Blissing Out Can Change Your Brain – Part I

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Thesaurus idioms and synonyms of bliss out: be full of the joys of spring, be as high as a kite, feel like a million dollars, delirious, contented, high-spirited……

It’s perhaps unwise for a person who relishes alcohol – from moderate to a large amount – to think s/he can get away willy-nilly from experiencing some damage to the brain and body. Alcoholism is considered a medical disorder (read mental health problem) that has long-term effects on the mind and the body. So for healing to commence, a person ready to start the recovery process may begin with either or both.

The promising thing about craniosacral therapy is that it treats both together.

It’s not ideal when a reluctant family member is dragged into my clinic for addiction treatment intervention. Such a client faces shame within the family and yet isn’t ready to give up something s/he enjoys to a great extent and sees no immediate harm from. My job isn’t to convince anyone to give up on anything they don’t want to. Rather it is to teach them to cope with (the effects of) harmful behavior that they cannot just yet prevent, but eventually do.

Binge drinking isn’t uncommon, never has been. Cloaked in the guise of a stress buster, alcohol and substance abuse make for “terrific” parties and bonhomie amongst like-minded friends. The newly arising part, my clients tell me, is that there are dwindling numbers of people restraining from letting loose their inhibitions.

Reams of literature on the subject litter the path out there; just check the World Wide Web. So, why then are alcohol (and related stuff) lovers knight-like in their fierce support of these brain damaging substances? The answer lies in the psychological make up of the individual. There aren’t two similar people in this together. Each differs from the other depending on their Tolerance level to alcohol indicated by protein MUNC 13-1 found in the brain. The higher the Tolerance level, larger is the amount of alcohol needed to get one into a state of bliss.

There’s good news too. Alcohol lovers, when sober between spells, look at their families with renewed love and hope in their heart. My clients do. And sometimes when the spell (no pun intended) is broken, they begin their journey home. One such client walked in to my clinic and here’s her story of restoration of spirit.

Read Blissing Out Can Change Your Brain – Part II

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Why is This World Such a Terrible Place?

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When my client presented (t)his internal dilemma to me, at our first interaction in my clinic, I kept myself out of the picture and refrained from piling him with my personal opinions about this world being a reasonably happy place. But is it really so?

How commonly and how often does a person get angry with surrounding people and at the world s/he see as dysfunctional? Not that often, you might say. But, that’s perhaps because your circle of friends and family include people who have ‘regular anxiety’ at things not going well or when they hear bad news. But not so with people suffering from either ‘depression or/anxiety disorders’. It’s really serious stuff in there.

An Upside Down View

My client looked at his world upside down. This alone influenced his perspective on even minor matters gravely. His is a world of hopelessness and despair, threat-filled days and panic. His daily interactions suffered from lack of understanding shown to him.

Clients like him that have unhooked themselves from any material attachment to false pretenses and defenses come for therapy wobbling frightfully on a sharp edge. If they are thinking straight, they do follow the advice of a well-wisher to explore craniosacral therapy for treatment for their depression and anxiety. That’s how he found me.

The Body Prioritizes Its Healing

Any craniosacral treatment procedure follows a protocol at my clinic for deep introspection with the body and mind. Whether whilst discussing the case history or on the therapy table if the need arises. The trauma behind a person’s depressive tendencies usually has an old and long history. In the course of a few sessions, using various relaxation techniques, the client’s mind body construct releases its hold over this history ready to go deeper.

Mood disorders are partly linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. Similar to this client others that I have seen have had a link between a psychological disturbance and somatic response like inflammation and pain in their connective tissue body. Or even a related pain in their chest or heart area. Sessions move slowly, over all this territory, just the way the client’s body prioritizes.

Much Needed Respite

What makes craniosacral therapy a suitable intervention in such cases is its immediate effect on the wellbeing of the person. This client’s reaction to his world was a heightened sense of anxiety towards real and perceived threats. The brain was in survival mode, activating the flight or fight mechanism at the slightest annoyance in the environs.

