By Robert Ross

On Alternative Therapies 
CranioSacral Therapy 


Today, there’s an abundance of choices in the alternative health field . . . almost too many. And it’s no easy task to decipher the promotional ads, which are sometimes laced with confusing new age jargon. Over the next few issues of Awareness Magazine, I plan on exploring some of the more prevalent alternative therapies available, and sharing my experiences with the Awareness reader. 

Visiting James Nemec, CranioSacral therapist, is an adventure in itself. His office is located on Melrose Avenue, across the street from the Bodhi Tree bookstore and Urth Café in West Hollywood, California. The Bodhi Tree bookstore was put on the map after Shirley Maclaine revealed it in her book, Out on A Limb, as one of her sources for new age/spiritual reading material. The area has since then become a Mecca for spiritual and new age seekers. 

I arrived at Nemec’s office in true L.A. fashion — a two and a half hour drive on the 405 freeway from San Diego, with relentless stop and go traffic upon entering the southern edges of the city. 

Arriving for my appointment a few minutes early, I positioned myself on a chair outside Nemec’s office, facing the street, with a view of the masses milling about at spiritual central (the Bodhi Tree bookstore and Urth Café). If you’re a people watcher you couldn’t ask for a better seat — gurus and guru seekers were rubbing shoulders with Hollywood types and the average health food and latte lovers. After a few minutes of people watching, Nemec strolled up, looking relaxed, with a Starbuck’s type of coffee cup in his hand. Nemec, middle aged, dressed in L.A. casual, reminded me a bit of Harrison Ford — earthy like. 

We entered his office where I conducted a brief interview. Nemec has a unique style, a roguish way about him and I quickly learned that he would much prefer having me on the table than talking about himself, so we headed off to the back room. 

I climbed on the massage table, lying on my back — fully clothed. Nemec worked both in the cranial area and the sacral areas by cradling the head or legs, poking, pulling, rocking, prodding, twisting and turning, yet all done in a very gentle manner. 

A Seeker Finds . . . 
Originally from Palm Beach, Florida, Nemec made his way to Los Angeles in the early eighties, seeking not only spiritual enlightenment, but a career in acting. When asked about the tie-in between spirituality and acting, Nemec explained it this way “. . . spirituality and acting are as closely related as spirituality and real estate or bricklaying . . . it’s all the same. We are, in essence, all spirits having a human experience.” After securing a job at the Bodhi Tree bookstore, according to Nemec, “I went through all the books exploring Shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism, in fact, all of the ‘isms.’ ‘’ He then stumbled across the writings of Dr. Robert Gibson. It was Dr. Bob, as Nemec refers to him, who offered “something real.’” The transformation of James Nemec had begun. 

The road to becoming a Cranio-Sacral therapist had some twists and turns in it. He started off as a massage therapist (he’s certified from the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts in Santa Fe), studied CranioSacral therapy at Esalen in Big Sur, attended workshops in Santa Fe, New Mexico — and went to the Upledger Institute in Florida which led to Nemec receiving his CranioSacral Therapist certification. 

After about an hour on the table, Nemec slipped on some rubber medical gloves and did some massage type work on the inner roof of my mouth and teeth. One normally associates working in that area with the discomfort of dentistry, but in this case it was non-invasive and gentle. 

So What Exactly is CranioSacral Therapy?
CranioSacral therapy works with the cranial area (top of the spine) and sacral area (bottom of the spine) as one system. 

According to Nemec’s web page ( ) “CranioSacral Therapy is a deeply gentle and calming hands-on therapy, which goes beyond the reach of traditional medicine.

 It gently and non-invasively frees the connective tissues surrounding the Central Nervous System (CNS) and floods the body with oceanic feelings of peace and calm.” 

The history of CranioSacral therapy dates to the 1970’s. According to the Upledger Institute’s web page ( ) “CST was developed by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger, D.O., O.M.M., in the 1970s. It’s based on the theories of William Sutherland, D.O. (an osteopath from the early 1900s); Dr. Upledger’s research at Michigan State University (1975-83); and extensive clinical application. CST enhances the body’s natural healing processes and has been effective for a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction, including: Migraine Headaches, Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries, Chronic Neck and Back Pain, Emotional Difficulties, Motor-Coordination Impairments, Stress and Tension-Related Problems, Central Nervous System Disorders, Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ), and Orthopedic Problems.” 

My CranioSacral session lasted over an hour. Although there were no fireworks (e.g. emotional releases, vivid memories, etc.), as they are sometimes called in the bodywork business, at the end of my session I did feel relaxed, calm and in a slightly altered state. 

After the session, we talked briefly, deciding to head across the street to the Urth Café where, according to James, the Barcelona coffee is excellent. But, after assessing the line for coffee and checking my watch, the decision was made to save the coffee date for another time. I left, in true L.A. fashion “gotta go . . . gotta hit the freeway, but we must do coffee some day!” 

Reflections . . . 
The spine . . . in the east it’s associated with yoga, eastern mysticism, the kundalini and spiritual awakening. In the west, the spine can be a discussion about the mechanics of the body, or . . . 

My experience on the table with James was an opening. An opening to contemplate the body, not so much from a mechanic’s point of view, but from an alternative point of view. 

In an attempt to clarify certain points and to garner information for this piece, James and I exchanged quite a few e-mails and had a lengthy phone conversation. Our discussions sounded, more often than not, like the lyrics of a sacred song . . . laced with metaphors and spiritual references. 

Bodywork has evolved, from the rub down at the local Y that you might have seen in an old movie, to “spiritual awakenings” that today’s bodyworker may find themselves confronting. 

My session with James, was in many ways, an awakening. An awakening to the potential of certain modalities of health care . . . in this case, to the potentials of CranioSacral therapy. 

If you’re interested in knowing more about CranioSacral therapy James Nemec, LMT, CST-D can be reached by phone at (310) 657-3020 or e-mail:  .

 Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at:   

Copyright 2001 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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