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Nikki Kenward on the Second Brain


In this month’s Symposium Spotlight, Nikki Kenward joins us to talk about the Second Brain, and how research on the Enteric Nervous System is impacting CranioSacral Therapy….including a new course coming soon!



Nikki, could you tell us what brought you to CranioSacral Therapy?

I was originally a dancer by training, and I worked in dance and theatre as an artistic director for a long time. Then I became a dance therapist. What really fascinated me was facilitating peoples’ growth through their body and movement, as well as mental health issues, the brain, neurology.  I’d done reiki and reflexology training, and that was all fine but that wasn’t it. So I just looked on the back of a Positive Health magazine one day and saw an advert for Craniosacral Therapy. I read it and thought ‘I’m going to do that’. And I’d never even had a treatment! But I loved the description of it being gentle, respectful and powerful.  And so I booked myself onto the next course, and that was it. I loved it.  Halfway through the training I switched and starting with the Upledger Institute training and that’s where I really felt I’d come home. 

We know you’re developing a course on the Second Brain – can you tell us what this is?

You will find the second brain in your stomach – in your abdomen, really. We know of course that we have the brain in the head, and that was always thought to be the thing that controlled everything in the body. But now, over the last ten to fifteen years, there’s been so much more research into the neural activity in the gut.  It turns out the all the neurons and the enteric nervous system – which is the name for the brain in the gut – can work perfectly well without any connection to the brain in the head!  They make their own decsions and they’re just as complex and intelligent a neural activity centre, a data processing centre, as the brain in the head. So it is a Second Brain and psychiatrists and physiologists involved in the research are saying ‘We are going to have to start treating mental illnesses by taking into account this brain as well as that brain.' Also, how many people come into our practice with problems in their gut, as well as depression, anxeity, ME? Most of the children that come into the practice have GI probelms. So it’s much, much more than digestion.

How much of an impact do you see this research having on CST?

I think inevitably this will have an impact on how we work. It’s part of neurodegenerative diseases, alzheimers, dementia, parkinsons – the gut is hugely implicated. And it’s not just the gut bacteria, it’s the enteric glia, the enteric neurons, and all the conversations between those cells. It’s fascinating and it’s complex, and we don’t know very much about it yet. I’m nearly finished developing the course, I’ve written the study guide and we’ve run the pilot… It’s really exciting, and it’s the first time that anyone in the UK has developed part of the curriculum!

What will you be sharing at the Symposium?

I’ll be talking about the Second Brain. It’s going to be about how people can begin to connect with the gut as the outside world inside. It’s about whether we withdraw from it or embrace it, or how we react to it. It’s also very much about left and right brain. It’s just as much about imagination and inspiration as it is about information. That was one of the key things that Dr John always said. I was lucky to do a lot of work and study with him and he was always talking about the fact that you need to use both sides of your brain. So the presentation and the workshop will include imagination, inspiration.

Is there anything you’d like people to know about what an Upledger Symposium is like?

I would say even if you’ve only done CST1, come along! You will learn so much about the basic paradigm and the philosophy of the work, and your practice and your understanding will deepen immediately. Nothing is going to be too complex and and it will really help you to undertsand what you’ve done so far. The speakers will be fascinating and you’ll get to meet lots of other practitioners and see where the work can go…. It’s just such a brilliant event. So come along!


Nikki Kenward will be appearing at the UIUK Rhythm & Resonance Symposium in September 2016, giving a presentation on the Saturday as well as offering workshops on the Monday. Nikki has been practicing CST for over 20 years and is an instructor for the Upledger Institute UK, teaching CST for Paediatrics 1 & 2, and Clinical Applications for Paediatrics.