For a client living with an overwhelmed nervous system, a simple exploration of his body fluids and potency by gentle therapeutic hands brings a much-needed calming effect. Several sessions engaged us together, in simple strengthening of his inner and outer resources. He began to learn to look at the effects of old trauma circulating within. Many individuals do exteriorize their inner mental despair onto their physiological skin. He too had frequent bouts of hives, adding to his sense of hopelessness, feeding back into this cycle. He felt a lack of control in his life.

The Spine as Always

The spine is a body’s significant armor against attack on its defences. The spine protects the spinal cord an extension of the brain. If there are imbalances in the brain, the spine reflects those too. Thirty trillion plus cells around the body depend on the CNS – the brain and spine – to stay in communication and balance.

Apart from the importance of the spine’s structural integrity, health is also signified by uninterrupted messages sent via nerves to and fro the brain and cord, to all these amazing cells. Such is the predicament in mood disorders that a lack of control felt by the person – physiological and emotional – is also due to disruptions in this.

Waning of Symptoms

Craniosacral therapy for both anxiety and depression works wonderfully well over time, with the premise that any positive changes in the CNS affects the movement of cerebrospinal fluid. Without which a brain cannot flush out toxins and receive nutrients.

When these disorders exist comorbidly (together), symptoms take a while to come under control. My client is a long-standing one and a fighter. His panic/anxiety attacks are far reduced. His chronic depression is far from gone, but between two episodes now lies an ever-lengthening sojourn, of increasing self-belief and expectation that the world is “sometimes” a happy place too.

His commitment to finding and living his full potential is his reason for continuing with craniosacral healing.

 

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The trauma from avoiding trauma resolution

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The word trauma has Greek origins and means wound. A dictionary meaning of trauma is “severe emotional shock and pain caused by an extremely upsetting experience.”

Trauma an Inside Story

For most individuals trauma is what happens ‘to them’ and not what happens ‘in them’. Such people carry around for years unresolved trauma inside, for they still hope to change what’s not in their control; that what’s on the outside. A healing touch therapy such as cranio will help you know the inside trauma as well.

Negative feelings, thoughts and emotions spring within you, from what you perceive or from your reaction to the upsetting experience you have had. Little realising this, you end up harbouring great feelings of injustice and anger, arising from deep-felt and long-lasting hurt.

Consequences of Trauma

Emotional wounding is the consequence of trauma. Which also declares the longer you hold on to any disturbing experience the more you shut yourself down at a heart level. In many other bodily ways you express a similar response. A shut down.

The aftermath of trauma is far reaching. Which is not limited to your individual self, but impacts all others you are in relationship to.

Think anxiety and panic arising from not getting what you want in your close relationships. Fears of intimacy and vulnerability come from refusing to show yourself to your partner in true light, lest you are ridiculed or made fun of for your beliefs and thoughts. So you pretend and hide even from yourself, in time losing touch with your real self. Lack of emotional maturity gives people few tools to tackle shame that arises from failed relationships.

Relational Issues

Relational issues these days are as common as a cold. They come and overstay leaving in their wake deeply felt feelings of aloneness and depression. When you lose touch with a realistic sense of time and space, you begin to imagine the worst and become fearful of life itself.

Trauma from life issues is very real. It’s connected to severely disturbing events such as natural calamities and to unforseen events like accidents and deaths. When left unresolved, flashbacks to these events leave us grappling with PTSD, sleeplessness, chronic idiopathic pain, migraines, etc.

Craniosacral healing has a cognitive impact leaving you in a better place to handle difficult emotions.

Trauma Resolution a Must

Everything in your external world becomes a trigger for you, when you are in a physically and/or mentally weakened state. Instead of confronting your fears you fall sway to avoiding that which displeases, alarms, or even causes you short term frustration. But does that mean you are okay and should carry on in life irrespective of how you truly feel?

Not at all. Inside you, fears could be staging an inferno that could raze your self-belief to the ground.

The current good news is that trauma has an adversary. Large-scale breakthroughs in recovery therapy. Thanks to the efforts of pioneering neuroscientists, psychotherapists, craniosacral therapists, and healers. So there’s every chance of rediscovering your life purpose and not wasting your precious life in a smog of hopelessness.

What can you personally do to counter the ill-effects of trauma?

*Make emotional healing your priority. Don’t await a physical illness to prompt this effort.

