Horizontal Fascia – Rings of Layers of Tension, Shock and Trauma. Releasing through Craniosacral Therapy
All structures in the body are connected with each other through our fascia (connective tissue), either vertically or horizontally. Fascia covers our bones, organs, vessels, arteries, muscles and nervous system, like an interactive spider web. Diaphragms are horizontal fascial layers, acting like an armour of muscles, tissue’s and tendons in key area's where different important anatomical structures and openings go through and with psycho emotional implications.
Diaphragms can mirror the state of each other and interplay with each other in state of tension of the fascia, which has an effect on the chemical, physiological energetic, communication and exchange processes that take place in the fascia and can have deep effects when we work with diaphragms and adjust something (Summer & Haines - Cranial Intelligence).
The pelvic diaphragm is an area where people can store a lot of tension and deep patterns of life experiences, being a sensitive and personal area. There may have been traumatic experiences, abuse, inappropriate touch, looks, words, surgery or childbirth complications. Often tension related to fight and flight lie here and the emotions of fear, anxiety, protection, terror or panic. As craniosacral therapist we listen for the quality, symmetry and motion of the various parts in this area. We can feel for tightness, tension, restriction, rotations, pulls and twists, or lack of movement of the fascia, pelvic bones and joints. We can feel frozen states, we can feel if a charge is being held here, through the coccygeal ganglion of the sympathetic nervous system and working with any underlying tension patterns or emotions. As the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest relaxation state) emerges from our Sacrum (S2,3,4) through the sacral nerves, suppling the lower large intestines, reproduction organs and elimination, it is a great hold to bring calm, balance and homeostasis to the area enhancing their function and the parasympathetic nervous system overall.
The breathing diaphragm is the most important horizontal tissue layer in the body. This diaphragm is intimately linked to our ability to breathe deeply and to breathe functional. Breath work has taken the world by storm in the last few years and it is easy to see why. The breathing diaphragm is a super powerful place in function, size and location. When there is a restriction in this area, it will have a knock-on effect to the rest of the body and breathing affects how we use this diaphragm. The breathing diaphragm plays a role in most health conditions from anxiety to insomnia to digestive disorders, to high blood pressure and pain.
The anatomical solar plexus is an essential part of our sympathetic nervous system, playing an important role in the functioning of our stomach, kidneys, liver and adrenal glands, preparing the body to respond to stress by making changes in its physiology and oa produce a fight or flight response.
Restrictions here can be of a physical nature leading to a reduction in its ability to move well, affecting the exchange of air and therefore cell metabolism but also movement of abdominal venous blood, liver function, digestive processes and movement of the spinal column. (Cranial Intelligence 2010, G. Summer and S.Haines).
Restrictions can be of a psycho-emotional element. Stress and trauma can be held in the diaphragm affecting the breathing mechanism. The volume of our breath, impacts our ability to feel emotionally. There is a huge interplay between our emotions, our nervous system and our breath. When emotions are involved our breathing changes, we all have experienced shallow rapid breaths or holding our breath when stressed, in fear or in shock. Unexpressed feelings can lead to restricted breathing, in order to not feel the pain. As the saying goes: When we stop breathing, we stop feeling and a lot of people restrict their breathing as a result. On an emotional level, stuck or unexpressed emotions, like grief, mourning, longing, fear, rage, anger affects the volume of the breath and our capacity to breathe deeply, as it affects our ability to flex the rib cage and expand the lungs. When this area can move freely and the lungs can expand freely and fully, it increases oxygen levels in the body, it activates the internal organs in the abdomen, enhances digestion, lung and heart movement, it increases energy levels and overall well-being. The lungs need to be able to expand not only up and out but also horizontally.
As craniosacral therapist we listen for the quality, symmetry and motion of the various parts in this area. We can feel for tightness and tension in the diaphragm and sympathetic hyper arousal in the solar plexus. We can assess the motility of the liver and the humming and the buzz of the adrenals. So many people breathe incorrectly affecting their nervous system and the nerve output of the organs lying here. When breathing is shallow, compartmentalised, or restricted on one side, we try and address that and I personally incorporate functional breathing exercises. It is a great hold to bring calm, balance and homeostasis to the sympathetic outflow of nerves in the thoracic region bringing releases, softening and reorganisation of the organs and nervous system.
