craniosacral therapy

Clinical Treatment of Kundalini Awakenings utilizing CranioSacral Therapy

One of the first blogs I ever wrote was about how helpful CranioSacral Therapy could be for Kundalini awakenings. When I was going through a Kundalini awakening my ability to process all of what was coming up (which was a lot, and is for most people truly experiencing a Kundalini awakening) my exploration of body based practices, such as CranioSacral therapy was of immense help… and I believe got me through the difficult aspects of the experience much more quickly. This is especially evident because I am frequently contacted by people who have been undergoing difficult Kundalini awakenings for decades who are still stuck at a certain stage of awakening. I truly believe that if many of them received CranioSacral therapy their physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual situations would drastically change.

It is eight years since I first wrote that blog, which you can access here (and could use a bit of updating on my part). The first blog is intended for the layperson who is going through a Kundalini awakening and would like to hear about CranioSacral Therapy as a treatment option. Since I have many clinicians who have had some, or a lot, of CranioSacral or Osteopathic training who are getting clients undergoing Kundalini awakenings, and who contact me seeking advice, I thought that I would write a general blog about how to approach Kundalini awakenings clinically utilizing CranioSacral therapy.

You can read the basics about what a Kundalini awakening actually is, including basic signs and symptoms here. If you would like more details about the Kundalini process, you can simply type in “Kundalini” into the search function and find a fair number of my blogs on it. Or you can buy my book through Amazon, which details many different types of spiritual awakenings, including Kundalini.

But to be brief, Kundalini is a latent energy in most people located at the base of the spine. It is coiled up like a snake between the area of the tip of the coccyx and the perineum. When it arises, or awakens, it uncoils from latency and rises up the spine, clearing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual blockages that are in its path. As people versed in bodywork and CranioSacral therapy know, we store unprocessed, or unresolved physical/emotional/mental/spiritual issues in our bodies. When someone experiences a Kundalini awakening all (or much) of the unprocessed material begins clearing out. This is because Kundalini has risen to the area of the body where these issues are stored.

Kundalini arises through the spine until it hits significant blockage, in which case it will go back to latency (in some cases), but in the case of the full Kundalini awakening (rather than a temporary stirring of the energy) it will be a wave-like energy, rising again and again in sometimes gentle waves, and sometimes with the heat and urgency of an exploding volcano.

Clinically, the rising of Kundalini brings up unresolved physical and emotional issues. Physically, the release of such a large force locally in the perineum (called the Kanda point) and at the coccyx where the energy is coiled will create a lot of heat and discomfort locally. It is well known that people have a variety of pelvic floor issues, as well as low back (sacrum/coccyx) imbalances, and these will be exacerbated while the energy is uncoiling. It is important clinically to not only focus on the area of discomfort, but to support and release the entirety of the reciprocal tension membrane, the dural tube, and the structures that comprise the entirety of what is known as the “craniosacral system” including the associated osseous components, meninges, and soft tissue/fascia.

Of particular importance in working with Kundalini awakenings is the fluid systems of the body. Since Kundalini is such a “fire” based energy (except for rare cases where it presents as cold… but for most people it is like having an internal volcano) having the ability to work directly with the flow of CSF as well as the tides of the body, such as balancing the mid-tide and allowing for expression of the long tide and the embodiment wave (for biodynamic practitioners) will allow for primal elements (fire and water) to balance and find expression… and will allow for the client to resolve in utero experiences in a profound way (they may not realize this consciously of course) and come to a positive place with the idea of their Kundalini arising as well as experience energies coming together to support them, instead of the fatigue and fear that typically come with Kundalini awakenings and the feeling of it being an antagonistic force.

If I were to put this simply, while treating the physical pains that inevitably come up while “clearing” during the Kundalini awakening process, the craniosacral system must be balanced as a whole, otherwise the energy does not have a clear pathway up and will just create further physical issues, and the chief complaint of the client during the session is likely to be resolved as the energy can temporarily move in a freer manner, but without balance as a whole the energy will re-stagnate in the area again.

