Alignment of the Spine and the Cranial-Sacral Rhythm

(An Unauthorized and Incomplete Guide to Zazen)


Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, CAThe movement of breath affects the alignment of the spine, but the bones of the spine have their own independent motion that affects alignment. The motion is generated by changes in the volume of cerebral-spinal fluid in the tissue sack that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. Dr. John Upledger, D.O., estimated that changes in fluid volume in the sack cause the bones of the skull, the spine, and the sacrum to flex and extend about 14 times a minute (on average). The flexion and extension of the bones encourages the forward and rearward movement of the upper body, and an inward and outward rotation of the arms and legs.

Dr Upledger found that he could use his hands to sense the rhythm of the cranial-sacral system, and that he could encourage flexion and extension of the bones where the movement was good to bring about flexion and extension where the bones were stuck. He used at most 5 grams of pressure to do this, about the weight of a nickel.

The sense of location as consciousness takes place can lead the balance of the body to accomplish from the inside what Dr. Upledger accomplished from the outside, namely, to reinforce movement in one part of the body with the rhythm of the cranial-sacral system in order to free up movement in another part.

photograph of Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, California by Ingrid Ringel