Wisdom in the Body: The Craniosacral Approach to Essential Health

Reviewed Publisher: 
London: Thorsons. 224 pages. ISBN 07225-37085. (2005 edition from North Atlantic Books: 316 pages with forward by Dr. Franklyn Sills.)
Reviewed Title: 
Wisdom in the Body: The Craniosacral Approach to Essential Health (2001)
Reviewed Author: 

Our world as healthcare providers and parents becomes increasingly more complex with numerous healing modalities that seem to rise and fall away; and it is hard to discern which modalities are helpful. One modality, craniosacral therapy (CST), is receiving wider attention. To compound obscurity with confusion, there are many schools and styles of CST that appear to have conflicting philosophies; the core principles of CST can be difficult to explain.

Michael Kern's book, Wisdom in the Body, is a lovely primer on the development, theory, and practice of craniosacral therapy. His writing is simple and direct, covering the basic schools of thought that comprise this therapeutic modality. The book is well organized with many sub-headings that clearly and efficiently articulate the oftentimes complex nature of the work. Kern gently builds comprehension of the structural, physiological, and functional nature of the craniosacral system. Each chapter ends with a bulleted summary that facilitates orientation and comprehension.

While it appears that the author's primary training and practice is in a field called Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, originated by Franklyn Sills, his writing style and topics are inclusive of the whole field of experience and all schools of thought. All of the illustrations are clear and easily applied, except for one case: I found myself confused by Illustration 3.16 on p.69, wherein the axis of rotation for the sphenoid is drawn opposite its true motion. My book had a correction placed in the front of the text labeled 'Errata' with the appropriate correction; however, I did not find this until later. I am sure this was corrected in future printings. In the end I had to laugh since I had spent time wondering if I had learned it incorrectly all those years ago!

As a registered nurse and massage therapist, I have been practicing craniosacral therapy since 1989 with an emphasis on the birthing family, especially newborns and children. With Kern's book, I reviewed basic craniosacral principles and also experienced new understandings of how the nature of the system can be expressed.

Michael Kern has two chapters of particular note to those aware of prenatal and perinatal psychology: one devoted to stress and trauma and the other to pregnancy, birth and children. Consistent with the rest of his book, his stories gently and powerfully illustrate the potentially traumatic nature of birth and ways to support resolution. Kern's language persuasively imparts the profound physiological and psychological imprint that craniosacral therapy unearths about traumatic or difficult conceptions, pregnancies, and births. He covers all aspects in a signature non-confrontive but direct way, which facilitates a natural acceptance of prenatal birth imprints. By example, under the sub-heading "Getting stuck", p. 251, he states:

If a baby gets stuck in the birth canal, the degree of compression it experiences can be greatly intensified. If unresolved, this pattern of feeling stuck can repeat itself later in life. This commonly happens when such a person later finds themselves under stress or in an enclosed space. These situations can restimulate the memory (usually subconscious) of their birth panic. Life statements such as 'There is no way out!' or ? can't get anywhere!' may consequently develop. Generally speaking, the earlier these inertial patterns can be addressed the easier they are to treat.

I would highly recommend using this text to anyone teaching an introductory class. A copy is available in my waiting room for clients' perusal, and I will continue to suggest it as the easiest text to understand the potential applications of craniosacral therapy.

While I am pleased with this book, at times I found myself wanting more information, or some explanations were so minimal as to be erroneous. By example: "A surgical birth is called a Caesarean section, after Julius Caesar, who was born in this way." (p. 257) My research reveals that, in fact, no one is quite sure where the name originated, and the early history of cesarean section remains shrouded in myth and of dubious accuracy. Some accounts say Caesar himself was born that way. However, his mother, Aurelia, is reputed to have lived to hear of her son's invasion of Britain. Other accounts tell that during that era, the procedure was performed only when the mother was dead or dying as an attempt to save the child for a state wishing to increase its population and Roman law under Caesar decreed that all women who were so fated by childbirth must be cut open; hence, "Caesarean." Other possible Latin origins include the verb "caedare," meaning to cut, and the term "caesones" that was applied to infants born by postmortem operations. Ultimately, though, we cannot be sure of where or when the term cesarean was derived. Until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the procedure was known as cesarean "operation." Jacques Guillimeau's 1598 book on midwifery introduced the term "section." Increasingly thereafter, "section" replaced the more-accurate term "operation." (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1998, and Pritchard, 1985)

Since the author is British trained, common expressions and spellings do not translate well. By example, "ventouse suction" is used instead of the American version "vacuum extraction." Fortunately, there is a thorough and well-defined 12-page glossary. The book is well equipped with numerous references that are correctly written along with pertinent and profound quotes that facilitate and expand the reader's understanding; for example, Leboyer's quote at the closing of the book:

... How naïve, how innocent to imagine no trace will remain; that one could emerge unscathed from such an experience. The scars are everywhere: in our flesh, our bones, our backs, our nightmares, our madness, and all the insanity, the folly of this world - its tortures, its wars, its prisons.

Demonstrating his belief in the healing nature of craniosacral therapy and exemplary of his inclusive nature, Kern offers an international resource guide for practitioners and training.

Mostly, I came away feeling deeply appreciative to read such a warm, inspiring and inclusive description of the profound way this modality facilitates health and healing. Well done, Michael!

Publication Date: 
12/2005