemed to be designed for movement. While looking at a temporal bone, as he described it, a thought struck him, "bevelled like the gills of a fish for primary respiration." This thought led him on his lifetime journey to discover its nature.
He tried to prove that cranial bones were fused because if they were designed for movement this would have immense implications and challenge of everything that was "known" at that time. He undertook investigations, which included his crazy baseball cap and bandages that earned him the nickname "Wild Bill." These investigations proved to him beyond doubt that the living skull expresses motion and that this motion is physiologically significant.
In the early years Cranial Osteopathy became strongly manipulative and, with some refinements, it is still practised in this way today. However, in the latter years of his research, inspired by his teacher Dr Still to believe in the body's ability to heal itself, Dr Sutherland refined and practised healing through trust in the Innate Intelligence of the body. He pointed to the deep spiritual roots found within the human condition.
Discoveries and hypotheses, from the great thinkers and researchers of modern history, support Dr Sutherland's discoveries. For example, in the 1600 and 1700s, Christian mystics, such as Emanuel Swedenborg, put forward many physiological theories from research and intuition, which have since been confirmed by medical science. Just a few of Swedenborg's hypotheses were about the circulation and existence of the cerebrospinal fluid; that the motion of the brain was separate from respiration; "... that the smallest organic particles are independent centres of forces endowed with individual life."
There are many accounts of the history and development of biodynamic craniosacral therapy available on the Internet and in the increasing number of books published over the last decade or so. One story, edited from Franklyn Sills' website www.karuna-institute.co.uk, is shared below to highlight a pivotal point in Dr Sutherland's move away from the mechanical fix-it approach to healing. Please note that reference to inhalation and exhalation in the text below relates only to the felt sense of the inner movement of cells of the body that has a quality similar to that, but completely separate to lung breathing:
"In 1945, at the age of 72, Dr Sutherland had an extraordinary experience that transformed his understanding of the work, his approach to healing and the language he used. He was called to the bed of a dying patient who was in great pain. As Sutherland held the man's system, a depth of stillness arose, and he had a direct experience of what he called the 'Breath of Life' as his patient peacefully died.
Sutherland began to focus on 'primary' respiration and its inhalation/flexion and exhalation/extension phases, and he wrote about an approach where no outside force is used, but the unerring potency, or life force, is trusted to initiate and carry out healing processes.
What the body needs to happen for healing to take place cannot be achieved by the practitioner's analysis or motion testing. It is about what Sutherland called the 'Intelligence of the system' and the 'intention of the Breath of Life'. At its deepest level, work in this field casts us into the mystery of life itself."
Over the years Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy has become a discrete discipline. It is a gentle, non-invasive way of effectively working with the physical, emotional and energetic aspects of the body and its history. The way of 'being' of the practitioner to support health and healing without trying to fix the problem is not new. In the natural order of things as this work developed, some notable practitioners in the field returned to the roots of osteopathy, the later discoveries of Dr Sutherland and even further back to ancient teachings.
As Dr Sutherland came to the last years of his career, his experiences created a significant change in his perception of the workings of the body and the nature of health and healing. His clinical practice and language changed as he moved away from a biomechanical approach to respect the nature and quality of his experience of the subtle physiology and energetics of the human system. He spoke of the organising forces of life that emerge from stillness and became oriented to them in his practice, where he settled into listening rather than doing - what we now call a 'biodynamic approach'.
Breath of Life (BOL) is a term used by Dr Sutherland to describe our essential life force, an invisible element, a ‘fluid within a fluid’, which contains an innate Intelligence. Franklyn Sills describes it as:
“The action of a divine intention. This divine wind expresses and orchestrates the intention to create”.
Its functions precede genetics. It arises in the new individual at the moment of conception and remains within us as an intrinsic ordering force throughout life. The practitioner is present in humility and respect with the potency of the Breath of Life as it arises out of stillness and ignites the Tide – perceived to be the basic ordering principle within the human system.
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) is a transparent yellowish fluid, filtered out from blood that bathes and nourishes the central nervous system. Dr Still called CSF as “the highest known element in the body”, and Dr Sutherland further understood the CSF as being “potentised by the Breath of Life”.
Cranial Concept is a philosophy and practice developed by Dr Sutherland. It involves an appreciation of the BOL and the rhythmic motions that arise out of it (the Tide) and the significance of the primary respiratory system (PRS) for the maintenance of health.
Intelligence - Dr Sutherland likened the CSF to the sap in a tree. He stressed that there is an invisible element within the CSF, which is an expression of a universal Intelligence at work.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) –is a simple, effective and learnable four-step process developed in 1964 by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg PhD. It is an emotionally-intelligent, awareness-based communication approach. The heart of NVC is to identify universal human needs and what can be done to meet those needs. It is known to be effective even in situations of longstanding conflict or hostility. NVC can open new doors to a compassionate connection and action.
Osteopathy is a perspective of healthcare developed by Dr A. T. Still, that emphasises the relationship between body structure and function, and which views the body as a whole unit, capable of healing itself when its structure and function are in alignment and balance.
Pre and Peri-Natal Psychology –focusses on the period of about nine months, including conception and the whole of gestation, and to the short but crucial period of hours involving labour, birth, and the establishment of breastfeeding. These experiences are formative for both babies and parents and tend to establish patterns of intimacy and sociality for life. At stake here is a quality of life--the quality of personal growth and the quality of society itself. Ultimately, "womb ecology becomes world ecology."
Primary Respiratory System (PRS) – Dr Sutherland initially described a mechanism he discovered as composed of the inherent fluctuation of cerebrospinal fluid, the motility of the brain and spinal cord, the reciprocal tension membrane system (RTMS), the articular mobility of the cranial bones, and the involuntary mobility of the sacrum between the iliac bones of the pelvis. As he continued his discoveries of the BOL and sensed the brain he spoke about the PRS rather than a mechanism (PRM) - a whole system of rhythmic motion arising from the potency of the Breath of Life, the bioelectric matrix, the primal midline, the Tides and the ground of stillness from which they arise. The movement is described as “respiration” because through sensitive hands this rhythmic motion as similar to respiratory breathing although it is not in rhythm with the respiratory breath nor the heartbeat. Dr Sutherland further discovered that every cell of the body expresses this respiratory-like motion.
Reciprocal Tension Membrane System (RTMS) - the Dural membrane system that surrounds and partitions the central nervous system is attached to, and continuous with, the cranial bones and the sacrum. It expresses a bipolar reciprocal rhythmic motility and motion in the two phases of primary respiration. The membranes are relatively inelastic and always held in a state of reciprocal tension during motion of the structures to which it is attached.
Reiki - an energy therapy where the hands are placed on the body and “the energy of pure unconditional love” is channelled into the practitioner’s body through the crown of the head and out through the hands. With a similar philosophy to the biodynamic approach to craniosacral therapy, the practitioner has no agenda or need, allowing the Reiki energy, in conversation with the body’s needs, to make the healing choices.