I’ve been giving a lot of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy sessions since returning from some advanced training at the beginning of October.
I’ve also done some trades with other Biodynamics practitioners.
I love this modality of bodywork/energywork. It seems to me to be a natural extension of both bodywork and meditation: it involves light touch, perception, stillness.
I’ve found it is especially helpful for insomnia. I’ve experienced better sleep after I receive a session, and my clients report the same, even those who have difficulty falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep.
It helps with both.
One thing we do know about how it works is that it has a calming effect on the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord — deep in the body.
CST is thought to improve efficiency of biological processes through boosting inherent self-regulation, self-correction and self-healing.
The Cleveland Clinic
By stimulating the rest and recovery systems of the body, the subtle work of CST allows the body to re-source its powers of rehabilitation and revival.
I’m working in my office one day per week (Tuesdays) and have since September. I took 6 months off because of COVID, and it’s almost 6 months since I’ve been back.
Working one day a week means that my workday is full with no gaps between appointments. This is time-efficient for me since I have a 30-minute commute each way (barring rush hour, which can take 20 minutes longer).
Although I optimize my road time by listening to relaxing music or audiobooks or podcasts, honestly, I’d rather not be in the car that much.
I’ve had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine with the second scheduled for later this month. My system should reach maximum COVID immunity on April 7, and at that time I will add another day in my office, Wednesdays. I’ll continue to add days as my time in the office fills up.
I’m seeing a lot of people coming in for craniosacral therapy. It’s so good for stress, and the pandemic and recession and political insanity have taken their tolls. You may have heard something about the polar vortex reaching Texas in mid-February, creating what’s being called “snowmageddon” and “freezepocalypse” because of the electrical grid nearly going down.
There was a lot of uncertainty with that. Even for those who came through it with little discomfort (including me), no one knew if they would lose power or how long it would be out, or if their pipes would freeze or burst, or if they would have food and water.
Temps got down to 4-8 degrees F in this area and stayed below freezing for 4-5 days. Usually if our winter temps go below freezing, it gets down to maybe 28 for a few hours. So homes aren’t built for cold. We have no snow plows. We sand icy bridges, and businesses and schools and offices close, and that’s it. “Snow day”.
So…lots of stress means lots of clients for me. I’m offering a discount now, which helps make craniosacral therapy affordable for more people. And we’re still taking full COVID precautions. And because of the downtime, I’ve been able to study in more depth both Upledger and biodynamics styles of CST.
I spent 8 days with my family during the freeze, and it was wonderful, 5 of us under the same roof, cooking, watching WandaVision (which I liked although Avengers fans had to explain the backstory to me), Servant (which I didn’t enjoy), enjoying each other’s company. One member has 4WD but not much was open. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs. Laughter.
I did miss the silence of my solitary abode, where birdsong is the soundtrack, but I was out of propane to cook with, and it was cold. My pipes froze but didn’t burst, and my electric bill will probably be enormous.
And now it’s spring, just like that, with highs ranging from 60 to 80.
We’re taking stock of the freeze damage to the plants. My Meyer lemon tree is probably a goner but I’m going to wait before doing any cutting. My spinach, collards, parsley, cilantro, carrots, onions, lettuce, and fennel made it through with frost damage, but chard and beets, snap peas, fenugreek didn’t.
The live oaks look bad but will probably recover. Palm trees, agaves, cacti, nope.
I’m doing a lot of MELT method sessions to help my body recover from a low back injury last fall when I tried to lift too much. Because some yoga poses were prohibited, I decided to give up yoga classes and to do MELT at home this year. It’s so good at helping the body to release compensatory tension patterns from injury and lack of use (being sedentary or workouts that don’t work the whole body).
I have a way to go but the pain is much less and my range of motion in all my joints has improved a lot.
Although the governor of Texas has declared Texas 100% open for business and ended the mask requirement, all the major grocery and superstores are requiring them, although how good enforcement (which usually falls to low-paid but somehow essential workers) will be remains to be seen.
Texas is something like 47th among states in getting its population vaccinated, and Houston is the only city in the nation with all 5 variants of COVID.
