Learn A Conversation with Michelle Stoppi, CranioSacral Master-in-Residence for The Week of WELL
In the last two years, the human race has collectively been faced with the notion of what it is to “be well”, and we’ve discovered that previous notions of “wellness” are woefully outdated. We’ve begun to dissect what health truly means and we are more open than ever to exploring new and varied wellness modalities to reduce pain, inflammation, sleep disorders, sadness, anxiety, depression, to name but a few.
The Lodge at Blue Sky is delighted to partner with world-renowned wellness leader, THE WELL, for a multi-day healing immersion set in the dramatic Wasatch mountain range. During The Week of WELL, guests are invited to participate in several one-of-a-kind workshops led by THE WELL Visiting Master and Craniosacral Therapist, Michelle Stoppi, which aim to quiet the mind, unwind the body and calm the nervous system.
We chatted with Michelle to learn more about Craniosacral therapy, a subtle treatment which offers profound long-term healing.
Tell us about your life before becoming a craniosacral therapist.
I was originally a yoga teacher, and have a Master’s in counseling from Boston University. I moved to Southeast Asia and studied martial arts and yoga. I was fascinated by how movement and touch affect the body. I eventually moved back to Florida and got my massage license in order to practice Craniosacral therapy (CST) which I practiced for twenty two years. Massage therapy has provided me with crucial foundational knowledge that allows me to better practice Craniosacral therapy. I’ve lived all over the world; I’ve always been a seeker, trying to find out what connects people and what’s the same in all people. When I discovered CST I felt it was the missing link. It made the lights go on. I thought to myself, “this is what I’ve been waiting for.”
What is Craniosacral and what drew you to study it?
CST works with the cranium, spine and sacrum, all of which are connected by a membrane of the body’s deepest fascia. That fascia surrounds the cerebrospinal fluid which generates a pulse. Craniosacral therapists look for interruptions and imbalances in the pulse of that fluid, and use gentle techniques to restore balance and remove restrictions and blockages which can create discomfort, pain and disease within the body.
Most people don’t know that they have a craniosacral system. I certainly didn’t before I learned more about it. When I started exploring the concepts, I discovered that I had a very strong craniosacral rhythm. It’s basically like the voice of your soul; on a physical level, a craniosacral system contains your memories, your hurts, your joys, your connection to universal energy. There are places in your system where you could be holding something energetically or emotionally in your body which create these restrictions, which a person often doesn’t know are there. CST helps to bring those things to light.
Have you personally benefited from receiving CST?
I once had a neck injury from yoga which caused me a lot of pain and frustration. I tried everything: yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy; nothing worked. In 1998, I tried CST for the first time at the Upledger Institute in Palm Beach which is one of the best centers in the world for CST studies. I realized that my neck injury was just one small thing in a much broader network of things that I had going on. When I tried CST for the first time, so much came up. It was the conduit that I needed to heal physically and emotionally, and I had my “aha” moment. I realized that this was the answer to my own healing and that transformation gave me the passion for pursuing my own studies in CST.
Who should do Craniosacral versus other types of treatments?
Anyone with chronic injuries, chronic pain, stress, anxiety, depression, emotional issues migraines, spinal issues, TMJ disorder, clenching and grinding your teeth and jaw; I could go on but CST can help most people. Humans are emotional and that emotion gets stored in the body, sometimes in misguided unhealthy ways, so most humans can therefore benefit in some way from CST. When we have a negative emotion we contract our bodies, even if we don’t realize it; the fascia also contracts, which stimulates your nerves; your nerves start firing and muscles tense.
What drew you to working with THE WELL?
I’ve known Vivianne Garcia-Tuñón, VP of Development at THE WELL, for over 15 years. THE WELL seeks to provide a truly unique way to care for your individual health. They create an approach that is holistic and employ a variety of modalities which promote healing and empower each individual with greater agency for their health. Their ethos completely aligns with my own.
Do you need to be a highly intuitive person to study or practice CST?
There’s intuitiveness and then there is groundedness. It’s important to be grounded in this work. If you’re grounded you usually have a good sense of touch which is very important in this work; if you can’t quiet your mind and bring your own energy into a balanced place then you can’t be fully available for the person you are there to treat. You have to be fully present and let their body talk to you.
What excites you about joining the team at The Lodge at Blue Sky in May for the Week of WELL?
Being in nature is profoundly healing for the body; any work that we do for CST is amplified by being in a setting with green, living things. The wellness experiences that the Blue Sky team has designed for this retreat invite guests to explore some unique elements of healing, including nourishing, plant-based cuisine, learning to communicate with their rescue horses using energetic, non-verbal queues which invites introspection and a quieting of the mind, hikes that allow you to bask in the solitude of the mountains, al fresco yoga practices and other healing treatments at Edge Spa, to name a few. The curation of these experiences address the body, the mind and the spirit. It poignantly celebrates various healing mediums which is the way forward for our newly minted, collective notion of wellbeing.