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Helping women re discover their stillness and authentic spark

As we approach International Women’s Day closely followed by Mother’s day itself, I wanted to reach out to all those that may have been alarmed by the preliminary reports of stillbirths and some rare complications being associated with Covid 19. https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2021/0304/1200855-coronavirus-ireland/

Although these complications are extremely rare, this news may disturb us all whether we are pregnant or not. The impact on our most vulnerable population, I am including unborn children here as well as their parents, is not to be underestimated.

It is hard enough for mothers planning to give birth during a pandemic without unconfirmed information adding to their stress. 

In his book Pre Parenting ; Nuturing your child from Conception, Dr Thomas Verny writes “ human emotion and the sense of self originates not in the first years after birth but significantly earlier – in the womb. .. the journey down the birth canal to afternoons in the park, a child will register every experience in the circuitry of his or her brain.”

Parents are the baby’s extended nervous system. Neuroscience demonstrates that co-regulation begins at a cellular level from conception. Mums are a babies first environment.

Filtering or not filtering news will be a heated debate for another day and another forum. Right now as a community we all have a role to support and nurture our pregnant mothers. Whether we are well meaning work colleagues, grand-mothers or care professionals our presence and attitude can make a positive difference.

What can we do about it? 

* Normalise news ..focussing on facts rather than drama

* Fear begets fear. Parents to be need our positive support orientating to positive outcomes.

*Slow down and listen with an empathetic heart to mums to be. Wild often unfounded fears are a natural part of pregnancy. Don’t add to them.

* Research has shown that talking to our babies in Utero, taking moments to bond pre-birth and doing all we can to calm and settle ourselves as parents has multiple future benefits.

* Mums should be encouraged to seek out support, to connect with other mums and friends.

*Being in nature, walking, breathing, stretching and moving will help each one of us counterbalance stress.

March is the month when APPPAH ( Association for prenatal and perinatal psychology and health) is hosting a summit on the science of prenatal bonding . 

Here are links to a recent article ECHO https://www.echolive.ie/business/arid-40223291.html

I work as a Craniosacral practitioner with parents both pre and post-natally to create an environment of physiological and emotional calm. I also offer a free weekly online zoom call for mums to be and new mums called Mothering YOU.

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How Craniosacral therapy helps settle nervous systems

How Craniosacral therapy helps settle nervous systems.

With anxiety, depression and stress on the climb, have you ever wondered how you can better manage your reactions to life’s challenges and stressors? With awareness we can track our emotional roller coaster states and become more effective, mindful, and joyful during the day. Learning to map our nervous system has a positive long-term impact on our overall health .

Our nervous system forms as early as three weeks in Utero. It is a highly tuned sensory system that is designed to check for safety. We literally download our mother’s nervous system and continue to be influenced by the whole family environment in our formative years. If our mother was highly strung for example and didn’t have enough support, we may have a ‘short fuse’ as well.

As we notice our states, it is vital to be compassionate with ourselves. None of this is our or even our parents fault, we have all come with our own unique challenges and circumstances.

Looking more closely at the autonomic nervous system, most of us learned in biology about our “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” responses. In 1994 however, Dr. Stephen Porges, discovered that although some aspects of the nervous system are instinctual and ‘automatic’, there are other aspects that we can influence and learn to accentuate. Most critically he points out that we can settle and soothe our nervous system best in pairs. We are social beings and are literally wired to connect. When we are with a person who is stable and calm it will be much easier for us to relax as well. This is one of many reasons why the Craniosacral approach that I offer is so effective.

Dr Porges discovered that our vagus nerve, referred to as the wandering nerve in Latin, is one of the longest nerves and is a cranial nerve that originates in the brainstem. It innervates the muscles of the throat, circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination. During Craniosacral treatments I often make contact with areas that relate to the vagus nerve as it is the major constituent of the parasympathetic, ( rest and digest), nervous system. Over 80 percent of it’s nerve fibres are sensory, relaying changes about the internal and external environment to the brain. This feedback is critical for the body’s homeostasis. Craniosacral work is safe and reassuring for the nervous system. When offered by a calm practitioner, the clients system will melt and settle into a peaceful state.