It is extremely important while treating Kundalini to realize that the physical and emotional are inseparable. It will not be shocking to anyone that is an experienced bodyworker that emotional issues arise during bodywork, or that emotional issues create physical blockages. While working to resolve the whole host of physical issues that the client is presenting with, it is very likely that emotions will arise and need to be tended to. The purpose of a Kundalini awakening is not to create physical pain. The client has physical pain as a result of past physical blockages (broken bones, injuries, physical imbalances and stressors) and the energy is simply trying to get a clear pathway through.

But beyond physical reasons emotional issues, past trauma, and even emotions not of the immediate lifetime (family patterns, ancestral issues, societal emotions/patterns, and so forth) arise during Kundalini awakenings. These are fully present and in fact are the likely cause of many of the physical issues that are presenting. Without creating a safe place in the treatment room where the client can fully release difficult and strong emotions alongside the physical aspects of care, the local area where Kundalini is attempting to clear is likely to be fully, or somewhat unresolved. This means that the energy cannot rise further because it still needs to process emotions and experiences in a localized area and it has not been able to yet. When an area is clear of emotions and somewhat clear of physical issues (enough so there is a clear, or somewhat clear pathway to rise further up the spine) it will do so. If Kundalini is stagnated in a particular area creating severe issues that are not able to be resolved, there needs to be a questioning of if you are the correct practitioner for the person, or if they may need another modality, such as psychotherapy, to release some of the emotional issues.

Beyond balancing the system and creating space and neutrality for the expression of the physical and emotional components of Kundalini awakening, the most important thing is to remember not to “do” anything to your client who is having a Kundalini awakening. 

What does this mean? It is typical for people undergoing a Kundalini awakening to go to all sorts of gurus and meditation/yoga teachers at first in seeking to understand and resolve this energy. Since most (if not all) of these practitioners/teachers are not body based, they will teach them meditations and breathing exercises, or if they are unfamiliar with the energy will tell them that they cannot help them (or that it is all in their head). It is rare for any of these teachers to know what they are talking about, and many of them cause further detriment and confusion to those that they guide. This is especially true because their work is not body-based and is focused on the mental constructs, not the emotional. Any work that seeks to force this energy to do anything will cause issues for those experiencing a Kundalini awakening.

Kundalini is a conscious energy, meaning that it knows what it wants to do. It has an agenda. It wants to rise up the spine (at least at first). It is easy to impose ideas, understandings, and philosophies onto the energy. If this happens Kundalini views this as resistance, and will not respond kindly. Any type of forceful physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual work that does not happen in concert with the energy will be viewed as antagonistic, and is likely to cause a lot of issues for the experiencer. This is why many people truly experiencing Kundalini do not seek out help… because they are afraid that a practitioner will make things worse for them… because they likely have gone to a guru or bodyworker or whomever and their situation has become worse.

So neutrality and listening to the inner consciousness, the inner silence of the body is what is needed. Holding space is what is needed. This energy knows what it wants to do, it knows how it needs to do it. It does not need to be told, scolded, or directed in what to do and how to be. All the person with a Kundalini awakening needs is someone to hold space for an immense amount of release and rebalancing. For someone to be okay with crying, with grief erupting, for anger to arise that they might not know where it came from. For the body to twist and move and torque and vibrate with releases and to be in a safe place to do so. For a practitioner to be experienced enough to recognize why the Kundalini is not arising more- to be informed enough of the physical body and the craniosacral system that you understand what the fascia might need, what the dural membrane is doing, that the coccyx is out of alignment, that the fluid systems of the body would like to be heard, that the wave forms and energies of the body can be seen/heard/felt.

When a practitioner deeply understands the physical body and its many components to be able to really listen and work with the varying layers and expressions, when the CranioSacral practitioner is experienced enough that their abilities shine through, when the practitioner is confident and experienced enough to know that holding space and creating silence for the body to reorganize in a profound way is more than enough to do without “doing” anything else because we feel we should as practitioners, and when we have enough experience as practitioners in our own inner work that we can hold space for emotional releases with maturity and safety, we can help people undergoing difficult (or even not-difficult) Kundalini awakenings in a profound way.

