How Biodynamic CST works for serious health challenges

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy is in the same family of manual therapies as original osteopathy, cranial osteopathy, and craniosacral therapy. 

Although its roots go back to 1899, the current form began in the 1980s.

Reducing the stress load

Imbalances and strains on our bodies come from stressors of all kinds. Until they dissipate, they maintain a stress load in the system.

The human stress response helps us stay alive in the face of threats. Ideally the system returns to a relaxed state when threats are not present. Overwhelming stress can make this difficult. 

Our systems’ self-healing capabilities activate in states of relaxation, not in states of stress. Chronic and acute stress may remain in place long after onset — until given an alternative. 

Inviting the system to reorganize

A biodynamic craniosacral therapist palpates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in a patient’s body. This fluid flows rhythmically and is located deep inside the body. A therapist can pick up the motion and read this rhythm anywhere in the body. 

After establishing rapport with a patient and their system, the therapist invites the rhythm to go into a still point — a pause in the rhythm.

A still point may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes or even hours while the intelligence within considers how to reorganize toward greater health.

Then the rhythm returns with more balance, ease, and vitality.

Reading the rhythm can also show a therapist where the system is constrained locally, for example in a joint or bone or soft tissue.

The therapist invites these imbalances in the rhythm to pause. As with still points, the patient’s system reorganizes locally toward more balance and ease. 

Sometimes these shifts occur spontaneously during sessions without still points. It’s as if the deep relaxation and gentle touch of the therapist’s hands encourage strains that are ready to release to do so.

Freeing healing resources

Releasing strains reduces the stress load, freeing up even more healing resources in the system to get to work.

Patients who have been living with stress often report feeling more resilient after each session and that regular sessions work cumulatively, accelerating stress reduction and recovery.

In this manner, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy may be considered healing from the inside out. It works well alongside other health-building practices such as good nutrition, staying hydrated, movement, sleep, meditation, yoga, and other treatments.

What you can expect in a session

After you have checked in with your present physical, emotional, mental, energetic state, you’ll get on the massage table. You’ll remain clothed, minus shoes, belt, and big jewelry.

The therapist will help you feel comfortable, with a bolster, pillows, a blanket, or a table warmer, as preferred. She will invite you to tune into your breath and to let your body weight surrender to gravity, letting the table provide all the support you need.

The therapist will take a little time to prepare herself and then she will place her hands gently on your body and tune in to your subtle rhythms.

She may change positions several times during a session.

You may simply rest and be softly aware of sensations in your body, changes in breathing, and other indicators of transformation.

Sometimes patients are aware of strains releasing. Sometimes the work is so relaxing, patients fall asleep. It’s interesting to hear the patient’s experience.

The therapist will let you know when the session is nearing its end.

Afterwards, it’s always a good to idea to check in again and notice what’s different. After leaving, you may want to take some time to relax and integrate the work.


Treating TMJ issues: asymmetries in the rest of the body affect the jaw joints

Jaw pain is rarely entirely in the jaw!

If you were building a tower, and one of the floors wasn’t level, it would affect the floors above it — unless you somehow compensated.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is kind of like that, only it’s because it has settled unevenly on the ground beneath it. As they built it over the years, it would sink, stabilize, sink more…

The structure of the body is like that too — even when standing on level solid ground.

Because the jaw is near the top of the skeleton, imbalances below can affect the alignment and functionality of the temporomandibular joints (TMJs).

The primary cause of most jaw pain is asymmetrical hypertonicity. Thanks, TMJ Mastery teacher John Corry! That means that some of the muscles that affect the jaw are tighter than others.

I ask about structural anomalies in my TMJ consultations. I’m interested in whether one foot is flatter than the other, whether there’s a leg length discrepancy or a pelvic tilt or curvature of the spine.

I’ve been known to slide my hands under a client’s arches with them standing to see if their arches are symmetrical.

When a client is lying on my massage table, I can check for a leg length discrepancy.

I can also tune into their cranial rhythm and notice whether there’s asymmetry in the flexion and extension motions at the feet, which indicates asymmetry in the pelvis.