How do these states feel in our body?

We can view our three nervous system as a ladder with three sections. Top middle and bottom. When we are in locked in a stressed or potentially anxious state, we loose or capacity to be curious and empathetic. We are like a rabbit in the headlights and are not able to regulate our attention and focus.

First, in the middle, our “fight and flight” response is our survival strategy, a response from the sympathetic nervous system. If you were going to run from tiger, for example, you would want this response to save your life. A fight response can be prompted by a sudden sound, an unexpected pressure or demand of some kind. It can stimulate anger, rage, irritation, and frustration. During a flight response, we experience anxiety, worry, fear, panic and a feeling of literally wanting to get out of a place. NOW! . Physiologically, our blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline may increase and our pain threshold and capacity to digest will decrease.

At the bottom of the ladder, (or at the top of our image), we have our most primitive pattern, a “ Shut down or freeze” state, which is called the dorsal vagal state. Like an animal ‘playing dead’ after a shock, we have gone into overload and our system has temporarily shut down. We can feel hopeless and believe that there’s no way out. We may feel depressed, conserve energy, dissociate, feel overwhelmed, and as though we can’t move forward. Physiologically, our fuel storage and insulin activity increases and our pain thresholds increase. Some of may overeat, drink, or do something to excess to pacify ourselves.

Lastly, our “rest and digest” is a response of the parasympathetic system, also known as a ventral vagal state. It is our state of safety and homeostasis. If we are in our ventral vagal state, we are grounded, mindful, joyful, curious, empathetic, and compassionate. This is the state of social engagement, where we are connected to ourselves and the world. Physiologically, digestion, resistance to infection, circulation, immune responses, and our ability to connect is improved.

As humans, we naturally shift through all the states. We may be in a positive state and then all of a sudden, due to a trigger, be in a frustrated or angry state, worried about what may happen next. Shocking news could swing us into complete overwhelm.

When we find ourselves lingering in fight or flight or the shut down/freeze state, that is when we begin to have significant physiological and mental/emotional effects. If we are consistently in shut down mode or the fight or flight state, we can have constant activation of our stress pathways also known as the HPA axis. ( Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis ), and we impact our stress hormones, sex hormones, our thyroid, etc. This stress will have significant inflammation effects on the body and overall health as well.

Like any good captain of a ship in a storm, it is helpful to have a map of the territory to guide ourselves towards calmer waters. Choosing situations that resource you and allow you to experience rest and relaxation, is fundamental for your health, effectiveness and happiness. No treatment intervention or professional help will be of benefit until your system feels safe and well from the inside out.

Mapping your nervous system? Get a pen and make a few notes and think of one word that defines each one of these states for you. For example, if you are in your Ventral vagal state, the rest and digest state, you could say that you feel happy, content, joyful. Etc. When you are in your fight or flight state you could use the words worried, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. In the freeze/shut-down state you could use the words numb, hopeless, etc.

Identifying the word that YOU correlate with each of those three states is vital so that you’re able to recognize which state you are in, recognize how it feels and help yourself get out of it!

Identify your triggers and glimmers.

Over time you will notice what causes you stress and triggers your fight/flight and freeze states. A cutting letter from your boss, an argument with your spouse, a death of a loved one, or even if someone cuts you off while driving, etc. IT is helpful to make a note of these triggers for greater self-awareness..

Glimmers are the things that bring you to that optimal nervous system state. It could be something as simple as petting a dog, a soulful connection with a friend, eye-contact with a loved one or something bigger like going on a holiday.

Here is Deb Dana’s Worksheet to Map Your Nervous System. https://www.rhythmofregulation.com/resources/Figure%206-1%20Triggers%20and%20Glimmers%20Template.pdf

Summary

Once you identify your unique experience of these stress states, you are on the way to taking ownership of what’s happening to your body, and moving back to a calmer mode. Ultimately, this is how we can begin to develop resilience. WE can respond appropriately to life’s challenges, go to that fight or flight state for a short period, and then return back to the more expansive state of social engagement. To truly enjoy life, returning to your state of safety where you are mindful, grounded, and joyful, is a practice. It can start with mapping your own nervous system.