Craniosacral really is one of the best modalities I have come across for Kundalini awakenings. I have explored many, many modalities, meditation/breathing techniques, spiritual work, thoughtform/mental constructs (you catch my drift) and the ability of CranioSacral therapy to directly tap into the organizing energies of the body, the wave forms, the in utero experience and fluid systems of the body, the physical body as a whole (instead of its parts) with the focus on the spine (where this energy arises, at least at first), and the ability of it to see the spiritual-energetic-emotional-mental-physical simply as a continuum instead of separate things allows for us, as Craniosacral practitioners, to truly help people through this experience.

If you are someone who is experiencing Kundalini and is reading this, know that CranioSacral therapy can help you. Like any modality/expression, it is important to find someone who is experienced (I suggest people who have been through a 2-4 year training in Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy or have reached Advanced coursework with certification through the Upledger Institute… there are unfortunately a lot of courses out there and a lot of practitioners who have minimal training in this modality and think it is a series of steps to do). It is important to find someone who is interested and able to hold space for you to rebalance in the manner that you need to. It is not necessary for your practitioner to have experienced a Kundalini awakening themselves (although that would be incredible, of course) but just that they have the experience listed above and that you feel safe with them.


The Energetics of the Neck, Throat, and Cervical Spine

I am in a bit of recovery mode after taking an intensive Biodynamic CranioSacral Therapy course this past weekend. Many of my friends, clients, and so forth know that I am a Diplomate of CranioSacral Therapy through the Upledger Institute, which is the highest degree of certification offered, and have been a CranioSacral Therapist for about 12 years now doing Upledger-style Cranial work.

For the past few years I have become extremely interested in Polarity Therapy, which merges Vedic understandings of the Energetic Anatomy of the body with understandings similar to CranioSacral Therapy and other Energetic Anatomy systems which talk about how the energies of the body form to create matter/physical structure and how we are constantly in flux vibrationally and energetically… going from negative to neutral to positive polarities and constantly contracting and expanding. This understanding very much goes along with my Chinese Medicine background and understandings, which talk about how the elements create the contractions and expansion states that we are constantly undergoing and that determine our state of health or imbalance, our thought processes, and what organs or elements we may have core issues with.

I realize that the last paragraph was likely a little dense, but for simplicity sake let me just say that for the past few years I have been taking courses to become a Biodynamic CranioSacral Therapist. This work differs from “Upledger”-style CranioSacral therapy in many ways, one of them in that it talks quite a bit about our energetic blueprints (meaning the energies that go into us being formed), how we interact with universal, “God” flows of energy, and the fact that our body constantly has rhythms and waves that can be felt and understood to come to a place of stillness, and more importantly, to release trauma from the body.

This weekend was a course in working with the spine as a whole but particularly the cervical spine (your neck), the occiput and structures associated with it (the back of your head) as well as some of the anterior neck/throat structures.

As someone who has had varying amounts of neck pain due to very physical reasons (car accident) as well as more energetic/spiritual reasons (Kundalini hitting my throat chakra and attempting to clear out a huge amount of stuff as well as Top-Down energies coming through my crown through massive waves and being too massive to make it past my throat at times to be incorporated properly) the neck has been an interest of mine for quite some time. It is also true that many of my patients, clients, friends, family, etc. have a lot of neck pain. It is incredibly common.

We all know that there are very physical reasons for neck pain. We look at the TV from an odd angle, we have a desk that doesn’t support our spine, we get in car accidents, our pelvis is out of line which screws up our whole body. There are also physiological reasons, mainly our thyroid being unhappy, or our Liver/Gallbladder system transmitting pain up into our shoulders. There are also basic energetic surface reasons for our neck being out of sorts… the biggest being that our throat chakra/communication center is not releasing properly. Basically that we are not speaking our truth, and do not have an outlet for things like creativity or our own unique individual expression in this world. This is obviously a big deal, or can be, for a lot of people, and is talked about quite a bit in many books on chakras and energy work.

But if we go beyond the surface reasons for our neck pain, throat issues, or discomfort, there are other reasons for constriction in this area.

The first and most significant is birth trauma. When you were being born it is likely something happened to your neck. It got twisted, you got pulled out by forceps or vacuumed out, or maybe you were in utero or came through C-section at a uncomfortable angle. When we have any sort of trauma we need to process it. When we are that young we are unable to, and the primary force (being pulled or yanked out of your mother, for example) can be a huge trauma for us… and our necks. I have done in-utero and birth processing before, but this weekend every single class member through focused gentle attention (without any sort of agenda) at some point released birth trauma from their neck. And in doing so released a minor or significant amount of long-standing neck pain that they had experienced.

