The anxiety-reducing, health-enhancing power of breathwork

When we're really stressed or upset, people instinctively tell us, "Just breathe." 

And, that instinct is correct. Breathwork, in fact, is a wonderful way to mitigate the constant stress, overstimulation, anxiety, and intensity in the world swirling around us. Pausing to take a measured breath and really pay attention to it (a great way to re-center and get present) takes us out of the swirl. In fact, as Dr. Andrew Weil says, a regular breathwork practice is a healing tonic. 

He's written extensively on the subject and seen this simple breathing exercise transform patients' lives by reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and boosting overall wellbeing. (Check out one of his posts about it here.)

Coming in for a craniosacral therapy appointment with me is a great big dose of anxiety-busting, nervous-system-rebooting, relaxation with lasting therapeutic benefits. But we all need an everyday practice too, which is why I love Dr. Weil's recommendations so much. 

 

Onward through the fog

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This time of year, spring is juuuuuuust on the cusp of the horizon. Till then, the skies have been a bit sullen, and the plants haven't quite started to peek out yet. Awakening, or the inevitability of it, hangs on the air, but for many of us, these in-between seasons are when depression seeps in and finds us. 

I loved this piece from Brain PIckings, "Having it Out with Melancholy." 

“The gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain,” William Styron wrote in what remains the most gripping account of living with depression. As time pools that gray drizzle into an ocean of anguish, we begin to lose sight of the other shore — but there is, always, an other shore. 

As we navigate this difficult time of year, it does help to remember there is another shore on the other side. And, as always, I'm here to help ... just one Craniosacral Therapy session can be enough of a reboot for our nervous system that we can shake the cobwebs off a bit and feel calmed yet reinvigorated. 

There is light coming. I promise.

 

On sitting: the things we don't think about

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Look at how the bottom of the spine joins with the pelvis. Question: What changes to that relationship when the weight bearing changes from going through your hips (and ultimately to the ground via your feet) to going through your sit bones into your chair? 

Answer: Not much! You'll notice that both the hip joints and the sit bones are below the sacral-iliac joint--which is where the base of the spine, the sacrum, fuses with the pelvis.

As far as your spine is concerned sitting and standing is pretty much the same thingso why do you sit so differently from the way you stand? One reason is that you may simply not be aware that your sit bones are there to be sat on, or "stood" on.  It's common to see people using their coccyx, or tail-bone, to be the point of contact with the chair which causes the pelvis to tip backwards and rounding the lower back, hence the lower back pain many eventually suffer from sitting in this way. You can try pretending to have a tail and always make sure that imaginary "tail" is BEHIND you when you sit.

The surface that you sit on is also a huge contributing factor in how you sit, but as long as it is flat and firm, it will do. My motto is "if you can stand on it, you can sit on it"

This is why sofas are so hard to sit on well. Try standing on your sofa and you'll soon find how hard it is to feel balanced. With your sit bones as your "feet" it is no wonder that sitting on a sofa is hard to do well, and you give up by collapsing into it. 

Another reason is that the act of sitting is incorrectly associated with relaxing. Sure, it's more relaxing for the legs and hips, but as far as your torso/spine is concerned, sitting is as equally dynamic as standing. Even the word "relax" seems to be misunderstood. I'm often heard saying during lessons, "That's not relaxing, that's collapsing!"  It is perfectly possible to relax into a balanced posture, whether sitting or standing, so that our bones support our weight. Yes, the postural muscles will still be working, but think of them as having tone rather than tension. 

How we use our bodies for the mundane things we do in our lives totally and completely affects our pain levels, which in the long term affects how we age.

Breaking through

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"The daily routine of most adults is so heavy and artificial that we are closed off to much of the world. We have to do this in order to get our work done. I think one purpose of art is to get us out of those routines. When we hear music or poetry or stories, the world opens up again. We’re drawn in — or out — and the windows of our perception are cleansed, as William Blake said. The same thing can happen when we’re around young children or adults who have unlearned those habits of shutting the world out."  - Ursula Le Guin

The world and our bodies open up in a similar way when we get regular and consistent bodywork. Cranial Sacral Therapy in particular supports  the nervous system to lengthen and reset so it can return to a place of equanimity. 

On fertile solitude

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As I've processed some big transitions this winter (love, loss, grief, death, new beginnings, and fresh affirmations), solitude has been a beautiful grounding tool. A piece by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips struck a deep chord within. 

"A fertile solitude is a benign forgetting of the body that takes care of itself… A productive solitude, the solitude in which what could never have been anticipated appears, is linked with a quality of attention." 

I'm grateful for everything that increases my presence, draws me in to process, and lets the body be. 

