This article is based on episode #31 of A Bridge To Wholeness podcast. You can listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, and on our website.

Jennifer Crisp: Our episode today features someone who’s really very good at what she does. We’re going to learn more about the type of bodywork that she does. This is Heather Zivkovich, and Heather is located in the Annapolis area of Maryland. Her company is Balanced Being Therapeutic Bodywork. I love the name of that because it encompasses a lot of different things. Welcome, Heather, to the episode today. It’s so nice to have you on.

Heather Zivkovich: Thank you for having me.

Jennifer Crisp: I am so curious. I want to preface this question with if you had said, if someone had to me 10 or 12 years ago, “Why don’t you go and have some cranial sacral work or some bodywork done,” I would have looked at them with a lot of curiosity and said, “What is that? What is cranial sacral?” Now I’m beginning to hear and see a lot more about cranial sacral therapy and bodywork. Tell me, what’s your background, and how did you get into this? Why did you want to do this?

Heather Zivkovich: It’s kind of interesting. It came around for me. When I was young I thought I wanted to be an osteopath. Then, I don’t know, life happened, and I didn’t. I actually went a completely different route, and I worked backstage in theater. When I had children I was working nights and weekends, as was my husband because both of us worked in theater.

My mother was the primary caregiver for my children because we weren’t there. She basically said in not so many words, “You have to find something else to do by the time these kids are middle schoolers because I won’t want to have to deal with that anymore.”

I just kind of explored for a few years after that, what did I want to do? I knew that what I wanted to do was with my hands and kind of fell into massage therapy in the basic form of that.

Jennifer Crisp: You actually have to start out as a massage therapist before you go into cranial sacral.

Heather Zivkovich: You can get your massage therapy by just initially going into cranial sacral therapy.

I didn’t know enough about cranial sacral therapy at that point that I wanted to do that, so I did basic massage school, did most of it online, went and did six weeks straight in Colorado, and came back and got my license. The very first continuing education class that I had to take was with a woman, Dr. Carol Phillips who was a chiropractor here in Annapolis. I thought, “Look at this. Here’s a class that’s herein Annapolis. I don’t have to go very far away.” I walked in that first night, and she said, “Okay, what’s your background?” I said, “I’m a massage therapist. I just really like doing it because the muscles are so cool.” She stopped me right there, and she said, “Do you know what sort of class you’re in?” I said, “No.” She said, “You’re either going to walk out tonight, or you’re going to be hooked, and you’ll never want to do anything else.”

She hooked me. She did cranial sacral therapy and this movement-based myofascial release, and showed me that there was so much beyond just, here is he beginning of a muscles. Here is the end of the muscle, this is what the muscle does in the body, that there’s this whole connective system that I had no idea about.

Jennifer Crisp: They don’t really talk about that at all in massage school then.

Heather Zivkovich: Not in your basic massage school, no.

Jennifer Crisp: What is cranial sacral therapy? What is it, and what is myofascial release because I know that people hear about it. I often recommend different therapies for people as I see them. I’ll say, “Maybe you might want to try some cranial sacral therapy.” They just look at me like, “I’ve heard of that, but I don’t really know what it is.”

Heather Zivkovich: There’s kind of two camps of cranial sacral therapy. There’s the Upledger camp, which is what most people hear about, and then the biodynamic camp. Cranial sacral therapy in and of itself is a very gentle therapy that works with the rhythms of the fluids in the body, specifically, the cranial rhythm, which Upledger would say there is one rhythm that’s approximately three seconds total, a second and a half in, a second and a half out. It spreads the fluids in the brain and inside of the cranium and down the spine and down to the sacrum. The sacrum and the head are connected, so that, for example, if your pelvis is off, and you have one hip that’s forward, there’s going to be something that matches that in your head because the whole system turns and twists together.

The biodynamic camp of cranial sacral therapy goes one step further. They believe there’s three rhythms in the body. There’s your initial three-second cranial rhythm and then there’s a mid-tide, which is approximately 25 seconds total. Then the long tide, also sometimes called the breath of life, which is more, almost 90 seconds total. Basically, they’re deeper levels of healing. The initial is, I don’t want to use the word surfacey, but that’s kind of the easiest word to use.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, and so the other two may be pulling back more layers or peeling back more layers.