The second reason is that we are a “thinky” culture. This means that we are so wrapped up in our heads, in thinking, in intellectualism (well, some of us), or in the type of new-age “spirituality is up there I can’t think of anything negative let me open my third eye and crown and focus on angels” type of spirituality that it is rare that any of us are embodied. We have a lot of energies in our head, basically, and are disconnected from the rest of our bodies. The neck connects our head to our heart, it is a gateway to who we vitally are as people and embodiment in our physical beings. Most people have so much trauma or have made a conscious choice to not be embodied, which equals neck pain, headaches, and other issues like mental illness or delusional type understandings of the world I won’t go into right now.

The third reason is that the back of the neck is an important energetic gateway. There are a few major energy gateways in the body known as “spirit doors”. The back of the neck is one of the largest. This means that if you are in the least bit sensitive that information, energies, spirits, thoughtforms, beings (you get the drift) are coming at you to be processed through this doorway. This means that for most of us who are unskilled (basically meaning sensitive or having psychic capabilities but are untrained), this area is congested.

The fourth reason is that we are out of line with what we know we should be doing on this Earth. This means that we have lots of thoughts and societal conditioning that tell us that we should get normal jobs, have a normal life, that we need to make a certain amount of money and need to be doing certain things with our lives. The societal grids, or energies, are stored in our throat chakra. When we are doing things to get by when we know as a vital human being that we should be on another path, or doing something else with our lives, our heads get out of line with the rest of our body. Our neck twists and turns the further we get away from the awakened understanding of who we are and what we should be doing with ourselves, if only we were free from what society tells us we need to do.

The last reason is that this is one of the areas that is most energetically surface in the body. In the Chinese Medical system, this area is one of the areas that has the most surface channels in the body. This means that it is susceptible to things like wind (for example) going directly from the surface/ skin level to the channel systems (energetic pathways that are typically a bit deeper in the body). We instinctively protect this area, even without this knowledge, because we know subconsciously that this area is somewhat delicate and is not only a “spirit door” but also a place where things like cold, illness, and other environmental factors that can throw us of balance take hold.

There are other reasons for neck pain, and again, I am not ignoring the physical here. When we look at any disease, any area of the body, it is important to understand not only the spiritual factors, the energies, the mental/thoughtforms, but also the physical/physiological, and emotional reasoning behind an imbalance. Although it can certainly be a sort of “missing link” to understand the spiritual and energetic factors of something like neck pain, mainly because it is not discussed or really treated in our culture unless you are fortunate enough to have done enough research to find a really well trained CranioSacral therapist, Acupuncturist, Spiritual Healer etc (and many practitioners are barely trained out there, sad but true).

If you are experiencing neck pain, and have tried other methods (or even if you haven’t, but it is typical that most of us have long standing neck pain after visiting doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and the like) I encourage you to find a CranioSacral therapist who has been well trained (meaning has taken Advanced Coursework/the Advanced Class through the Upledger Institute and is preferably certified through them, or has taken a 3-4 year Biodynamic CranioSacral training- you will see the initials RCST or BCST after their names). I would not really recommend any other Cranial practitioners or training institutes except for practitioners who have completed the Visionary program through the Milne Institute, which is also a three year program, or “old school” Osteopaths that are are interested in cranial work (as opposed to being an allopathic-type physician) and do not scoff at the words “energy” or “spiritual”. Ask your potential practitioner if they can consider the energetic and spiritual elements- such as Birth trauma, of your neck issues, how long they have been practicing, and if they are certified, advanced, and have been so through one of the above licensed bodies. I am so adamant about this because of the amount of “weekend warriors” who have taken a class or two and say they do CranioSacral therapy, or the amount of “teachers” out there who have taken a few classes and then decided to teach lengthy programs and “certify” people without being certified themselves. CranioSacral Therapy is an art, and it can be a profound place of healing on a level that very few modalities can touch if you can get a practitioner who is truly passionate, knowledgable, and has had good teachers on the subject. Although a basic practitioner or one who has been poorly trained or “certified” through a teacher who may or may not be certified themselves can certainly help a bit with some of the basic physical and surface emotional energies, a well-trained practitioner can consider and hold space for the type of deep transformation and resolution that the neck often requires.

