Tis the Season for Bodywork

‘Tis the Season for Bodywork

By Anasuya Basil, NC, Dipl. ABT, CST

Though it brings tremendous joy to celebrate the holidays, it also brings the stress of preparation, travel, and encounters with family members that, shall we say, leave us feeling less than our full adult selves. Add to this stress the fact that while our bodies naturally want to slow down during late fall and winter, we are busy rushing around during the season, and thus we have a recipe for dis-ease. So it’s no surprise that, like clockwork, the late fall months bring into my practice an increasing number of clients with chronic back pain and neck pain, as well as stress-related mood issues such as anxiety and depression.

Fight or Flight

Our stress response is known as “flight-or-fight”—a life-saving mechanism through which our ancestors were able to run away from or chase after animals. While those of us in the Western world live relatively sedentary lives, with nary a tiger in sight, our bodies still respond to stress with the same combustion of energy necessary to escape life-threatening danger. During the winter months, we are even more sedentary than ever, and we have exponentially more stress! Lacking an active outlet, we end up with a traffic jam of energy in our bodies—which translates into pain, dysfunction, and bad moods that can become chronic if not effectively released.

During this time of the year, it is helpful to schedule regular bodywork sessions, even if the sessions are a month apart. When we know that we have an outlet for our stress, even if that outlet is down the line, our bodies are able to better manage that stress. Think of it as the difference between being stranded in the middle of the ocean, with not a boat in sight, versus being stranded with the image of a ship on the horizon, heading toward us. In addition, when we have the guided practice of deeply releasing and relaxing on the cellular level, we are better able to re-create that experience on our own—leading to better sleep and a healthier body throughout the season.My Body Wisdom

A Chinese medicine saying goes, “Where there is free flow, there is no pain. Where there is pain, there is no free flow.” For this very reason, acupressure and craniosacral therapies are ideal for resolving pain and illness: Acupressure unblocks the chi (life energy), and craniosacral therapy unblocks the cerebral spinal fluid. By receiving bodywork that combines both therapies, we optimize the flow within our bodies.

Tui Na

At my practice, a typical session begins with Tui Na, a form of acupressure. The client lies on the massage table, head in the cradle, face down. Unlike in a massage, the client remains fully clothed, with the exception of shoes, belts, or other articles of clothing that can compromise one’s ability to relax.

I work along the meridians, which are like rivers through which the chi flows in the body, and I touch the acupressure points, which are like the energy springs that come up through the surface of the body. I use moderate to deep pressure, according to the client’s preference. I also gently rotate a client’s hips, knees, and ankles, making sure to stay within the client’s comfort zones. It is so important to move the body only in ways it wants to move—so as to give the body the sense of comfort, safety, and freedom that enable the body to truly let go.

Working With Subtle Energies

Next the client turns face up, and I use a lighter touch therapy. Working in this subtle way enables me to really tune into the different layers of the body—beyond skin and muscle into the fluid that is moving between the cells. I listen to the body with my entire being and use a combination of acupressure and craniosacral techniques to help release whatever in the body needs to flow for optimal health.

The body’s cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) originates in the choroid plexus region of the brain. It circulates around the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and then moves on to envelop the whole central nervous system. After traveling through the body in this way, down through the sacrum, it gets reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Through this process, the CSF creates an expansion-and-contraction movement in the body, similar to the motion of the lungs, and it removes waste products and carries nutrients to the brain and spinal cord. When I place my hands on a client’s body, I am feeling for the quality and speed of the CSF rhythm. As a craniosacral therapist, I am trained to feel this movement anywhere in the body and to invite it to be strong and full throughout, so that the central nervous system, the core of the body, is deeply nourished.

Acupressure and Craniosacral

Acupressure and craniosacral therapies are gentle forms of healing that, when administered by a safe and caring therapist, are appropriate for everyone—including people with injuries, elderly people, pregnant women, children, and people with disabilities. The very fact that these therapies are so gentle is what makes them so profound: The body sinks into a state of whole-being relaxation and kicks in its internal healing mechanism—releasing the blockages that cause pain, illness, anxiety, depression, and a host of other symptoms.

In my practice, I wholeheartedly welcome clients to release whatever is stored in their bodies. Some people drift into a deep sleep—thus kicking in the body’s natural ability to fight off toxins. Others cry, laugh, or talk. Still others engage in guided imagery, which I offer as a tool for communicating with and understanding the body. Having activated their parasympathetic nervous system and right brain, clients often get up not only feeling deeply refreshed, but also having solutions to problems that have been bothering them!

The gifts of acupressure and craniosacral therapy are many, for both client and practitioner. I am deeply grateful to work with these gifts, and I look forward to sharing them with you this season.

Anasuya Basil, NC, Dipl. ABT, CST, is a craniosacral therapist, acupressure therapist, and nutrition consultant, with a practice in Chico and the Bay Area. She has lectured at venues including the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF); she has been an instructor at schools including the Acupressure Institute; and she has been featured in media outlets including Massage. Visit her website at www.mybodywisdom.net or contact her at 530-343-2796 (land) or 510-848-8439 (cell).