Alison Chan is an integrative bodyworker who combines Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy with somatic trauma work. Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) utilizes the body’s innate capacity for self healing to promote nervous system regulation and allow the body to function optimally. This therapy is quite unique as it is a gentle, subtle healing modality that deals with the reorganization of the body’s functions on a cellular, energetic and emotional level. BCST influences the brain, spinal column, and nervous system, along with the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds it. Further, it has a direct effect on all fluids and tissues within the body. Alison works with individuals who have experienced birth and early life trauma, as well as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, issues with sleep and digestion, as well as auto immune disorders. Additionally, she works closely with individuals struggling with emotional pain and grief and uses light touch therapy in conjunction with body-centred dialogue, to help individuals release stress, trauma and feel more safe, relaxed and well within their bodies.
Using light touch (or intentional touch via video) Alison helps guide her clients to release emotional or physical pain, so that the body can begin to heal. Using specific tools and techniques, she helps her clients cope with challenging emotions or sensations by first asking them to connect with and bring more awareness into their physical bodies. Alison provides a safe and supportive environment where individuals have the
opportunity to form a greater connection and relationship with the body, reduce pain, combat stress and anxiety and work towards cultivating a state of restoration which helps boost the body’s natural capacity for self healing.
Emotional States & The Nervous System
“The more we train our brains to notice and remember these good feelings, the more resilient our bodies become and the less likely we are to get triggered, sending our nervous systems into challenging states”. (Alison Chan)
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) provides a safe space for traumatic or challenging experiences to emerge, shifting the body towards resolution and eventually release. This therapy is an interactive process of meeting and exploring sensations as well as emotions, with gentle awareness from the practitioner. During this process, the client is guided towards deepening the connection to their body, settling their nervous
system and building the capacity to better self regulate. While exploring a clients unique emotional landscape, Alison has the opportunity to create safety through relational contact and encourages the body to shift into a place of balance and stillness. She is truly gifted at helping people settle their nervous systems, relieve pain, trauma and ultimately build more resilience within their own bodies.
BCST helps to create conditions where the body can begin to let go of old patterns and stories that can accumulate over time. It provides individuals with the opportunity for agency by teaching them how to continuously check in with their bodies and learn how to negotiate with and navigate the more complex, difficult sensations and emotions that may arise. BCST brings us closer to the intimate awareness of what is really going on for us and provides us with the opportunity to check in and fully realize ourselves as complex beings.
With a background in Pre and Perinatal Somatic Therapy, Alison holds a deep awareness of the early imprints of our lived experience, which tends to shape how we respond to our life, the world around us, as well as our perceptions surrounding what is safe and what is not. “People who have experienced trauma in early life have a much higher likelihood of developing chronic illness, depression, addiction and other challenges”. When we are triggered emotionally, our nervous system gets impacted and we can quickly shift into a state of “fight, flight or freeze”. Alison explains that in these moments, we tend to fall back on old coping mechanisms, as the body had once created these mechanisms as a source of defence. Since our brains are wired for survival, we can get stuck in a state of hyper arousal where we are constantly anticipating danger. As you can imagine, this as a prolonged state can have many serious implications for our physical and emotional well being. Additionally, trauma can leave individuals experiencing high levels of disassociation and disconnection from their bodies and trauma resolution therapies, such as BCST, provides a wonderful opportunity to bring people back into their bodies, teaching them how it feels to be truly present and safe.
Alison works with her clients to help orient their nervous systems towards focusing on feelings of safety and goodness. She explains that, “The more we train our brains to notice and remember these good feelings, the more resilient our bodies become and the less likely we are to get triggered, sending our nervous systems into challenging states”.
After learning more about the many benefits of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with Alison for a session over zoom. Before my session, I was asked to fill out a set of comprehensive intake forms which helped to provide a detailed account of my physical and mental health history, alongside some questions about my lifestyle, my hopes and intentions for effective treatment, in addition to questions about my early life and birth experience. After chatting with Alison, we started our session together with a simple grounding practice.
Seated upright in a comfortable chair, I began by taking some slow deep breaths. As I was breathing, Alison asked me to notice the contact I was making with the floor and to bring my awareness to the soles of my feet, noticing how they make contact. I was then asked to feel into the various sensations I might be experiencing within my toes and feet. After I described some of the sensations, Alison then asked me if there was a part of my foot that felt good? I responded stating that the arch of my right foot felt good. “What are the sensations that tell you that it feels good?”, she asked. I explained that it felt good, in the sense that this part of my foot felt free. I felt there was space that could move underneath it and surround the foot itself. I noticed that this part of my foot did not feel constricted, or heavily weighed down and that there was no observable pain in this particular area.