Guidance for Family Members- Spiritual Awakenings and Kundalini Syndrome

One of the more frequent emails that I get are some basic variation of these:

I have a family member (son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, cousin) or friend who is going through a Spiritual Awakening. How do I help them?
How do I know if my family member/friend is really having a Spiritual Awakening or is just crazy?
How should I know if I should put my family member into counseling/therapy/medication or hospitalization? How do I know if it is the right time for my family member/friend/loved one to get off their medication?

Although different in scope, many of these are really the same sort of question. What you are really asking is if Spiritual Awakenings are real, and if they are, what the hell do we do about them, especially in a world/culture where any sort of mental or emotional deviation from the “norm” is medicated so we can return to the normalcy of what is to be expected of most of our lives.

The biggest issue here is actually not if the person is “crazy” it is if they are functional. This is important to understand. If someone is going through a spiritual experience, no matter how big or mind-blowing or Jesus-talking, Kundalini feeling volcano-ing, seeing stars and communicating with the depths of the universe it is, the person should be reasonably functional in their daily, mundane lives. If they are not, they need help.

Basic Types of Spiritual Awakenings and Functionality
There is then a question of what sort of help they need. Many people have spiritual experiences that can temporarily cause issues in their mundane lives (and by that I mean going to work, going to the grocery store, etc. I certainly do not mean “mundane” as a negative). But even the highest, most intense spiritual issues should be able to be integrated after a period of time. If someone is still reeling from a spiritual experience after a week or two to the point that they are no longer functional, it may be time to take next steps.

Many others have long-term spiritual experiences that are incredibly destabilizing and too overwhelming to process. These are the people that end up hospitalized, medicated, and so forth. Unfortunately what happens in our culture is that once someone is stabilized they are rarely titrated off their medication so they remain medicated and partially stuck in the midst of a spiritual awakening for a good portion of their lives, if not their whole life.

Others have spiritual experiences that are difficult, destabilizing, and are difficult to integrate at times but remain reasonably functional in their lives. This group, if they do not know what is going on, may enter talk therapy, get on medication, or are more likely to seek out a spiritual worker or spiritual counselor, do bodywork or energy work, or seek out a guru who can possibly help them.

Many others are having mild spiritual experiences that they can seek out on weekends, in workshops, through meditation and other means. They are able to go on with their lives and suffer little to no repercussions physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually for having an interest in a spiritual path.

So what to do? What are next steps?
Generally my guidance for this is entirely individualized. But if I were to generalize I would say…

1. If they are reasonably functional in their lives, simply let them be. So they talk about weird stuff, let it go. Support them the best you can even if you do not know what they are talking about. Again, the question isn’t if a psychiatrist in a room with a bunch of ink blots would think that they deviate too far from the “norm” but if they are functional and reasonable in their daily lives. If they are, let them be.

2. If they are reasonably functional typically, but are going through a hard time… consider waiting or other options. This is more individualized. If your loved one is typically a stable, peaceful, and logical individual who is having an intense “wave” of Kundalini, is reliving a trauma in order to process, clear, and heal it, or is dealing with a physical sickness that no doctor can figure out, I would again suggest giving them a bit of time. In spiritual awakenings old events, traumas, and even physical sicknesses come up to release. This can be quite difficult to deal with. In spiritual awakenings an immense amount of energy can get activated and cause a whole range of odd symptoms and behaviors. This can also be difficult to deal with. But if you are dealing with a normally functional, reasonable human being who is having a rough weekend of Kundalini activation, I again would consider letting them be and telling them that you are there for them if they need you. Treat them as if they have the physical flu- ask them if they need anything, make sure they are safe, and offer them some soup or to come over and hang out with them. Suggest that they see an energy worker or spiritual worker familiar with spiritual awakenings so they can develop tools to deal with rough times. If this lack of functioning continues for a period of time (such as over a week or two) or you are in fear for their personal safety, or you cannot get them to see a spiritual worker, you may need to consider next steps.