What? What was he thinking? Diversion from the near-crash of the electric grid and dozens of deaths and billions in damages resulting from that? Because of policies recommended during past less-serious strains on the grid but never enacted, to keep Texas attractive (cheap) to businesses? Because he appointed the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT (whose board is mainly people he appointed)? Because most of the cities in Texas are Democratic — although GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression are what keeps them in power? To slap President Biden in the face after he quickly released FEMA funds to the state (in the minimal amount Abbott requested) with no questions asked?
I’m pretty sure only Republicans will be attending mask-burning parties, before they are even vaccinated. I’m pretty sure that businesses who thought Texas was a good place to do business are having second thoughts.
Time will tell, but this extreme partisanship and lack of sensible governing could sure tilt Texas blue again. I’m ready for it.
Some years, the temperatures never get below freezing in Austin. In the years when it does freeze, it doesn’t last longer than a few hours. We’re accustomed to 70 degree days in January, not consistently, but warm enough that some younger men don’t even seem to own a pair of long pants.
Not this year. We are breathing Arctic air, experiencing ice, snow, and prolonged below-freezing temps, and many are without heat and water due to the Texas electrical grid being overloaded and shutting down in many places for several days, so far.
I’ve been extremely fortunate that my power has stayed on the entire time.
My central heat is struggling to keep up. I’ve had a large pot of bone broth simmering on my stove day and night, dipping into it for an occasional cup of warm nourishment.
I discovered that a weighted blanket is even better than a sleeping bag at keeping me warm because I can sprawl out underneath it and it holds my body heat in just as well.
It’s chilly at home, but it’s a fun challenge, like winter camping. So far, anyway!
It started when it rained on 2/11 and froze on the bare limbs and twigs of the trees and bushes around my place.
On 2/12, the temperature briefly rose above freezing, and the ice on the branches slowly started melting.
On 2/13 I covered my Meyer lemon tree with a quilt and 3 tarps to prepare for temps in the teens. They’re supposed to be good down to 20 degrees F, but seeing as it’s 6 degrees as I write this on 2/16, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make it.
We got five inches of snow overnight on Feb. 14-15. It’s the most snow I’ve ever seen in Austin in my many years here, and it’s definitely lingering the longest. The forecast changes slightly from day to day, but it looks like we may get above freezing briefly Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
My four square-foot gardens are covered in snow. Not sure which plants will make it.
From my long-ago experience of an entire January spent below freezing in Oklahoma, it will melt the roads just enough to be passable for a few afternoon hours, and then slick over once temps drop at night. Saturday night will remain above freezing, or so it’s forecast.
It was 4 degrees this morning, and more snow and freezing rain are forecast.
My bird feeder has been super busy with puffed up birdies getting nourishment for all the energy they need to stay alive in these temps.
Well, at nine am, I ran out of propane. My daughter is coming to pick me up, and I’ll stay with her until this cold front is over, probably on Friday.
Quality and length of sleep affect the immune system. If you don’t get enough sleep or enough good quality sleep, you’re more likely to get sick from a virus, and it can slow your recovery.
While you sleep, your innate immune system releases cytokines (interferons, interleukins, growth factors). Some cytokines protect you from infectious illness, and lack of sleep reduces production. Antibody production, part of the adaptive immune system, also decreases due to sleep deprivation.
So get enough sleep (adults generally need 7-8 hours), and get good quality sleep to keep your immune system working well.
We can check in with ourselves when we wake each morning (always a good idea) to see if we feel rested or not. This is the biggest indicator of “enough good sleep,” but you may be wondering how to measure quality sleep.
I wear a Fitbit watch that monitors my sleep through movement (rolling over) and heart rate variability. Every morning when I wake up, I first tune into how rested I feel. Then I look at my sleep stats. I aim to get at least 7 hours, and I usually do.
Time asleep matters. I know I do best if I get 7 to 7.5 hours. I’m not using an alarm, so I let myself sleep as long as I want. I often awaken early but keep still with my eyes shut to see if I can go back to sleep, and I usually do.
I imagine lots of people are doing that while sheltering in place.
