You are in the fruit and veg department of the supermarket. You pull a bag from the roll provided. You are talking to your friend as you try to open the bag. You rub the end of the bag between your thumb and finger. After a couple of attempts you realise that you are trying to open the wrong end of the bag. If you look closely at where you have been trying to open the bag, you will see that your thumb and finger have left an imprint in the bag. You could say there is a pattern of restriction in the bag. If you smoothed out the imprint as best you could, you would still not be able to get the fine creases out of the plastic.
This is similar to the way restriction patterns are formed. The body undergoes a trauma of some kind. Let us say a car accident. The impact of the steering wheel on the body puts a large pattern of trauma in the body. Broken bones, lacerations etc. The body can release much of the pattern of restriction but it may not be able to release the entire pattern (the fine creases in the plastic). The residual pattern of restriction is what causes the symptoms that the person comes to you for help with.
You might wonder why these patterns of restriction are not detected and treated with expensive machinery, like MRI machines. Also how could such small residual patterns of restriction be so devastating?
To get an idea of what goes on in the body think of fascia as being like 20 layers of glad wrap one on top of another with a thin layer of fluid between each layer. When your body is functioning normally each layer glides over the next. If you poked your finger into the middle of those layers the imprint left by your finger would totally compromise the glad wrap’s ability to move one layer over the other. Take the above small analogy and multiply it by 1,000 and you will begin to get an idea of the effect patterns of restriction can have in the body. The machines are good but they are not looking for widespread minute restrictions.
Patterns of restriction are often wide spread but like anything that is creased, some parts are more creased than others. They are called focal points, trauma focuses or energy cysts.
Patterns of trauma are usually complex because the body moves as it is impacted. So in the example above the person would not have a steering wheel shaped pattern of restriction imprinted in the area of their body where they struck the steering wheel. The pattern of restriction will include the way their body moved as it was thrown around in the accident.
If you have ever seen crash simulations using dummies you will know that they move around a lot during the impact.
Also to be considered is the depth the pattern is imprinted in the body.
You have a large bowl of jelly and a ball bearing. You hold the ball bearing 5cms above the surface of the jelly and let it fall. It hardly breaks the surface of the jelly. You retrieve the ball bearing and drop it into the jelly from a height of 1 meter. The ball bearing has now embedded itself into the jelly to quite a depth.
With patterns of restriction the greater the force of the trauma the deeper into the body it is imprinted.
Emotional trauma also lodges in the body and can cause restrictions equal in severity to patterns of restriction formed in a purely physical way.
You are six years old. You are walking past a building site. A brick falls off the scaffold and hits you on the shoulder breaking your clavicle. 40 years later you have frozen shoulder.
You are six years old. Your father is angrily telling you that you are stupid. As he does this he taps you on the shoulder with his finger to make the point. 40 years later you have frozen shoulder.
The memory of these events may not be in the conscious mind, but stored in the cells of our bodies. In the course of a Cranio Sacral session these memories can spring into the conscious mind as patterns of restriction are releasing.
If you find the notion of ‘Tissue Memory’ difficult to accept, think of it this way; videotape is made of plastic with iron filings stuck on its surface. There is nothing too amazing about that, yet when the videotape is played through the VCR and we watch the film, we laugh and cry and become emotionally engaged. The cells in our bodies are a lot more complex than videotape. They store an incredible amount of information and perform a mind boggling number of tasks every second, it is very plausible that they can also store individual memory.
Patterns of restriction release when the body returns to the position it was in when the trauma was imprinted. For example if a person’s frozen shoulder was caused years before by their arm being violently. Then the pattern of restriction resulting from that trauma will release when the arm is in the exact position it was in when the trauma occurred, in this case bent backwards.
When the body returns to the exact position that the trauma occurred in, a spontaneous release occurs.
It would be practically impossible for the therapist to find the exact body position a particular trauma occurred in based on the person’s memory and external guesswork. Luckily for us we don’t need to work it out because the body remembers. The cranio sacral therapist tunes into the body and allows it to move. With skillful following the body will lead the therapist to the point where the trauma occurred.
The cranio sacral therapist uses the body’s memory of the trauma and follows it knowing that with timely and appropriate assistance it will release it’s own restrictions.
We will go into patterns of restriction in great depth as your training progresses. For now, knowledge of patterns of restriction will give an appreciation of what you have at your fingertips as you practice.