*Learn to navigate childhood/developmental traumas to emerge as skillful partners in adult relationships.

*Seek to become safe and secure inside you first.

*Gain authenticity in your interactions and work towards developing trust.

*Your neural terrain inside is a good indicator of your wellbeing and resilience towards trauma. Know your thoughts and reshape them into positive ones.

*Just as you share your stories of trauma, spread your good fortune of recovering from it. Embody a life of gratitude.

*Have regular craniosacral healing with your therapist. For top amongst craniosacral therapy benefits is trauma resolution.

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Healing Touch Therapy

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Do we give much thought to the warmth we receive from the rays of the sun? Yes, we do, in an autonomic way, when our largest sense organ – our skin – informs us that we have had enough. We then consciously choose to step out of the sun to protect ourselves from the heat. Likewise when we receive any touch from another human we don’t like, we withdraw ourselves bodily. Our skin is remarkable at identifying touch sensations as hot, cold, itchy, creepy, pleasant, unpleasant, painful, sharp, etcetera.

In all cases such as these our life is greatly influenced by the information our skin sends via nerves to our brain and the decisions about actions transmitted by our brain to the rest of our body. This is our daily living.

What does a client experience in a Healing Touch therapy such as craniosacral? The touch receptors and the nerve endings or neurons (specialized nerve cells) in the client’s epidermal and dermal layers classify together as the somatosensory system. This system is super sensitive to the stimuli and signals it receives from a healing touch, the therapist’s healing touch.

The Simplicity of it All it Seems

A craniosacral therapist lays hands gently on a client’s body, with just enough pressure to make contact.

Astonishing interaction happens. Mechanoreceptors and thermo-receptors respond to the pressure and vibrations felt and the coldness or warmth in the touch. Neurons in the client’s superficial connective tissue body get primed to begin a cascading stream of information to some complex centers in the brain. The brain uses this information in ways to protect the organism.

Healing touch is simple and non-seeking and it derives information by merely listening. A client once asked me, “Do hands really listen?” Yes they do, with the help of the most sensitive mechanoreceptors present here called Merkel’s disks and Meissner’s corpuscles.

Craniosacral Therapy Benefits

Craniosacral therapy benefits the client’s brain. When the client’s higher brain centers perceive a touch as healing, they respond to its emotional context as well. A resourced therapist is this emotional context that could induce the release of happy positive neurotransmitters in the client’s body.

On-going stress and trauma are two significators of how healthy our mental and physical states are. It’s rare to find individuals with neither. Assuming that clients withhold such information initially, a gentle non-invasive touch can help a client’s mind relax and settle into an open space. For any restricting patterns in the body to arise and resolve, a cooperating mind plays a key role.

Touch as a Resource

How and when does the client’s brain decide it’s safe to let go? When the sensory system of touch is not impaired in a client, the response is fast and considered. This client’s mind relaxes in the blink of an eye, sending information to the body to follow suit. Inner resources are amply available to deal with stressors.

At times healing touch from even a therapist takes multiple sessions, to admit a sense of trust in the client’s system. In my experience a client’s auditory and visual systems can be induced as well to arouse sensations of touch. Softly shared verbal suggestions, visualizations, memory reconsolidation, all provide ways to support craniosacral healing.

It stands to reason that we need all our senses to collaborate together, to give us a unified picture of our environment. Yet, the primary sensory system of touch is what this is all about. How remarkable that healing can happen through touch.

 

 

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Thinking About Therapy?

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I am often asked why ‘craniosacral therapy benefits’ don’t necessarily include rapid-fire dissolution of symptoms, to relieve clients of chronic pain.

Clients often understand the logic behind sustained therapeutic effort to rid themselves of pain that’s been with them for a long time. But, at times when it comes to absolute repair of their pain-filled situation it’s difficult for some people to have patience, in order to uproot the root cause of pain. They would rather quickly pop a pill.

Suffering in Linear Time

Why is popping a pill, a previously held desirable outcome of pain, no longer the most favoured line of remedy or relief? Because, perhaps, alternate therapies such as craniosacral healing are making us re-position health as something we eminently have inside us, rather than acquiring through effort and intervention from outside.