Fitbit measures sleep quality by duration and percent time spent in each of the three levels of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. It also measures how often I awaken during the night. From all that, Fitbit creates a sleep score. I hope to get 90 or better, but usually my score is in the upper 80s. I’m working on it!
We sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes, cycling between light sleep and deep sleep during the first part of the night, and cycling between light sleep and REM sleep in the later part of the night. We also awaken briefly, or for longer, multiple times during the night, usually about 5 percent.
We spend about 50 percent of total sleep time in light sleep. Our temperature drops. Our heart rate and breathing slow. Our muscles relax and may jerk. We can be awakened more easily.
We spend about 20 percent in deep sleep. Getting enough deep sleep is connected to feeling rested in the morning. It’s restorative. Our brainwaves slow way down. Our brain actually cleans itself during this stage. Tissue growth and cell repair take place. Blood pressure drops, and blood flow to muscles increases. It’s more difficult to awaken from deep sleep.
REM sleep takes up about 25 percent of sleep time. We dream during REM sleep, even if we don’t remember dreaming. The brain wave pattern of REM sleep is closer to wakefulness. This stage is where memory consolidation, problem-solving, and learning occur. Respiration and heart rate increase. Brain activity is high. The body becomes immobile to keep us from acting out our dreams (usually).
Sleep patterns change with age. As we get older we usually get less deep sleep. Some older adults take longer to fall asleep, spend less time in REM sleep, and wake more often during the night. Sleep may begin earlier in the evening, with waking occurring earlier in the morning.
Anxiety Affects Sleep
It’s especially relevant that the anxiety so many are experiencing because of the COVID pandemic may be robbing us of good quality sleep when we really, really need it.
We may be anxious about getting sick or about our loved ones following health guidelines or getting sick. We may be anxious about hospitals being overwhelmed.
Personal finances may have drastically declined.
For some, food and shelter and peaceful co-existence with others in the home are major issues.
Uncertainty about how long this pandemic could last, how long it may take the economy to recover, politics nearly everywhere, mixed messages from medical experts and politicians can keep us awake at night.
How can you improve the quality of your sleep in the time of corona? There are a lot of ways, and I’d love to hear what works for you.
For me, when dealing with my own anxiety, I recognize that it’s in my mind and it’s about the future. These are thoughts that may or may not happen. I realize how fortunate I am to have a home, food, family nearby, friends, and enough income to know I won’t starve.
And then I bring my attention to my body. I notice my breathing. I notice sensations, of textures and temperature and weight, of muscle tension and relaxation, of discomfort. I try to feel my heart beating in my chest.
It’s very calming and helps me fall asleep quickly. Turning off my mind like this took some practice.
What Helps Me Get a Good Night’s Sleep
I am admittedly not a person who loves routine. I don’t have much of a bedtime routine. I don’t put my screens away an hour before bed, but I do stay away from disturbing news late in the day.
I get tired anywhere between 9:30 pm and 12:30 am, though those are extremes. I usually go to bed about 11.
I use a sleep mask because some light leaks in through my curtains.
I don’t drink caffeine after 1 pm.
I put together a playlist of binaural beats for delta brain waves (deep sleep), and I listen to that using headphones sometimes. (Honestly, I’m not sure it makes much difference.)
I get some exercise every day, whether it’s taking a yoga class online, participating in ecstatic dance online, or simply walking. According to the National Sleep Foundation, even light exercise like a 10-minute walk can improve sleep quality.
I get outside and get some sunlight every day, unless it’s raining. Morning sun on my skin feels great and gives me more Vitamin D, which helps immunity.
I often drink a cup of bone broth in the evening, and I take my magnesium in the evening.
I take two supplements, both from Premier Research Labs, with whom I have a practitioner account. Tranquinol is a capsule that improves deep sleep, and Melatonin-ND is a liquid that improves REM sleep.
What helps you sleep better?
Catching Up on Austin COVID Stats
Austin implemented sheltering in place on March 24, so today, April 7, is Day 14.
You may have read in the news about the 70 UT students who chartered a plan to Baja California for spring break and took commercial flights back. Forty-nine of them have tested positive as of 3 days ago.