At the core of this work is the understanding that humans regulate themselves better in groups and as pairs. That is one of many reasons why Craniosacral work is beneficial for lasting change. Do contact me to book a free call to discuss how I can help.

Sara Devoy has worked in the field of health for over thirty years and helps individuals and groups settle their nervous systems and recover their innate spark. Craniosacral therapy is a whole-hearted, approach to wellness that is used for physical and emotional conditions and as a health maintenance programme. Sara works internationally both on and offline. (00353) 87 – 2350900 ( Please text)

Sara Devoy MA  BCST

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Sara Devoy interviewed in the Echo

In a quieter place of being

Job title: Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist and Integrative Baby Therapist

Education background: BSc in Religious studies and Anthropology and MA in Visual Anthropology. Studying complementary therapies since 1991. Qualified Polarity Therapist, Biodynamic Craniosacral therapist specialising in Pre and Perinatal psychology for parents and children.
Hobbies: Swimming, theatre and walking.

Describe your job in five words: Soothing nervous systems — joy — vitality!

Describe yourself in five words: A tenacious heartfelt human-BEING!
Personality needed for this kind of work? Humour, flexibility, adaptability, kindness.

How long are you doing this job?
Formally, 2016… informally, since I was born!

How did you get this job? When I left school I travelled widely and had the good fortune to teach in Kenya for nine months. Of course, at 19 I learned way more than I taught. It was a humbling experience to observe the obstacles that students had to overcome to get to school. A few months in I started to wake up to the hypocrisy, school fees were sometimes waived for the girls in return for sex. On several occasions I had to help a girl who had ‘lost’ her baby. Here I began to see first-hand that what we ‘learn’ in life is only half the story. Being able to be calm in the most harrowing circumstances was essential.

I was entranced by Africa and wanted to find ways to deepen my experience of other cultures and beliefs. I studied world religions, philosophy and anthropolgy as my first degree which led me to work as a publicist for a specialist book publishers in London on Buddhism and Tibet. I enjoyed networking and selling translation rights at Frankfurt bookfair and regularly entertained authors and Buddhist teachers in our offices.

In my spare time, I became a founder member of what wras then Tibet Support group UK that had now become an international Organisation, Free Tibet. We campaigned to allow The Dalai Lama to have a political voice in the UK and eventually enabled him to speak in the
House of Commons about the Tibetan perspective. This was way back in 1988!

A lot of voluntary work, determination and knocking on doors got me some freelance radio journalism assignments and some exciting work in television research that involved travelling to USA. This spurred me on to do a masters in Visual Anthropology. I made my film for my thesis in Co Kerry.

Having completed my Masters, I took at a position as anthropologist for Body Shop International. I trained staff in Singapore, Malaysia and throughout the UK about the products and various cultures associated with the ingredients, for nine months. It was a brilliant experience and felt like a good cross-roads to follow my heart (literally) and come and live in Ireland in 1990. I commenced my first complementary health training in Polarity Therapy while based in Cork and set up my practice in 1992.1 offered stress-management programmes for VHI when stress was hardly a household word!

I enjoyed the freedom of working for myself and establishing a direct marketing business for Chinese health foods with my now husband John. I enjoyed my moments of fame on the Pat Kenny show and speaking to large audiences in Dublin and nationwide as a result.
Finally, becoming a mother for the first time wras a great triumph for me but learning to feed and take care of a wildly colicky baby was a steep learning curve for me — 22 years later, wrhen working with young families, I am deeply grateful for those experiences. So, looking back, I would encourage anyone to keep following their nose and trusting that eventually their choices will make sense!

As a young mother, I followed my husband’s career path for some years which evolved from the security of a position as a Biochemist in UCH to eventually establishing a successful organic farm in West Cork in 2002. Now’ with three young children, w-e worked harder than we w’ould ever admit to create our home and new farm. Our determination and passion was such that wre managed to co-found w hat is now Clonakilty Kindergarten. John and I poured ourselves into our vision for the farm and what wre wanted to create for our family.

