In aviation, a pilot’s control touch can be the difference between a smooth ride and a bumpy one. Flying helicopters requires a certain type of finesse. Back in flight school, the Instructor Pilots (IP) used a lot of similar cues to teach us how to fly. The one that has been coming to mind recently is how minute our control inputs were to hover. To get to this level of calm, you had to completely relax and “think” the aircraft where you wanted it to go.
I have always loved hovering. Literally floating ten feet above the ground. During our first couple weeks of flight school, that was a big focus. Just learn how to keep the helicopter still in the air. It sounds easy, right? Well, it took most of us about 10 hours in the cockpit before it finally clicked. Ten hours can be a long time when you’re just trying to focus on not going anywhere. They would start us off simple, giving the student one of the three controls at a time to get used to it.
While the IP had the helicopter under his control, we just hovered, rock solid, over the same spot. It looked effortless. I looked over at the way he sat, his hands moving slightly, his feet gracefully working the pedals, yet we remained still. “You have the pedals,” he said. “I have the pedals,” I replied and put my feet out on the pedals. To complete the three-way positive transfer of the controls, he responded once more before giving me full control of our yaw, “You have the pedals.” Almost immediately, the helicopter started to yaw to the right. “You need more left pedal,” he instructed. I gave the left pedal a little kick, and we violently swung 120 degrees to the left. “A little less than that.” We continued rocking from right to left until my quads started burning because I was pushing too hard. The IP took the pedals back to give me a few seconds to shake out the lactic acid built up from my legs fighting themselves. After some time of doing little more than working the pedals, I learned how to lighten my control touch and stay relaxed. One by one, I practiced with the each of the controls until I became more comfortable and accustomed to the helicopter’s response to my inputs.
It took some time and a lot of patience, but eventually, I learned how to hold the helicopter still, 10 feet above the ground. Stillness. When it came time to start moving, I was instructed to just “think it forward”. Any movement of my hand holding the cyclic that could be visually noticed was too much. If I wanted us to move, I needed to set the intention to move, and the helicopter would follow as if I had telepathic control. Obviously, I was making some sort of physical input, but it was very gentle and light. I have to say, having that type of control when you have a 35,000 pound aircraft strapped to your body is as incredible as it sounds.
People often ask if I miss flying. The truth is that sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Thankfully, the concept of the control touch remains in my career path. It is a part of my life experience that I get to revisit every time I work with a client.
The control touch required for CranioSacral Therapy (CST) reminds me of hovering. It is incredibly light and gentle, less than 5g or the weight of a nickel. As a practitioner, I have noticed that the lighter I am, the better I can work. Like helicopters, the pressure needed to perceive a body’s craniosacral rhythm is very delicate. Consider feeling your pulse on your wrist. If you push to hard, you can’t really feel it. You have to rest your fingers at just the right amount of pressure to feel the blood rhythmically circulating. The same consideration must be made to feel the craniosacral rhythm, only lighter.
Our bodies know what they need to heal. They don’t want to be pushed , or nudged. They want to be heard, to be witnessed and given an opportunity to do its job. By bringing improved circulation and movement in the craniosacral system (CS), the body can be free to relieve a long list of ailments on its own.
I consider the Upledger CST 10-step protocol a style of assisted stretching. Sometimes there are restrictions in the membrane or osseous structures of the CS. Just like helping a client stretch the muscles in their rotator cuff, I can help parts of the craniosacral system return to proper movement. For example, not many people can manipulate their sphenoid bone independently. A trained CranioSacral therapist can.
How such a light touch can bring change to a person’s body so well? It’s the same concept as the flight controls in a helicopter. Hydraulics. The craniosacral system has characteristics of a semi-closed hydraulic system. Imagine that your brain and spinal column surrounded by a custom shaped balloon (membrane called dura mater). This balloon is special. It produces and fills with an amazing liquid called cerebrospinal fluid; like a water ballon. After a few seconds, the fluid is reabsorbed into the body, and the dura mater begins the cycle again. This cycle continues for life, like the way our hearts beat, but at a rate of 6-12 cycles per minute. Within the membrane are cerebrospinal fluid, osseous structures, connective tissue, and other components. As the balloon fills and empties, the other parts of the CS move. When the practitioner creates resistance, amplifies, or stills this filling and emptying process, the fluid within enhances their intention on the rest of the system. Just as hydraulics in a helicopter helped me move an enormous machine in the air with the slightest touch, the CS responds to the slightest pressure with profound results throughout the body. The CS has a powerful influence on the entire body; from the central nervous system to the musculoskeletal system to the immune and respiratory systems. Releasing adhesions in the CS creates a domino affect of healing and correcting the body has a whole and complete system. It is as amazing as it sounds.
We may not be resistant to stress and trauma, but we are resilient to their effects.
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