Zip code 78705, the area west and north of UT that houses many students, has 55 verified cases, the most of any zip code in the county. The 20-29 age group still has the highest number of cases of any age group in the area. It’s a younger city demographically.
I am not a scientist! I’m trying to make this understandable for non-scientists like me. If I can get these basics down, so can anyone!
The first thing to know is that it’s not like other systems in the body in that it doesn’t consist of specific organs, like the digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, etc. It’s bigger than that.
The immune system spreads throughout the body through the blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and mucosa (both mucous membranes and that surrounding organs), and more specifically, it is a key function of the thymus gland and the spleen.
The immune system works to prevent pathogens such as viruses from causing harm. There are two branches of the immune system, innate and adaptive.
The innate immune system responds first to invading pathogens. The innate response is rapid but not specialized. There are many different types of cells involved.
The adaptive immune system responds to pathogens that slip past the innate immune system, and it remembers them if exposed again. The main cell types of the adaptive immune system are T cells and B cells, which are produced in the bone marrow from stem cells. They are also called lymphocytes.
T cells recognize invaders and coordinate immune responses. They consist of killers, helpers, and messengers. They kill infected damaged cells. They produce cytokines that fight pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi. When they find pathogens, they send messages to activate the rest of the immune system.
B cells produce antibodies, called Immunoglobulins (Ig) of various types. These are specific proteins in our blood that respond to and counteract specific antigens (substances in pathogens that provoke an immune response).
Both T cells and B cells can become memory cells, which persist and can recognize when an antigen appears again and create a rapid, antigen-specific immune response. For instance, having had the measles once confers immunity — if exposed again, you don’t get the measles again because your adaptive immune system recognizes and defends against it successfully. You can prove it with a blood test for measles antibodies.
This is also how vaccines work. Introduce just enough of an antigen for the body to produce antibodies, and the body becomes immune to that antigen.
We don’t have any specific immune cells for SARS-CoV-2 (the actual name of the virus; COVID-19 is the name of the illness) yet, because it is novel — new. It’s one of many coronaviruses (which can cause the common cold). Immunity to one coronavirus does not confer immunity to others…and the nature of viruses is that they mutate.
So, it seems to me, developing a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is like trying to hit a moving target. There are labs around the world working on a vaccine — but testing one to see if it works well and is safe enough to offer everywhere takes time, about a year from what I’ve heard…so next spring…if the virus doesn’t mutate, possibly becoming even more contagious and severe.
Medical people in the trenches are currently trying to find out whether and when people who have recovered from COVID-19 have produced enough antibodies in their blood plasma to inject in critically ill people and turn it around.
Scientists around the world are also working on a simple blood test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. This test would not require as much testing as a vaccine, and it could be readily available in a much shorter time frame, telling us who’s had it and who hasn’t.
Since up to 25 percent of COVID cases may be symptomless (this is the largest figure I read), many more people many have had it and become immune than we now know.
Your lifestyle is a major factor in supporting your immune system, making you healthier, possibly even conferring the ability to have that symptomless version of COVID-19 that I’m sure we all wish we had (but knowing we have it and self-quarantining so as not to spread it to people with weaker immune systems)…and having complete immunity afterwards.
Maybe even being able to donate blood plasma full of antibodies to save lives!
A healthy immune system might make the difference between a mild case and a serious case.
But since it’s new, we’re still learning.
Hygiene, diet, sleep, fresh air, exercise, the parasympathetic nervous system, and supplements all play roles in keeping your immune system working well. I intend to explore these in the coming days.
Defend yourself with impeccable hygiene
Humans got way healthier when we started washing our hands and utilizing public sewage systems and drinking clean water. Before these practices became common, a lot of people suffered and died miserably from cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis, typhus, and other diseases spread from poor sanitation.
In the time of the coronavirus, the actions you can take to improve hygiene and reduce transmission of the virus include hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, not touching your face with unwashed hands, wearing gloves, wearing a mask, self-quarantining if exposed or ill (whether you test positive or not, given the shortage of tests), social distancing, sheltering in place, lockdowns.
This virus is very contagious! Please take care not to get exposed and not to spread it. Wash.Your.Hands and Wear.A.Mask.When.You.Go.Out.