After 15 years of working at markets and developing a wide customer base in restaurants, supermarkets and shops, I felt ready to deepen my therapy studies writh Craniosacral

I was ready to step away from the 365 of farming life to a quieter pace of being rather than doing!


Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Applications are open to all but those that establish a business usually have a range of life experience. Perhaps they have another therapy training as well. Anatomy and physiology exams are required. Patience and kindness are key.Describe a day at work: On clinic days I gather notes for clients, read them through and sit quietly before each appointment. It is important that I am as calm and unruffled as possible w’hen offering the work. If I have some personal stress in my life, it is important that I address it and seek additional supervision and personal therapy. Where possible, I aim to swim or get some time outside in nature in between or before wrork as I know that when I am invigorated, this supports my clients!

If someone was to look at me working, they would say that I am not ‘doing’ anything. I may gently hold a person’s feet, back or shoulder and certain points on their head where I can sense the cranial rhythm. I am not transmitting energy or making something happen, instead I am creative a supportive environment that w ill allow the person’s own innate potency to establish the best balance possible.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: It requires good self-reflection skills and the ability not to take people’s responses personally. Some of the material I hear is hard to be with. My work can become stressful if I get momentarily involved and try to ‘fix’ or problem solve. If I ‘think’ that I have to do something or get something ‘right’, I have lost the plot and the point of the wrork!

Best bits: Seeing the joyful light in a baby’s eyes when they feel felt and seen by their parents and feeling people’s bodies soften and untangle under my hands. I have also worked on a dying friend that was probably one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. Resting with her at the end of her life, trusting that nothing needed to be said and there was nothing to be done. Both of us deeply connected and at ease.

Worst bits: Knowing that some some clients won’t choose to come back and trusting that they will find alternative forms of support.
Advice to those who w-ant your job? Explore your own inner w’orld first. Face your demons and have plenty of craniosacral sessions before deciding to train. There are various schools with different approaches and strengths and it is important to find out the style that suits you.

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Sara joins the team at Stephen’s Wood Injury Clinic.

Sara has recently joined the team at Stephen’s Wood Injury Clinic. Carrigadrohid. Macroom. working alongside osteopath Neil O’ Grady, and owner of Stephen’s Wood Injury Clinic. Sara offers sessions for adults, children and babies.

For over thirty years Sara has been exploring how our earliest experiences and the way we are born impacts babies and adults alike.


“A Holistic Approach to Health and Wellbeing ”

A therapy for the times we are living in. What is Craniosacral therapy and how does it help? Most of us know what we could or should be doing for our health but many of us have been juggling a lot in recent times and may be feeling anxious, overwhelmed or exhausted. We battle away trying to get the formula right, generating even more stress! Craniosacral Therapy is a hands-on approach to wellness that developed from Osteopathy. Physical and emotional tensions unwind as our nervous system settles.

Muscular pain, headaches, sleep issues, shock, reproductive problems, ailments related to pregnancy, fatigue, stress, anxiety as well as colic and reflux in babies can all be helped. Treatments are used as a health maintenance programme or to benefit acute conditions. The body’s ability to heal itself is emphasised making it extremely non-invasive and safe. Ideal therefore for babies and during pregnancy.

Although it takes a series of sessions before your body can begin to feel the full benefits, clients speak of a ’sense of calm: a joyful stillness’ of a ’renewed sense of aliveness’.

Stuck areas get unstuck. In a typical session Sara gently holds the person’s head, lower back and feet as a way to let the nervous system relax. The emphasis is on optimising health.

Craniosacral Therapy for parents and babies

22 years ago like many parents. Sara paced the floor during sleepless nights in an attempt to settle her first-born. The birth was long, and feeding complications made it easy to fall into a cycle of self-blame.
Nowadays. Sara finds it a special privilege to offer sessions to pregnant mums and to new- born babies. She is grateful that her extensive training and personal experience asa mum of three, enables her to deeply empathise with both baby and parents.