 

 

 

Are we in our bodies, or are we our bodies?

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"Who I am is certainly part of how I look and vice versa. I want to know where I begin and end, what size I am, and what suits me… I am not 'in' this body, I am this body. Waist or no waist.

But all the same, there’s something about me that doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn’t only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time. ... 

There’s the ideal beauty of youth and health, which never really changes, and is always true. There’s the ideal beauty of movie stars and advertising models, the beauty-game ideal, which changes its rules all the time and from place to place, and is never entirely true. And there’s an ideal beauty that is harder to define or understand, because it occurs not just in the body but where the body and the spirit meet and define each other. 

In a sentiment that calls Rilke to mind, 'I am not one of those who neglect the body in order to make of it a sacrificial offering for the soul,' he memorably wrote, 'since my soul would thoroughly dislike being served in such a fashion.'"

- Ursula Le Guin

How to have a magical day

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We've all heard about studies showing that our brains need breaks from stimulation and screen time to stay creative and happy. 

I advocate for this all the time--in what I tell my clients and in the treatments I provide, calming and resetting our overstimulated nerves through Craniosacral Therapy sessions. But rarely do you see this idea illustrated and told so beautifully as it is in this new children's book. 

You can get a peek of the book, titled a Magical Do-Nothing Day, here:
https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/12/13/on-a-magical-do-nothing-day/

Let's all make a pledge to ourselves and to our bodies and spirits that, as this year winds down, we'll take more moments to experience stimulation as nature intended, not as technology enforces. More snowshoe steps, more ski turns, more miles on the trails, and more time watching the clouds go by. There's nothing more enlivening. 

With love,

Annie

How our emotions physically shape our reality

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A study I recently read made a profound impact on me. Its conclusion: that our stress levels, emotions, and intentions can literally change our DNA.

The ramifications are enormous. And they underscore the importance of stress management and conscious living. 

According to the below article on the study: 
“The heart serves as a key access point through which information originating in the higher dimensional structures is coupled into the physical human system (including DNA), and that states of heart coherence generated through experiencing heartfelt positive emotions increase this coupling."

You can read more about the study here: https://www.lifecoachcode.com/2017/02/26/emotion-shapes-reality/

Bottom line: think with intention. Feel with determination. And tend to stress like you're tending to your most critical health needs. 

On suffering and strength

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This week, I read a deeply moving article about trauma and one pathway through it. The experience of coping with trauma can be so incredibly debilitating and isolating. 

In my experience, therapies like Craniosacral Therapy can be a lifeline. The author of the article mentions at one poignant moment that the simple act of being fed by her sister reminded her that she was alive. Sometimes something as simple as gentle, nurturing touch and nourishment can be that thread tying us to the life before and the life ahead. 

https://ideas.ted.com/its-a-myth-that-suffering-makes-you-stronger/

Have a read at the link above. The author has an amazing way with words, which is incredible as so many of us struggle to put into words what aches most within us. 

Dr. Gabor Mate on the nature of addiction

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I wish it were otherwise, but nearly all of us either have or have seen someone in our lives struggle with addiction--we may have even struggled with it ourselves. 

Of course, there's a lot of discussion around addiction and many experts weighing in, most of whom have something helpful to say. But if you've ever had an addict or addiction in your life, you know nothing is simple. There's no clear "a-ha" explanation or solution. The slog through it is inevitably a complex one, even in the best-case scenarios when there's a happy ending to the tale. 

Dr. Gabor Mate wrote one of the most incredible books I've read on this subject: "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts." It's written with human empathy, spiritual consciousness, and authority. There are many firsthand anecdotes and lessons he's learned from years working with adult addicts in a low-income housing project. 

This article overviews some compelling takeawayas from Mate's writings ... Pick up his book if you get the chance to as well. Anyone who's been touched firsthand or second-hand by addiction will find it moving, inspiring, and clarifying. 

Read the overview here: http://upliftconnect.com/why-were-a-culture-of-addicts/

And find Mate's book on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Realm-Hungry-Ghosts-Encounters-Addiction/dp/155643880X

 

 

 

Study: the effects of Craniosacral Therapy on dementia

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As I tend to my father, who is very advanced in age and is suffering the debilitating effects of dementia, I'm increasingly aware of the importance of oxygenating the brain with exercise and Craniosacral Therapy. 

Cerebral spinal fluid conducts electricity through the brain and recharges the neurotransmitters. And Craniosacral Therapy improves brain function by increasing the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. 

I found the following study very compelling and affirming:

https://www.iahe.com/docs/articles/CSTDementiaArticle.pdf

Have a read--as many of us navigate issues surrounding our aging parents, information like this can only be beneficial. 

With love,

Annie