I also feel the space beneath the ears between the bones to see whether the skull is sitting symmetrically atop the spine.

When the skull and spine are out of alignment, it can contribute to multiple dysfunctions, with TMJ issues being one of them. (Ask me — I experienced intermittent right jaw clicking and my face drifting slightly to the left in meditation until a chiropractor realigned my AO joint, which also resolved issues that were all on my left side.)

1 shows the line between the mastoid processes. 2 shows the C1 vertebrae. From the sides, feel the convex bony area beneath your ears and come down up to 1/2″ to feel the ends of the C1 vertebrae. Notice if the space is symmetrical.


For more on this, including exercises you can do starting at 5:25, watch this video.

The last part of my evaluation for symmetry is to place the pads of my fingers (or have the client place their fingerpads) over the TMJs right in front of the ears and ask them to open and close repeatedly.

Often one side moves first.

Often one side feels closer to the ear than the other.

Sometimes one side sticks out more than the other.

One side may move with more ease than the other.

Try it on yourself. What do you notice?

None of this is super precise. I’m just getting a basic read on asymmetries in the client’s structure that may affect their TMJs.

Have you noticed that you have a dominant side? A side that feels stronger than the other? Most of your issues occurring on one side only?

Have you had a foot, ankle, leg, or hip injury? Can you still tell a difference between the injured side and the uninjured one? Can you balance as easily on your left foot as your right, or is one side weaker?

How’s your posture? How about your sleep posture?

Also, do you primarily chew on one side of your mouth?

Becoming more symmetrical can be a good long-term self-care project that can pay off with more ease of movement, less discomfort, better balance, injury prevention.

Symmetry is an ideal, like perfection. Most of us are doing the best we can. There’s always going to be some asymmetry in the body (our abdominal organs are asymmetrical), but we can definitely address our most dysfunctional areas.

The functional movement screen is a set of 7 movements you do with a trainer, who scores you and can prescribe workouts that strengthen your weaknesses.

FMS was developed to identify athletes who were prone to injury before they got injured. It can work for ordinary people too.

Here’s a link to view the screening movements. You can find a trainer near you online.

Practices of non-linear movement can help if done regularly over a long period. These movements work both sides of the body and increase neuroplasticity in the brain. They increase flexibility and balance and fluidity. And they are fun! Examples:

  • yoga, especially alignment-oriented types like Iyengar and Anusara
  • qi gong
  • tai chi
  • Gyrokinesis
  • martial arts
  • dance

The type of bodywork that directly addresses asymmetries is called structural bodywork. There are two main schools of training: Rolfing Structural Integration and Anatomy Trains Structural Integration. Neuromuscular therapy also assesses posture and gait pattern and can address imbalances.


What to do if you have jaw issues? I offer a 30-minute in-person TMJ consultation to gather information and evaluate your issues. I also teach clenchers an alternative to clenching and provide known ways to stop grinding, from those who succeeded.

These habits are major contributors to TMJ issues, and you can change them.

If you’re not in Austin, I can do the above as well as help you learn what to ask about when seeking TMJ relief near you. Just let me know if you need a phone or Zoom consultation.

I offer a combination TMJ Consultation plus TMJ Relief session in person in Austin, Texas, and in Taos, NM, in sumemrs. The consultation serves as an intake, so I have a better idea of what your issues are and how we’ll measure progress. Your consultation is free when combined with your first TMJ Relief session. This is a two-hour session.

To be fair, when you’ve had TMJ issues for a long time, or they are acute, you may need multiple sessions to retrain your system to retain the ease and alignment, along with doing your homework to stop clenching or grinding your teeth.

I offer a package of four TMJ Relief sessions for 10 percent off single sessions, best done a week or two apart. These sessions are 90 minutes and integrate various bodywork modalities — including work in your mouth — so that you feel great when you get off the table. They are best done over 4 to 6 weeks.

If you’re really adventurous, you can schedule a 75-minute Self-Treatment for TMJ Issues session on Zoom where we’ll do an intake and I will teach you how to work on releasing the tension patterns that cause problems, including working in your own mouth. You’ll need clean hands and short nails. It’s really not that hard! Learn more about it here.