Sara reminds us that:
’babies are way more conscious than previously believed. They remember their birth and want to express their feelings about it just like usl They tell their story through their gestures, body movements and cries. They are asking to be acknowledged, to be heard and understood. To be met as a full-hearted human being!”


In a gentle Craniosacral session, a baby or young child, often takes the chance to complete a part of their birth that was interrupted or rushed. However hard or easy the birth may have been. Sara maintains that it is never too late to slow down and listen to the baby’s story. It deepens the bond and helps everyone fully arrive as a family!


Babies love it when we:

  1. Slow down to match their pace
  2. When we get as much support as we can as parents
  3. Hold our babies skin to skin
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Adults Blog

What to expect at my craniosacral therapy session?

Craniosacral Therapy is an extremely gentle form of body therapy that aims to help you find a natural point of stillness and balance in your life.  Through deep listening and light touch of the cranium, spine and pelvic area, I tune into the rhythms and flows of your body.

You will be fully clothed on a massage table, so wear comfy clothes and socks.  You may notice heat, tingling, pulsation and other sensations. This is all perfectly normal.  Everyone’s experience is unique and represents a personal voyage of discovery.

Although it may take a series of sessions before your body can begin to feel the full benefits of the treatment, clients often speak of a renewed sense of  ‘aliveness, wellbeing and presence’ in their body.  Our bodies know how to heal and  health will emerge given the right conditions.

A session lasts for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

A  first session lasts for approx 1 hour and 15 minutes .A case history form can be sent  ahead of time if you would like to fill it in advance.

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Craniosacral therapy explained.

Although many people have heard of Craniosacral Therapy there does seem to be some mystery and confusion about what it is or whom it can benefit. ‘ I thought it was only for babies ‘, or ‘I didn’t know it helped with stress, energy levels and anxiety’, how can something so simple help with injuries and physical conditions?’ These are common reactions!

Craniosacral bodywork gentle supports our nervous system to achieve balance. When we settle back into our bodies a wide range of conditions will soften and resolve, Clients choose craniosacral sessions for a variety of physical and emotional conditions including back pain, sciatica, headaches/migraine, stress and fatigue, sleep problems, digestive problems and behavioural issues in children. Anxiety and depression can also be greatly supported. Developed from osteopathic techniques, CST uses trained touch to perceive and respond to the subtle tidal motions of ‘primary respiration’ in the body. The biodynamic model emphasizes the body’s inherent ability to heal itself given the correct conditions and does not advocate the use of any external force, making it extremely safe, gentle and non-invasive, ideal for babies or during pregnancy.

Recovering from trauma and shock with Craniosacral Therapy.

In a session, you may notice heat, tingling, pulsation or other sensations as your body settles into a deep stillness. In a typical session, the therapist would gently hold the person head, lower back and feet as a way to let the nervous system unwind. The emphasis is always on finding health.

“To find health should be the object of the physician. Anyone can find disease.”
   Dr Andrew T. Sill

Case Study

On her first session, Jane was in shock her mind was spinning with unwanted and repetitive thoughts. Her neck and lower back were tight. Jane blamed herself for being distracted and unable to settle after a car crash. She felt numb and disconnected and began to fear that she would never recover. After a few sessions, it was as though her body slowly came back to life. Her breathing deepened and as her body softened her sleep improved and new possibilities came to the fore. Simple cranial work supported her whole nervous system to calm and regulate once again.

Read more about benefits
https://www.craniosacral.co.uk/
https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/

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Babies Blog

Craniosacral therapy for helping baby to sleep

It is a special privilege to offer Craniosacral therapy during pregnancy and to newborns. In a world where speed is often valued, craniosacral sessions support us to slow down and reconnect to ourselves and to our babies. Although we are parents from the moment we conceive, it takes many of us time to adjust to our new roles.  Becoming a parent is a roller coaster which can feel totally joyful, exhausting and overwhelming all at the same time!    