If you have suffered physiological symptoms for decades, it means there are unfavourable changes in your body that have already taken place over time. Changes that perhaps cannot easily be reduced revised or eliminated. Every change has a complementary neural pathway in the brain maintaining its own integrity. One of the ways this light touch therapy called craniosacral can help, is revisiting those newly built unhealthy neural pathways and reprogramming that which doesn’t help our thriving.

Bringing Consciousness to Your Healing

So if you are thinking of trying a craniosacral treatment, come prepared with knowing it’s not a miracle cure. Each client’s body responds according to how long it has suffered and how distant it has grown from its own recuperative powers. A single session of anything is never enough to bring about change. Persistent and collective effort to build across all aspects of ones life – relaxation, nutrition, fitness, emotions, thoughts, etc, will help in this healing process.

Like a tree that uses external resources like sunlight and water, with the explicit purpose of building its own inner strength, we too must continually replenish ourselves via healing therapy.

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Cranial Therapy And Yoga…..And Breath Between

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Let me begin with saying I may believe that a single cranio session is equivalent to twenty yoga sessions. This sounds like an exaggeration doesn’t it? This was the equation bandied about when I began my learning. I love both techniques equally as I diligently practice both. But, what has been a slower moving trajectory in yoga, benefits of which have accrued over weeks of mostly regular practice, picked speed for me in craniosacral therapy.

Benefits of Both

End users of yoga and cranio therapy have much in common. Both seek healing for stiff joints, muscle cramps, aching shoulders, and groaning backs, amongst other discomfort. The wonder of it is that both yoga and craniosacral treatments hire similar resources that the body already owns.

Regular yoga practitioners benefit hugely from cranio therapy, as their bodies are already primed to receive even the subtlest benefits of the latter. The more obvious benefits of both fall under the wider umbrella of nervous, immune and muscular changes. But if we probe inside both methodologies, we are in the realm of fascia and deeper into the life of cells. Cells that provoke metabolism, to derive energetic and chemical balance for and through out the body.

Fluids And Breath

So it is believed in cranial work, the central nervous system (CNS), the warehouse of much of the body’s cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), mirrors the wellness and health of the organism as a whole. Allowing the gentle hands of a cranio therapist to feather-touch fascia anywhere on the body is helping tension to release and CSF to easily flow. A complimentary yoga practice corroborates this truth. Asanas help to extend the spine, bring home breath to the various cavities, release fascial tension, and as a result normalise fluid surges or blocks.

Yoga and Cranial therapy both are partial towards directing breath into the cavities and diaphragms to allow relaxation to follow. Yoga does so deliberately and cranial therapy merely notices natural movement of the breath and in this acknowledgment helps to crawl and pace it along.

Fascia Connectivity

To both yogis/yoginis and cranial therapists, fascia is like clay – flexible and therefore moldable. Fascia is fashioned out of broad sweeps of tissue supporting cavities or diaphragms that naturally divide the body into natural compartments. For the wellness of the person whose body it is, connectivity between and through these diaphragms is maintained by breath.

Hence it’s a must for fascia in order to support breath movement through it to be knot free. These knots are inertial energy or pools of stagnant vitality. Craniosacral touch brings about the release of these knots. My clients that practice yoga are familiar with the process of untying knots by deliberately breathing into tight spaces. It’s fair to say that this happens for them slowly over time.

Relaxation at The End

When you come for a cranio treatment come prepared to physiologically relax and psychologically unwind. For, the deepening breath works alongside the vagus nerve, to balance what’s inside you.

It’s also fair to then say that a single cranio session does equal the benefits of 10 yoga sessions. At least.

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Nailing Lower Back Pain

 

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A client walked into my clinic after having recently experienced acute lower back pain. The onset of which had no defined cause except for a brief moment of twisting, to grab his phone charging on the behind wall. He was gifted a spasm the length and breadth of which spanned his entire lumbosacral region. He collapsed into immobility. Just like that. With practically no evidence of real physical injury, his physical therapist took into account a dire need to mobilise him with gentle stretches and ultrasound. Post that he came to me, eminently mobile, but with continuing pain and partial stiffness.

