This month at Tournesol, as part of our 5 pillars of health, we are focusing on...stress reduction!
Stress. You know it's bad for your health, you know you need to do it less. But it's so much easier said than done. With so many triggers, and so many things you "should" be doing to relax...are you stressing over having to de-stress?
While there is no "quick fix" to permanently wipe out stress from your life, one of our favorite tried-and-true methods to fundamentally reduce stress within the body and mind, is with Craniosacral Therapy (CST). We talked with Tournesol practitioner Heidi Gerber, MSLAc, LMT about this healing therapy and how it mitigates physical, emotional and mental stress.
But first, to better understand how this modality can achieve this, let's quickly review how the central nervous system works...
As mammals, we humans are biologically hardwired to automatically enter into a fight-or-flight, or sympathetic, state when faced with a life-threatening situation. In this state, the body and mind prepare to fight, flee or even freeze in response to the perceived danger. The sympathetic nervous system activates the release of certain stress hormones (ie. coritsol), that drain the muscles of blood, increase heart rate, and slow the digestive, immune and reproductive systems. After all, in the event of a life-threatening situation, there is no need to rest, digest or make a baby. Survival is all that matters.
When the danger passes, the normal response is to go back into a relaxed, stress-free parasympathetic state. The parasympathetic nervous system controls homeostasis and body's "rest and digest" functions.
For the most part, modern-day humans are not faced with life-threatening situations on a daily basis (we are not being chased by a predator, we have shelter and a steady food supply). Yet our bodies react to other stressors--financial woes, negative feedback at work, relationship troubles, delayed subways--as if survival were at stake. Physiologically, our bodies respond the same way to all types of stress, even if that stress is not life-threatening, per se. As a result, humans are chronically stressed, and are spending more time in a sympathetic state. This has all sorts of immediate and long-term effects on health--muscle tension, sleep disorders, weight gain, acne, hormonal imbalances, fertility complications, allergies, depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases...the list goes on and on!
Now that we have a basic understanding of the central nervous system and its role in the stress response, let’s talk about how we can de-stress. We sat down with Heidi Gerber...
Q. What is Craniosacral Therapy (CST)?
Heidi: Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on, non-invasive method of improving health and function. CST uses very light touching of the skin to balance the craniosacral system in the body, which includes the bones, nerves, connective tissues and fluids that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It extends from the bones of the skull, face and mouth, which make up the cranium, down to the base of the spine, the sacrum.
Q. Explain how CST reduces stress by restoring the central nervous system back into balance.
Heidi: The spinal fluid encompassing the body’s nervous system is integral to our wellbeing. This fluid flows naturally and constantly in a subtle wave-like movement and has a specific rhythm (depending on where along the spine it is located). When something like stress or trauma disrupts the natural flow of this fluid, it can cause an imbalance in the body and mind and and hinder our innate ability to self-heal. Or, often times, a previous stress-provoking experience can cause a negative emotion to be stored in the tissues, muscles, organs and bones of the body. This causes physical tension in the body.
What I do in a session, is I feel "listening stations" along the body and detect where there is tension and where the craniosacral dural fluid is out of sync. I tune in to the body’s subtle rhythms and feel for any patterns of inertia or congestion. Then, through gentle manipulations, I release restrictions, energy blocks, and emotions stored within the nervous system, and help get the dural fluid back into a healthy rhythm.
Ultimately, this process helps to improve functioning of the central nervous system, by facilitating the body's transition into proper parasympathetic state. With continuous treatments, the body is able to remain in parasympathetic state for longer periods of time between sessions. This gives the body the chance to rest, digest, restore balance, and alleviate the negative effects of stress on the central nervous system.
Q. What conditions have you seen improve using CST?
Heidi: Because CST helps to de-excite the central nervous system and relieves underlying tension, the possibilities are endless! After regular CST treatments, nerves, tissues, organs and bones can function optimally. Immune system and digestion improves. Sleep improves, as the body is able to relax and wind down more easily. CST also addresses hormonal and fertility issues. And, of course, CST helps to relieve physical aches or pains between the cranium and sacrum--this includes any discomfort in the head, chest, diaphragm, low back, pelvis, hips and spine. My clients have also found great results for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunction with instant relief. With 2 treatments, most patients feel long lasting effects.
Q. What can patients expect to feel during their craniosacral therapy sessions?
Heidi: Clients should expect to feel a deep sense of relaxation. They will also often feel “releases,” a sense of letting go. Sensations include temperature changes (hot or cold), deep breathing, slight shaking, visions of color according to the 7 chakras, overall relaxation.
Q. What other Tournesol therapies work well with CST?
Heidi: As Carey mentioned in our last newsletter, relieving stress is integral to any wellness program, as it is a MUST in order for you to truly reap the full benefits. Stress depletes your body of all of its valuable resources. Your body is therefore more apt to accept healthy changes—in diet, exercise, supplementation and otherwise—when it's not under stress. So in this way, Craniosacral Therapy helps to prepare the body for, and optimize the healthy benefits of, other therapeutic modalities offered at Tournesol.
CST works well in conjunction with other treatments. Many CST clients at Tournesol combine their treatments with:
Vibroacoustic Sound Therapy