Many a new parent will cry, “Everything would be fine if only he would sleep!” It is so easy to make comparisons and to take it all personally. The more we try to control the situation and see sleep as ‘ a problem to be fixed’, the more elusive the romantic dream of a perfect family will be.

Mother and baby craniosacral treatment for sleep

During a  mother and baby Craniosacral session I always include babies in the conversation; treating them as individuals with the gentleness and respect they deserve.  Although babies don’t come with a magic off switch, getting curious about the stories that they are expressing is incredibly powerful.   Cutting edge neuroscience reveals that babies not only remember birth but their time in utero as well. Birth memories can be one reason why they may be fretful or find it hard to settle.  

To give you an example a young 5-month-old was a fussy feeder by day and hard to settle at night.  Mum was feeling depleted and powerless as her baby dominated the household.  I held mums lower back and asked the baby, who was crying, could I touch her on her lower back too.   We all relaxed and settled together and slowly as mums told me how she was feeling, her breathing deepened and the baby began to visibly melt into her mum. 

We all need support to reconnect with ourselves, to tell our stories and to be deeply heard. Time and time again I see how babies settle when they see that their mums are nourishing themselves as well. 

If you want to read more 

https://www.babycenter.com/0_baby-sleep-training-no-tears-methods_1497581.bc

Interesting article from The Independent

https://www.independent.ie/life/family/mothers-babies/hiring-a-sleep-trainer-helped-me-finally-get-my-baby-to-sleep-through-the-night-35542026.html

Article on how to help baby with sleeping

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleepless-in-america/201006/sleep-baby

 Sara

You can read more about Sara here

To book an appointment with Sara call or text 0872350900

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The History of Craniosacral Therapy

In the early 1900s, Osteopath William Garner Sutherland, DO (1873-1954) discovered that the body expresses itself in a series of subtle tide-like rhythms, expressed in our fluids, bones, organs and tissues..  This breath-like movement, called Primary Respiration, precedes the respiration of the lungs that starts at birth.  Together it amounts to a potency known as ‘The Breath of Life’.  In other traditions, this  life force is called ‘Chi’, ‘Ki’ or ‘Prana’. Sutherland wrote, “  within the cerebrospinal fluid there is an invisible element that I refer to as  the Breath of Life….. is it really necessary to know what makes the fluid move? Visualize a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality.” 

These early Osteopaths recognized that when this ‘Life Force’ has full  expression, many conditions improve.   In a session the practitioner listens to the expansion and contraction of these rhythmic tides.  It is a manifestation of a primary intelligence that is expressed in nature as well.

At times of stress, protective patterns of tension arise around the initial distress impacting us on a physical, emotional and physiological level. We hold our history in contracted tissues and overactive minds.  With this work, we become more present to ourselves, bringing acceptance and compassion.

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What is Craniosacral Therapy?

WHAT IS CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY

 Craniosacral therapy, ( CST), stems from Cranial Osteopathy and works on the craniosacral system – the fluids and membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord as well as the entire nervous system. It is a  hands on whole person approach to wellness that can successfully treat muscular pain, shock, fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression as well as colic and reflux in babies. Craniosacral therapy  is ideal for all stages of life including pregnancy. Treatments can be used as a health maintenance programme  or to  benefit acute conditions.  ( For a list please click here).  

Dr William Garner Sutherland  (B.1873) one of the early  Osteopaths who discovered the Craniosacral  rhythms within the body wrote,

“  within the cerebrospinal fluid there is an invisible element that I refer to as  the Breath of Life….. is it really necessary to know what makes the fluid move? Visualize a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality.” 

Whether online or in person, clients speak of a rekindling of their innate spark; of renewed purpose, vitality and joy. 


Effective for:

Colic/Reflux in babies

Pregnancy related ailments

Reproductive Problems

Back pain

Joint pain

Sciatica

Headaches/Migraine

Digestive Problems/IBS

Sports injuries

Neck/Shoulder pain

Arthritis

ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sleep Problems

Anxiety

Panic attacks

Stress, Trauma and Depression