If your loved one is in the same scenario as above (having a rough week with a lot of symptoms, basically) but they have a background of being emotionally unstable, traumatized, or were not very functional to begin with, you may also need to consider next steps.

3. Medication, Hospitalization, and Psychiatry
I would love if every person experiencing a spiritual awakening could find a spiritual worker or healer that actually knows what they are talking about or doing, or a psychotherapist who wouldn’t judge the person as “abnormal” and tell them to get medication. I would love if every person who was going through a spiritual awakening had loving and available family members to take care of them during the times that they were unable to function (this is, of course, a lot to ask). I would love if every person experiencing a spiritual awakening would take personal responsibility for what is going on and begin learning the tools in order to navigate their experiences, to go to healers to help them through the trauma and issues coming up for processing, and begin meditating, walking, or doing whatever activities were necessary to make them feel whole.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Spiritual awakening is disorienting and it is likely at some points to make the person non-functional. In cases where the person already has a background of trauma or emotional instability it can break them. Many times people undergoing spiritual awakenings need to be able to work, to be a part of their family, or do not have loved ones able to care for them for whatever reason. This is totally understandable.

In mild to moderate cases, or in cases where a normally stable and emotionally sound person is temporarily destabilized, these are always the first steps I suggest. I first suggest bodywork, such as CranioSacral therapy, as well as Spiritual Healing and Counseling to anyone going through a spiritual awakening. I suggest meditation, learning and practicing tools learned through the Spiritual Healer, gentle to moderate exercise, reducing television and Facebook/internet time… but sometimes symptoms are so severe or the person is so traumatized that these “first steps” cannot happen.

In this case I suggest a Transpersonal therapist or a Jungian therapist if you can find one. They are aware of the spiritual dimensions of care but are also part of the typical “Western” allopathic framework- they can suggest medication, hospitalization, and so forth. I would work with them and their suggestions.

In severe cases medication and psychiatric interventions, such as hospitalization, may be necessary. If the person is in danger of hurting themselves, cannot tell where they are, and is completely non-functional they are in need of drastic care, even if it is temporary. In my experience medication (in very few, but still some) cases is necessary- it puts a stop to the spiritual experiences so the person can become more functional. Nobody likes hospitalization, but if it needs to happen it needs to happen.

The “trick” here is even if drastic intervention is necessary, it does not need to be necessary for the rest of their existence. So if someone is destabilized enough that they need hospitalization or medication, allow for that care to save your loved ones life. When they are out of danger, even if they are still in the care of a psychiatrist, even when they are medicated, start working with a bodyworker, Acupuncturist, and a Spiritual Worker so they can process the trauma and experiences they have had and through the Spiritual Worker learn the tools they need.

In some cases, long term medication, or life-long medication needs to happen. In many cases, this does not need to happen. Titration of the medication can occur when the person learns tools and re-stablizes after their experiences. It is up to you, as an advocate for your loved one, as well as your loved on themselves, to express (or unfortunately demand in some cases) a plan for doctor supervised titration of medication, and to make a plan for the side effects of titration (such as acupuncture appointments and herbal medicine) as well as to come to a new sense of normalcy after being medicated for a while.

Spiritual awakening is a healing process. At some points it can get overwhelming, especially for friends and family who have no direct experience or understanding of what is going on. For very few, it is a process that needs to be stopped, medicated, and treated long-term through psychiatry and hospitalization. Although I am not an advocate for allopathic approaches such as medication and hospitalization, I recognize the need for it to happen in some cases, but would like for them in the vast majority of cases to be thought of as temporary and/or life-saving rather than a permanent solution to spiritual awakening issues. The vast majority of people undergoing spiritual awakening may just need the right tools and understandings to navigate their experiences, as well as the right practitioners and loved ones to help them through, before the experiences get to be too intense.

Mary Shutan, L.Ac, CST-D, CZB, ABT offers mini consultations (20 minute phone/Skype calls) and full length consultations (60 minutes) via Phone/Skype to people who wish to find out how to help their loved ones through a spiritual awakening, or wish to have a better understanding of the process. You may contact her here for appointments.