Alison then invited me to stay with these positive sensations, really allowing them to imprint themselves within my body. As we continued our grounding practice, I was asked to notice other parts of my body and the sensations I was feeling throughout. As my nervous system began to settle, I started to feel a sensation in my knees that felt as though the energy in my body was wanting to move upwards. I continued to breathe
deeply and was guided to continue to hold the awareness of my feet, seat area and breath. As our grounding practice came to an end, Alison had me turn my head slowly from side to side, opening my eyes gently to take in some of the objects in the room around me. She explained that this practice teaches my nervous system to recognize that in this very moment I am safe and that nothing about my environment is threatening. It
is truly incredible how the practice of breath and observing subtle sensations within the body can really help one to ground and ease the nervous system into a state of greater relaxation.
After this practice, we moved our session to a place where I could lay down. As I lay on my yoga mat, using pillows and blankets as supportive props, I was asked to ensure that my spine was generally aligned and that I was comfortable, so that Alison could begin her work. “As you lay there, allowing your body to be held by the floor..notice all the ways that you are in contact with the floor...your back, the back of your head, your seat, the backs of your legs. As you are breathing, allow for softness in your body and notice if there are places that perhaps don’t feel so soft and just accept them”. Alison then invited me to do a slow body scan, starting with my head, moving down my neck, noticing the shape of my body and with each place noticing contact. She asked me to observe any sensations and without doing anything, just allowing them to be. She then asked if I was ready to have her come into contact with my energetic field. Bringing her attention to the edge of my field, I felt her come a little closer and could feel her supportive, warm presence. Before making any closer contact, Alison reminded me that I could let her know if something didn’t feel comfortable and that we could adjust the experience at any time. Throughout our session, Alison constantly checked in with me to ensure that I felt held without experiencing any sort of pressure or discomfort.
One of the most incredible and memorable feelings I had was this wonderful release that felt as though energy was moving up and out of my forehead or third eye chakra. By the end of our session, I felt more calm than I had been in a very long time. (Isabel Fiorino-Habib)
As Alison made gentle contact with my energetic field, I began to feel a bit of tingling in my left ankle and foot, however the sensation was not uncomfortable. I continued to feel certain energetic shifts within my body, such as tingling or warmth and was asked to differentiate between the feelings in the left and right side of my body. When I noticed a bit of discomfort within a particular region, Alison encouraged me to take a deep breath and let out a sigh. She also asked me to breathe into the spot where I was experiencing some discomfort. After doing so, she asked what I was noticing within my body? I simply felt more connected. I could really feel the energy moving up my legs, past my knees, further up towards the middle of my body and moving behind my heart chakra. I felt more warmth and a sense of expansiveness. One of the most incredible and
memorable feelings I had was this wonderful release that felt as though energy was moving up and out of my forehead or third eye chakra. By the end of our session, I felt more calm than I had been in a very long time. I felt much more grounded and felt a sense of peace and restfulness that I was able to enjoy for a few days after my session.
Alison’s warm, supportive and kind approach allows one to confidently surrender to the unique experience of BCST. Throughout my session with her, I felt that I was truly in experienced and good hands.
5. How does somebody find out if you are a good fit for Craniosacral Therapy or not?
They are welcome to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange a chat, and we can discuss what your challenges and goals are and how we might work together.
The first session I offer is an Evaluation Session where you can experience the gentleness of the work and get a taste of its effects, and then we follow up by phone a few days later to chat and see if it makes sense to continue together.
6. If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be, and why?
It would be about building resilience in our nervous systems! The state of our nervous systems is really key to overall health. Period.
7. Do you have a daily self-care practice or ritual that is helpful for you?
I find meditation really beneficial, and I also make sure I go for a long walk in a ravine at least once a week so I’m surrounded by quiet and by trees. That has really helped my mental health during COVID.
8. What do you think are the key ingredients to living a happy life?
I wish I knew! Ha ha!
I suppose I would say having safe, mutually supportive relationships is key. Expressing emotions in a healthy way and having healthy boundaries. And learning to ask for help when you need it. Being of service to others. Having compassion for yourself and others.
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