Heather Zivkovich: Yeah, and allowing a more system-wide change to happen. The breath of life includes the entire field around you as well as your body.

Jennifer Crisp: When somebody comes to you for a therapy session, why are they coming in? What is the reason that most people come to see a cranial sacral therapist?

Heather Zivkovich: Most people come in with a specific problem. I see a lot of people with migraines, TMJ. Generally, when they think cranial sacral therapy, they come to me because there’s something going on with their head, and that makes sense because if the bones are off in the head, then yeah, you’re absolutely going to have something going on that most likely manifests there in your head.

Jennifer Crisp: I’ve had sessions with Heather, and I know that I’d had a little bit of cranial sacral along with some massage therapy once in a while where they would just do a little bit of it, et cetera, but I had never had a full session until I had one with you. When I got off the table I just felt amazing. I was like, “Whoa.” When you say gentle movements, you really do mean gentle movements. What happens when someone comes to see you? What is the procedure? Do they undress? Do they get in a robe? Do they stay in their clothes? Is it a regular massage table? This is the kind of information I love people to know, so that they know when they go in, hey, this is what’s going to happen.

Heather Zivkovich: Right. Yes, I do have a massage table. People generally stay clothed because there’s no need to get undressed. I do have some people who want to get undressed, so okay, how about it? I’ll do a little bit of just a verbal intake to see what’s going on physically and emotionally. Then you just lie down, and you settle into yourself. Cranial sacral therapy is hard to do, if you’re racing straight from work, and you’ve just done an hour and a half of traffic, and you’re all riled up. Yeah, you’ve got to be able to settle in and go, “Okay, I am here now.”

Being absolutely present and knowing, the knowing where you are, so that the brain isn’t racing off to what I have to do for dinner tonight and so forth. Then we start hands on. Where I start hands on really depends on what the person has talked about. I always ask. I say, “Are you ready to be touched? May I come in and …” One place I like to start is the right knee, so one hand on either side of the right knee. It’s not a scary place to start, and some people, getting touched gently is kind of scary, so just going in and just creating a connection. My body is connecting with your body, and let’s see if your body has anything to say.

Jennifer Crisp: To say, right, because bodies do talk, don’t they?

Heather Zivkovich: Absolutely, yes.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, they really do. Can you talk a little bit about that spinal fluid, why it’s so important to have cranial sacral if you’re suffering from neck issues, shoulder issues, headaches, eye issues, or pain really in any part of the body. What is it going to do? How does it work? It is absolutely amazing. For anybody who has not had cranial sacral therapy, I’m telling you right now, it is really, really amazing. It’s amazing work that you do. I think I’ve had three sessions. In fact, I’m coming in for another one.

I have chronic Lyme. I do really have to take care of my physical body. I’m always trying to stay 10 steps ahead of the chronic pain issues and things. For me, this is just part of what I do, but I know that when I get up from the table I feel really balanced in a way. It’s strange, I don’t quite know how to describe that.

Heather Zivkovich: For me, it’s all about fluid flow. If you think of a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Your broth has to be there. If the broth dries up, the noodles get stuck. The chicken gets stuck. The carrots get stuck. The peas get stuck. It’s making sure that that fluid is flowing through your entire body and particularly the spine because that’s where everything comes out of. Sure, you have your spinal column.

In that chicken soup, if your broth dries up, then nothing moves. It’s exactly the same way in your body. If there is an area that is not getting the fluid, then everything in that area is going to solidify, and that’s what we don’t want. We want the fluid flow, and the flexibility, and the movement that comes with fluid in all of our body. For example, just in the actual spinal column is the spinal cord.

If there’s any area that gets dried up there, that spinal cord is not going to move up and down like it should. Therefore, the nerves that come out in between the different vertebrae are going to get stuck somewhere, and that’s going to effect goodness knows what depending on where things get stuck.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, because all those spinal nerves are connected to every one of our organ systems, and there’s so much more.