It is an area where the oesophagus, trachea, jugular vein and the almighty vagus nerve enters as it leaves the base of the skull and enters into the upper thorax, as well as an outlet for the carotid arteries and sympathetic nerve supply exiting from the thorax and passing up into the head (Attlee, Cranio-sacral Integration). Nothing is in isolation and this area has an intricate relationship with the jaw, the cranial base, the spine and the upper chest.
The thoracic inlet is an emotional and stress centre where we can get cut of, tense and where we process our emotional responses. Deep emotional factors can come into play like hurt, fear, rage, anger, resentment, love, hate and in particular our ability and permission to authentically express ourselves through our voice. Maybe we were cut off when we grew up, maybe we were not allowed to express our emotions, maybe we never spoke up always meeting someone else’s needs. All the intensity and charge of our swallowed words, anger and unspoken emotions can lie here.
Chronic stress, tension and trauma can lead to disturbances like: chronic sore throats, tension in vocal cords, voice changes, neck tension, structural imbalance between head and chest, jaw problems, shoulder problems, heart palpitations, asthma and anxiety. As craniosacral therapists we listen for all the things described in above diaphragms, in addition to allowing for the emotional expression, softening the whole area, open up the voice, the throat, the vagus nerve providing a deep sense of relaxation, opening, releasing deep chronic fascial restrictions.
The Sub Occipital Region – Foramen Magnum - Cranial base
Clinical implications can lead to oa. headaches, jaw problems, teeth grinding, vertigo, ear problems, eye problems, vascular and neurological problems like trigeminal neuralgia and migraines. This area is super rich in significant structures passing through from the brain to the body and the body to the brain: arteries, cranial nerves related to upper shoulder muscles and neck muscles, the vagus nerve, regulating our parasympathetic relaxation – rest and digest state and organs and the superior cervical sympathetic ganglia. Here we release the sub occipital area, through compression, decompression and fascial release. This area is a great portal into the PNS and can have a profound influence on many, many structures inclusive of the heart, lungs and digestion system.
The Tentorium Cerebelli
The Tentorium is a fascial layer inside the head that attaches several cranium bones together and is a space where the brainstem lies (our survival brain, always on the lookout for danger, to keep us safe). As therapists, we can feel for tissue vibrations, pulsations, swirls twists or pulls in the tissues, in the attached cranial bones and address clinical implications like concussion, whiplash, sinus problems, migraines but also agitation, anxiety or emotional turmoil on a central nervous system level. Chronic fear, stress or trauma will affect the tentorium cerebelli, creating headaches, tightness in the head and occipital lobe, tension around the ear (can play a part in tinnitus) and is affected in fight and flight activation.
Putting it all together
The physical body holds all our tension, imprints and stories. When we hold tension, we contract our muscles and our fascia. This is a biological protective response. It is a way of bracing ourselves against feelings, emotions, tension and stress. But what may have been adaptive appropriate response at some point can become maladaptive when chronic. The protective response will start to impact our well-being, can lead to muscle spasm, decreased motility, postural misalignment, lock and store any trauma in the body and the body will have a hard time coming back into balance, into homeostasis.
Diaphragms form an important part in any craniosacral evaluation and treatment, as we evaluate the whole system and is a portal into the deep fascial layers. The whole body is connected from top till toe in fascia, every pattern or symptom that we tend to have, can get reflected to other structures through the fascia. We do not only treat local, where symptoms may be present, as it may not reflect the pattern that is being carried through the body. For instance, if you have an injury in your foot, the pattern can be reflected through the whole system to the knees, pelvis and perhaps even upward.
We treat the psycho-emotional element that plays a role as the body holds and maintains our stories and imprints. In craniosacral we release fascial tension and as physical structures release and tissue releases often emotional blockages are cleared simultaneously. Tension lodges deeply and you have to go deeply to heal and release it. Tissue Release can happen on several levels. As a client you may feel: Pulsations, heat release, stream of current or electricity going through, unwinding, a twitch, a tremor or having tears without exactly knowing why.
We have to go past the rational analytical thinking mind, past the protective muscular layers and entering deeply through to the fascial layers often with the lightest touch as Fascia is rich with proprioceptors. Releasing the physical and emotional stress, trauma and physical implication of muscular tension and emotional blockages can have profound effects on your health and wellbeing.