An Initial Approach

Sharing with him my personal experience and understanding of Tension Myositis Syndrome, a concept attributed to late Dr Sarno, together we took our first tentative steps towards recovery. He was ready to flush out some emotional wreckage he had kept concealed even from himself.

The beauty of a craniosacral treatment is the chance and the choice to disrobe and look beyond the usual reasons attributed to musculoskeletal pain or pain in general. And the beastliness of this work is that we need innate patience to await positive results. In about four sessions, his body felt sufficiently relaxed and safe to begin thawing its frozen state.

Hurdles to Cross

It’s very simple. Our ego detests change and disturbance. It doesn’t befriend emotions easily either. Remember, your childhood emotions painfully welling up into your hot embarrassed face, when you saw your best friend become more popular than you. Such memories the ego consecrates and such heart-wrenching emotions it defends you against forever thereafter.

As a 35-year-old adult, my client was habituated to orient to similar such real and perceived dangers. Before he came to me, he had been dealing with an interpersonal issue in his usual stoic manner. He had been and was in obvious emotional pain, but enormously conditioned to disallow himself the luxury of venting out, via tears or verbalizing.

Milestones to Gain

His lower back registered his current emotional state as rigid and hot. Barely anything moved there in the first few sessions. His IBS symptoms had escalated, following the drama from the earlier weeks. He was acutely suffering from distension in his belly. It seemed as though a low vagal tone  was transacting with the brain a massive bid to keep his attention on pain – in his back and in his abdomen. There was fast and furious (his words) movements in his sympathetic nervous system.

It took us a couple of sessions, simply staying open and mildly curious, to the possibility of uncoupling from the brain its belief that his physical pain was only related to the act of reaching behind to grab his phone. Full mobility returned when his body released from inside a kind of frozen twisted motion, that we sensed running diagonally from his left hip area to his right shoulder.

Within the tissue in his lower back area he began to sense the flow of fluid and the movement of breath. We both sensed and agreed upon the prospect of his tissues being oxygenated with fresh life.

Old Patterns Seen With a Different Eye

My client has been a perfectionist all his adult life, aiming for the galaxies. He’s been reasonably hard on himself, forgetting the art of balancing his parasympathetics (rest and digest) with the fearsome activity of his sympathetics. Moreover, as an adolescent he locked away his emotions and threw away the key. It took some sessions with some core beliefs emerging to find the forgotten key.

In the past he’s suffered low back pain, popped muscle relaxants and antispasmodics, at times antibiotics (disastrous for any GI tract issue), seen many physical therapists, and never felt the need for any alternative intervention until now.

After the cessation of his treatment we discussed a future plan that included monthly cranio sessions as maintenance, apart from a few lifestyle changes, not merely in the event of another lower back episode.

  1. Staying Aware: that pain in the soma could have an underlying emotional component and to not outright deny its existence. The mind and the body are famously collaborating 24/7, even though it may be in the unconscious.
  2. Staying Present: when the back (or elsewhere) registers painful sensations, to cast a glance in the direction of any arising painful feelings.
  3. Staying Grounded: to feel safe in the face of emotional turmoil requires grounding. Use the breath as a focal point to stay in relationship to the body. The breath can cleanse painful places inside.
  4. Staying Informed: your body is inordinately wise; it knows things via nervous input and output. If you listen to its symbolic sensations you can stay abreast of impending body pain.
  5. Stay Listening: make it a regular practice to sit for 5 to 10 minutes just listening to the rise and fall of activity within the body. Moments of rushing and moments of subsiding. If you don’t like the word meditation call this mediation – between mainly doing and just being.
  6. Staying Mobile: movement is a luxury your body is ill advised to forfeit. Don’t let pain, the type without physical or mechanical damage, stop you from your normal activities. If fear is an underlying emotion, seek help to excavate its origins.
  7. Staying Healed: supporting this intimacy between mind and body requires continuing education. Knowing thyself is not a part time job and, remember, conditioning is a hard-wired habit to break.

 

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Releasing Emotions

Emotions, whether happy or sad, can bring our lives to a grinding halt. It’s an art as well as science to know how to stay equanimous and centred as various storms rise and abate in our lives. Use this meditation to begin seeing emotions as connected with your thoughts and sensations, and thus learn to release them from a place of stillness.

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