Heather Zivkovich: Exactly.

Jennifer Crisp: I think people often think about the spine as kind of this thing that sits out there, and if I get back pain, it’s my spine. I don’t really know that people really understand that the movement of that fluid and the innervation of all those nerves is dependent upon on how well it moves.

I think that’s where a lot of the bodywork comes in. I know this just from experience because I said I’ve had a few sessions with you. Now the first session, for me, was, of course, miraculous, as these things always are. I’m a big proponent of all kinds of bodywork. I really do think it’s very important. We will wash our cars, change the oil in our cars, make sure the tires have air, wash the windows, make sure that the air conditioning or the heater are working. We spend more time giving care to our automobiles than we do our own bodies.

We can’t do that. We really need to focus in and do much more of that self-care. This is one way to do it. I know after the first session I got up, and I think it held. I want to say the work held, the bodywork held for about three or four days. The next time I went in for a session, it held longer. Then the next time I went in it held longer. I think it is something that you build upon.

Do you recommend a certain number of sessions for someone, or do you just say, “Okay, you come in for a session, and everything is peachy keen?”

Heather Zivkovich: This is hard for me. No, I don’t say, “Just come once” because that’s just the first layer of the onion. If you want to get into the center of a problem, you’ve got to come more often. I know a lot of marketing people would tell me that I don’t do this correctly, but what I say to people is, “Okay, if you come once a month, you’ll kind of stay where you are.” We’ve got that layer, and we can make sure we don’t get worse. If you come more often than that, we can get deeper.

How many times to get to what you want or don’t want to deal with, we don’t know. Some people’s bodies just love this work and will immediately let go and just be like, “This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”

Other people are the onions that that first layer, you’re trying so hard to get it off, it just doesn’t want to … You’re crying, and yeah, so who knows how long it takes?

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, okay. That’s really good because I know with like acupuncturists, they usually do, I think, it’s like five or six sessions. They say, “Come once a week for five weeks, or six weeks, or whatever.” I think what you’re saying here is you are really allowing the person to really make that decision based on their own intuition.

Heather Zivkovich: Now I would say with that that most people don’t quite come as often as they should.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, that’s because life gets in the way.

Heather Zivkovich: Exactly, yes.

Jennifer Crisp: Right. It’s best, if you’re going to start something like this, not to wait until you’re a complete train wreck.

Get in there. If you’re starting to get headaches, or you’re having pain in your shoulders, or you’re just feeling off, and maybe you’ve been to the regular doctor, and they really can’t find anything, but you’ve been under a lot of stress. Maybe you’ve had a death in the family. Maybe you’ve gone through some type of divorce, whatever it is. It could be anything. This is where the alternative modalities, I think, do really well because there’s nothing particular acutely wrong with you, but maybe you are dealing with physical issues that come from emotional and spiritual imbalances in the body.

They manifest physically as headaches, and body aches, and just feeling kind of off, et cetera. I think that this is the one thing that I wish doctors would be a little bit more open to, is to say, “Hey, I’m not really, we’re not finding anything. I’m not saying that there isn’t something going on, but have you considered trying some type of an alternative modality such as cranial sacral, or acupuncture, or meditation, whatever it is,” because every time I talk to people, I will say to them, “Do you know about this? Do you know about that?” People are using these modalities. They are, but nobody is talking about it.

They don’t want to talk about it. It’s almost like if they admit that they go to see someone who does bodywork like cranial sacral, that they’re just a little bit too far out there. People, let me tell you, it’s here to stay. Be open about it and tell as many people as you can because you don’t know who you may end up helping by sending them to someone who specializes in this type of work. That’s the really amazing thing about it. Okay, so let’s say someone comes in, and they’ve been suffering with migraines, and you begin working on them. What do they tell you, if they start to get relief? What are you hearing from them?

Heather Zivkovich: Post-session, you mean?

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah, post-sessions, and they’re coming back because they’re like, “Wow, this is working. Maybe I had five migraines every month, and now I have three.”

Are you getting those types of responses from your patients?

Heather Zivkovich: Yes.

