In 1993, twenty-one-year-old Jacqui Harwood left home in New Zealand to embark on a journey to hone her newly acquired skills as a physiotherapist in the UK. However, what should have been an exciting adventure unfolded in an unexpected and terrifying way. In May of that same year, Jacqui’s life took a dramatic turn when a hit-and-run accident left her hospitalised for three months. As she lay in a coma, the doctor told her parents the dreaded news, “If your daughter pulls through, she’ll never lead a normal life.” Twenty-four years later we met Jacqui, seemingly leading a normal life…
Your accident happened a long time ago. Did it change your attitude to life?
One moves on, that is for sure. It was a journey of many parts. I made a decision to live life to the fullest and not let my injuries hold me back. I had multiple fractures including a severe head injury and internal bleeding. Within forty-eight hours of the car accident my oldest brother had to sign for me to have emergency abdominal surgery, before my parents arrived in England. I had numerous blood transfusions, and it is miraculous I survived. The brain injury was severe and my left leg required four operations just to save it. Today, I walk with a limp, cannot run, and as for dancing… Many people stare at me and they cannot see past the ‘disability’ of a limp and my walking stick. I choose instead to believe that while my life may be different now, it has taught me to appreciate the opportunity I have to live. I have learned to have empathy for others.
You certainly proved the doctors wrong.
Heck yeah! If I had have accepted what the doctors believed, I would have been unable to lead a full and healthy life. Today I live an amazing life. When I was twenty-one I thought I had all the answers and was headed for a safe career as a physiotherapist. Instead I experienced a huge life challenge and this inspired me to heal myself and learn to heal others. Building my practice in Paris has been one of the most fulfilling objectives I have achieved. I’m also raising two amazing children who are now fourteen and seventeen – another prediction my doctor believed would never be possible.
Many people stare at me and they cannot see past the ‘disability’ of a limp and my walking stick. I choose instead to believe that while my life may be different now, it has taught me to appreciate the opportunity I have to live. I have learned to have empathy for others.
Tell us about your life today.
Today, I lead a full life with my practice, yoga, friends and children. I study to keep abreast of new research in the fields of craniosacral therapy and trauma resolution. Apparently I dropped 20 IQ points with my injuries but my EQ went up 200%! I am grateful for my training as a physiotherapist, as it meant I understood how best to rehabilitate my injuries, and I knew the painstaking length of time it can take.
During the years of my physical rehabilitation, I returned to New Zealand where I discovered yoga and experienced cranial osteopathy, which lead me to find craniosacral therapy. This holistic therapy helped me put the pieces together and make sense of my healing journey. I decided to learn this therapy and it is what I am now able to offer my clients today.
How do you work with these two types of therapy?
I use both physiotherapy and craniosacral therapy to unite the mind, heart and body, to treat a range of issues from chronic pain, stress, anxiety, recurrent injuries and baby colic to post-natal depression. Craniosacral and physiotherapy help people revive their energy and restore their inner equilibrium. I call this self-healing system our inner GPS.
Our inner GPS keeps us in line with our natural state of equilibrium. An accumulation of stress or repetitive strain (mental, psychic, or physical) and/or a major event such as childbirth, death or relocation, can cause us to stop listening to our bodies. I have the tools to connect and communicate with this inner GPS we carry and reconnect with it. In my every day practice I see a wide variety of issues – what they all have in common is a loss of recognition of our internal body wisdom. I use a very light touch to ‘listen’ and tune into the body’s inner healing system. I also teach my clients to take short conscious pauses to notice and check in with their bodies, to notice the little cues.
You believe in self-healing…
The biggest change in my career was the moment I realised that the physical body is merely a shell that holds our thoughts, memories and feelings. As human beings we are the sum of more than our physical parts.
I’m consistently inspired by the incredible power of self-healing we all carry inside ourselves. I firmly believe we are all born with an inner guidance system that we take for granted and, over time, forget to listen to. In my determination to recover, it was a joy to rediscover my own inner GPS. There was a period of feeling overwhelmed and disorientated following those months in the hospital. I was focused on taking things one step at a time: learning the basics of walking with crutches, then building strength back, whilst alongside of that I literally couldn’t read more than a few pages without falling asleep. There were parts of myself that had changed and I didn’t recognize who I was. I took reckless chances for a year or two, taking risks with my first tandem skydive, rock climbing or skinny dipping in freezing cold seawater at night before I was ready to. Since the established medical system and practitioners did not believe I would ever lead a productive life, it was up to me to heal myself as possible. There are no limits except how we define them!
Can you tell us more about craniosacral therapy?
With craniosacral therapy we recognise that the body’s structure always dictates its function. CST uses gentle touch to empower us to use our innate healing system. I commonly see clients for anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, and injuries. I was trained as a physiotherapist to assess a patient’s movements, posture and pain and to assess their neurological signs and symptoms, while using skilled clinical reasoning to diagnose and treat the problem. Craniosacral therapy was a complete untraining.
We learned to ‘listen’ with our hands, to read the pulsations that come from deep within the subtle physiology of the client’s body tissue.
What are the benefits?
A major benefit is relaxation. People always feel deeply relaxed, because a special quality of craniosacral therapy is that it is an unconditional receptive touch. Your body recognizes a ‘safe place’ where there is no agenda, no expectation. That alone is precious.
Of course my hands diagnose areas in your body which are stuck or frozen and need to be freed up, and together we melt the tensions and release the stuck energy. For example; a mother brought me her new-born who wasn’t thriving and screamed a lot before going to sleep. Rather than lump him under the colic diagnosis, I took time to assess his system. I found he had a poor suck because he was in a lot of digestive stress from a big move during the mother’s pregnancy. The poor mother was overwhelmed and her stress fed through to the baby. I had him feeding more peacefully after the second treatment.
In a similar way, for a woman who carries her stress in her neck and shoulders and has frequent insomnia, I would diagnose an absence of vital circulation down in her pelvis, and guide the inner GPS there. What results is a stronger sense of grounding and relaxation in her upper body.
Jacqui’s clinic is in the 14th arrondissement, for more information visit www.cranioparis.com