Understanding Michael Shea’s Biodynamic Cardiovascular Therapy

by Michael Shea with Margery Chessare

Turtle Back Craniosacral Education is honored to regularly host Michael Shea, PhD, one of the preeminent educators and authors in the fields of craniosacral therapy, somatic psychology and pre and perinatal development. He is the originator of Biodynamic Cardiovascular Therapy (BCVT). 

The majority of people in Western countries now suffer from an epidemic of metabolic syndromes such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. The central locations of metabolic problems are in the intestines and the cardiovascular system throughout the body, particularly in the endothelium. 

Biodynamic Cardiovascular Therapy is the application of biodynamic craniosacral therapy principles to the cardiovascular system. This work was begun in the 19th century by the founder of Osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still; he declared that “the rule of the artery is supreme.” That wisdom is still true today.

The courses Dr. Shea offers in Saratoga Springs are designed for therapists who have graduated from or are attending a biodynamic foundation training, or currently have a clinical practice in any model of craniosacral therapy. Students without training in craniosacral therapy but who are professional manual therapists are welcome, too (pending prior approval).

These courses have two intentions. The first is for the therapist and client to experience embodied wholeness and compassion through awareness of the heart and vascular system. The focus is on developing these qualities first in the therapist and then offering them to our clients. Kindness is expressed through the therapeutic presence of the therapist when his or her hands are in contact with the client. This intention is based on the therapist’s perception of Primary Respiration (sometimes called the Long Tide in Cranial Osteopathy) and dynamic stillness (sometimes called a Stillpoint) while gently contacting the arteries of the client.

The second intention is to understand and sense the cellular metabolism of the client via the cardiovascular system. The emphasis is on what we now know to be the crucial role in health of the vascular endothelium (the inner lining of the arteries and veins). In this approach, students learn how to positively influence the metabolic system of the client via the blood and its vessels. This includes the immune system in the blood and endocrine systems located within the endothelium. 

The heart-blood-endothelium complex is contacted via the therapeutic activity of Primary Respiration and stillness already within it. In this way, the therapist, through her hands, is simply reminding the client’s cardiovascular system of its preexisting health.

Primary Respiration is sometimes defined as the Long Tide in Biodynamic craniosacral therapy. It is the movement of wholeness. It is one of the three tidal movements that craniosacral therapists might work with in clinical practice. The other two are the Cranial Rhythmic Impulse (CRI) and the Mid Tide, both of which are faster.

Primary Respiration was first discovered by William Garner Sutherland, DO, who incorporated it into his clinical practice and teaching in the last two decades of his life.  Sutherland understood the therapeutic benefits possible when both practitioner and client are able to access a slow rhythm within nervous system, heart and body.

The purpose of Michael Shea’s BCVT training is:
1.    To study the new science of compassion and its recovery with Biodynamic Cardiovascular Therapy. Each class has at its essence mindfulness-based guided meditations linking compassion, kindness and gentle care with the experience of Primary Respiration and stillness in and around the body. 
2.    To learn new palpation skills to help stabilize and improve the cellular metabolism of the contemporary client, specifically in his or her Fluid Body (the instinct of knowing how to self-heal), intestinal, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
3.    To learn important new aspects of prenatal development and the cellular metabolism of the cardiovascular system. Human embryology will be taught from the point of view of morphology (wholistic movement) and how this understanding informs our palpation skills.
4.    To experience embodied wholeness in one’s self first in order to offer this to the client. Skillful application of palpation skills based on compassionate touch begins in the physical and fluid body. 
5.    To maintain a Heart-to-Heart connection. The electromagnetic field of the heart extends 15-feet around the body and constantly interacts with other heart fields. Primary Respiration moves within the heart field to generate safety, healing and embodied wholeness. This sensory awareness can be applied in all life situations. Numerous skills will be taught to experience this state.

In these classes, students will learn how and when to blend current and previous learning in all forms of craniosacral therapy as well as manual therapy of all kinds for the most effective treatment for our clients. Each year the curriculum of all courses is updated with new research information on the Fluid Body, cardiovascular and nervous systems and its application in clinical practice.