Jennifer Crisp: That’s what I thought. In particular with migraines and TMJ. Those tend to be two things that are not, easy is not the word I want, but manageable with this type of therapy. I’m actually really excited. Can I share my new training with you?

Heather Zivkovich: Please, absolutely. Absolutely.

Jennifer Crisp: By the way, we’re not also, and I just want to say this. If you’re on medication for anything, we’re not purporting that you stop your medication. We’re saying to you, use this as an adjunct and eventually, you may be able to release that medication for migraines and pain. That’s one of the greatest benefits of using alternative therapies, so yeah.

Heather Zivkovich: Yeah. I am a big proponent of Western medicine.

Jennifer Crisp: Absolutely.

Heather Zivkovich: There is such a place for it.

Jennifer Crisp: Absolutely. I want to hear about your training, yes.

Heather Zivkovich: Absolutely. Pre- and perinatal dynamics. I just took a four-day weekend introduction. The stuff that I learned was just, it was life-changing for me. Some of the patterns that we find in our entire life can happen from in the womb.

Yeah, and particularly in the birth process. As you’re being born, if something happens, and you get stuck halfway, there are going to be physical things that stay in your body from that as well as emotional or spiritual. For example, myself, I’m one of those people who will start a project. I’ll be all excited, and halfway through I’m like, “Okay, yeah, whatever, and it sometimes never gets finished.” In this process, I was like, “Right, that’s what my mother always told me what happened with my birth,” is that I came halfway out, and then I stopped and said, “That’s it” and had to get yanked out. It took someone else. It was really interesting to see that there was a pattern that started from that. The reason I’m bringing this up is because all of that is pre-verbal.

Most of us say, “Anything that happened with our childhood or whatever, we’ll go to the psychologist, and we’ll talk about our parents, and we’ll be all better.” This is before we could speak, so we can’t put into words, “My grandmother died while I was in Mom’s womb, and I felt all this loss and pain, and sadness, and I had no idea what that was.”

Tough therapy can access that stuff and help it move through.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. For those of you who think this is a little outside the box, actually, science backs this up. If we go back to Candace Pert in the 1980s who was a scientist who worked at Hopkins, she actually wrote a book called Molecules of Emotion. They actually were able to measure emotion inside of molecules, so we know that this happens at the cellular level and that our bodies hold memory in our cells, in our molecules. Having an experience like that pre-verbally, obviously, is going to be carried right inside of ourselves. Really, it’s amazing. The work that they’re doing now in all of these areas, in neuroscience, and the brain. It’s just fascinating, really, really fascinating. I applaud you for that. Now you’re going to be working with soon to be moms, or is this post? How is this going to work?

Heather Zivkovich: It can be both, as I go through the training. I have some training already from Dr. Carol Phillips who I mentioned that is with pregnant moms and babies, and children. You want to create the communication between the baby and the pregnant mom and make sure that everything is ready for as easy of a birth as is possible, and then you want to normalize when the birth isn’t easy.

You had a whatever happened, and everything from your birth plan went wrong, and that’s okay.

We can go from here. Then when you’re working with babies, that is one of the biggest traumas of our entire life, is that birth process.

Jennifer Crisp: We don’t appreciate it. I don’t care whether you’re born c-section or vaginally, it is still traumatic.

Heather Zivkovich: Majorly traumatic, yes. Being able to release some of that physical sensation from the baby as well is really important. For example, if your head has been squashed against, if the baby’s head had been squashed against the mom’s hip for the entire time, and they could come out with the side of their face squashed. That is something that cranial sacral therapists can slowly help come apart, so that those bones can get back to where the most optimum position.

Jennifer Crisp: I really think that this probably also has a lot to do with colic. We called it colic. Now what do they call it? They don’t call it colic anymore. What do they call it? I don’t know what they call it now, but anyway, we called it colic, when babies get upset between 5:00 and 11:00 p.m. at night. They cry, but seriously, no. When our bodies are not lined up, when they’re not connecting, things are not connecting the way they are because of a birth trauma, because of the way we came out, because we were squished, those things affect everything. A lot of that has to do with the vagus nerve, which travels. It’s the longest nerve in the body, and it affects so much.

