Guest Post by Iona Rainbow River, LMT
In these trying times, many of us often function in a chronic state of stress, which a state of low-grade “fight/flight/freeze” response, or the autonomic nervous system’s sympathetic response. It’s a useful, protective function of the brain to help alert us to immediate harm. However, we are not designed to be in a constant state of sympathetic response with stress hormones continually in production. The chronic stress condition can happen without us even knowing that we are in it, because we tend to feel that what happens frequently in our bodies is “normal.” But being in a state of sympathetic dominance can cause premature wear and tear on every system in the body: digestion, blood sugar, blood pressure, hormonal regulation, mood balance, immune function, cognitive function, and more.
Many self-care tools and practices aim to regulate the nervous system, helping us connect with and cultivate a sense of calm within to improve and maintain good health. For example, specific breathing exercises and guided or self-paced meditation have been shown to regulate the nervous system. (1) Regular practice of such techniques allows the brain to access these tools almost involuntarily, so that they will be at the ready when they are needed. We can learn to keep the “fight/flight/freeze” response in check, and help the nervous system find balance after a period of stress.
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle form of bodywork that works deeply to restore and balance the nervous system. The therapist works at many places on the body, often focusing on the head and spine. You may enter into a deep meditative state quickly and even fall into a light sleep as your body receives this important care. Therapists can add in a guided meditation to help you settle more quickly and to tune into your body and inner wisdom.
Receiving this kind of nurturing, attuned and calming bodywork elicits a parasympathetic response, which is the “rest and digest” or “restore and repair” branch of the autonomic nervous system. This is the state our body needs to be in to heal and to prevent illness. Our body and energy field become more functional and able to heal the more we can produce the feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones that come along with the parasympathetic response. You will likely receive these benefits from one bodywork session, and regular bodywork will help you learn to regulate your nervous system and will teach your body and mind to be in this state more often. (2, 3) The result is likely improved health and diminished potential for chronic illness by reducing stress hormones and increasing feel good hormones. Your nervous system will thank you.
Our massage therapists work with many nervous system balancing techniques. If you are interested in booking a session in at our oasis of healing in Portland, Oregon, you can do so here.