Sometimes the vagus nerve, if I understand, it kind of gets a little pinched.

Heather Zivkovich: It can, yeah, and particularly in baby’s heads. They’re so soft. On the back of your head, you have that big opening that your spine comes through, and that’s where all the nerves come through. If the back of the head has been squishes at all, and that form and magnum is misshapen in any way, that’s going to affect how all those nerves come out whether that’s the vagus and your digestive system, or an optic nerve, or any of those can be affected by the shape of that baby’s head.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. That’s why I really think that body work on newborns, on babies, if we have the opportunity to do this, moms to be out there and new moms. If your baby is really a challenge, and you don’t know what’s wrong, and you change formula 50 times, or whatever it is. Babies should not be unhappy. They should be happy little campers. They should only cry when they’re hungry, or they want to be held, or when the diaper is messy or wet. That’s it. Other than that, life should be good.

We can help our infants, and our babies, and our moms. When we help infants and babies, we help Mom and Dad because then …

Heather Zivkovich: Then we help the entire world.

Jennifer Crisp: Then we help the entire world. I just want to say we’re going to have to wrap this up, believe it or not. Heather, I want to know if people in the Maryland area, or in Virginia, or Delaware, if you’re interested in working with Heather or finding out more about cranial sacral and the bodywork that she does, how do we get in touch with you?

Heather Zivkovich: I do have a very basic website, which is I can be found on Facebook at Balanced Being Annapolis. A phone number that’s easiest to get me is 443-302-9119. I have two offices that I work out of, one in Edgewater, which is my home studio, and then out of the natural healing center in Annapolis, which is Dr. Mary Psaromatis, the chiropractor. That’s her clinic. That’s pretty much where you can find me.

Jennifer Crisp: Yeah. Do you have a special offer that you want to put out there for people?

Heather Zivkovich: I would love to give $10 off for anyone who said, “Hey, I listened to A Bridge to Wholeness podcast, and I heard you on there.

Jennifer Crisp: Yay.

Heather Zivkovich: Yeah, and I will take that at either location.

Jennifer Crisp: Okay. If you go to see Heather at Dr. Mary Psaromatis, we interviewed. I interviewed Dr. Mary, it’s probably been four or five months. She talked more about homeopathy, but the best of the best worlds is you go see Dr. Mary and then Heather, or you go see Heather and then go see Dr. Mary. That’s the best of both worlds, but seriously. Really, in all honesty, this is a modality, I think, that deserves a lot closer look for people especially if you are suffering from pain, especially migraines, headaches. There’s a lot of good medications out there, but why not add something to that, so that you can really manage it and manage it, so that maybe you can take less medication, or your migraines actually decrease enough. I think that’s a great thing to go to. When are you done your training?

Heather Zivkovich: This pre- and perinatal training is five weekend sessions, and those five weekend sessions start in November.

Jennifer Crisp: Okay. That’s something you’re going to add to your practice then as you go along.

Heather Zivkovich: Exactly, yes.

Jennifer Crisp: This was a great episode today despite my coughing episode. I do want to say again, thank you to everyone who’s tuned in and listening because the information that we provide for you allows you to know what’s out there in the world of health and wellness that maybe you haven’t thought about before. If you like the episode, if you like the podcast, please go to iTunes or Stitcher and rate us, and give us a review. Let us know that we’ve helped you, whether or not you’ve been able to contact any of the people that we have interviewed. It’s really, really important that you share this with your friends, your family and your co-workers because you don’t know who you may end up helping. That’s the really important thing here, is that when the time is right, the teacher arrives, and the same for the student because this is life. This is the school of life, and I really think that more and more of these bodyworkers, these therapists can really help us in our daily living. Then we have an acute episode that we need to have taken care of, we go to see our MDs, and we’re forever grateful for them as well. Thank you, Heather, so much for being here today. This has been fascinating to learn about what you do.

Heather Zivkovich: Thank you for inviting me on.

To listen to this episode on the podcast, find us on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also listen to it on our website by clicking here.

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