Current coronavirus stats from Austin
This is day 4 of sheltering in place. As of last night, we had 160 cases here and one death, a woman in her 70s with significant underlying health conditions. Blessings to her family. 💚🙏🏽
It’s still affecting more people in the 20-40 age group than older people in this city with a young-skewing population.
One person at a homeless shelter has tested positive. That person is being isolated at a hotel and the 19 others exposed are also isolated and being monitored.
I’m hearing reports of customers being abusive to employees at to-go restaurants and grocery store cashiers. I hope management protects their employees and bans these people for a few days so they will be more appreciative.
A Facebook friend posted this poem three days ago. Asenath Avinash is also a bodyworker. Her place of employment is currently closed, but if you love this as much as I do, you could ask for her when they reopen. http://www.workwellaustin.com/
It’s a good reflection of the shift in the narrative many of us are experiencing now.
And we looked around, and we saw ourselves, and it was so funny, so strange to recognize, not the selves we had built, but the ones that were buried out in the long backyard of our lives, forgotten, rusted, decomposing, presumed lost, presumed even never to have existed, but there they were, just like the canal-bottoms in Venice, waiting for us, never having gone, never having left, and the miracle was being able to see clearly what was already there.
The miracle was how quickly the pollution vanished, and our eyes healed, and we looked out on a world that was fresh and different and we saw that businesswomen were really poets, and that scientists were really prophets, and that we were all vulnerable and worth protecting, and that toilet paper was a kind of false security, and that all our systems needed a pause and a fresh start and that most of us were really, very tired.
And we rested, and our children wondered what is happening right now? and we couldn’t answer. We weren’t supposed to touch anything or do any work or go anywhere, and it felt that we were being shown something.
So we stayed at home, and we mowed the tall grass and listened to birds and gave thanks for the garbage collectors and the grocery clerks, and we organized our closets and made pots of nutritious soup, and the introverts turned their cameras on and taught us how to make crafts, and the musicians picked up their instruments and walked out their front doors and sang in the streets, and nothing stopped them, not cars, not fear, and no one thought they were lunatics, in fact, we thanked them, we came outside to listen standing far apart, and feeling our interconnection.
We understood that something so profound was taking place, and that if it went on long enough, the fireflies would come back into our yards and the ladybugs and the milky way. The earth herself was waking up quietly, or rather, we were, and we saw that maybe we didn’t need so much after all, maybe in this new world, we’d find new careers or they would find us if we let them, and we wanted to stay put and be still and feel it out moment by moment. We didn’t want to touch it with our clumsy hands or make plans or disturb anything, and so we just watched it breathing softly and steadily like a precious newborn.
And we knew that, at some point, it would probably start up again, which was confusing, because, yes, we did need money, or so we had always believed.
I have a dear friend who is my age (60+) who sn’t worried about getting sick from the coronavirus. She is a naturopath and a homeopath and is trained in a lot of other alternative health care modalities.
She has absolute faith that her immune system is so robust that she will not get sick.
I don’t quite have that much faith, even though I’m doing a lot to stay healthy, but it made me curious about immunity.
One question I have is this: how many people are positive for the virus but have no symptoms? Is this because their immune systems are so robust that the virus keeps trying to make headway, but it just can’t?
Or, possibly, could it be because they were exposed to very little of the virus, just enough to test positive, but not as much as people who get sick?
I believe the tests are binary: either you test positive or negative. (I wish everyone could be tested frequently.) The threshold for testing positive may be low if people are carrying it but symptomless.
I’m also assuming that people in close or frequent contact with those carrying or sick with the virus would have more virus in their body and be more likely to get sick. So, nursing homes. Prisons. Cruise ships. Mardi Gras. Spring breakers packing the beaches.
Packed churches at Easter?
I want to learn more about the immune system. We’re all interested now!
I’m going to investigate that and report what I find here in plain language.
Today is Day 3 of shelter in place in Austin, Texas, USA. As of last night, we have 137 known cases and no deaths.
Interestingly, the majority of cases are in people under 40. Only 19 cases are in people 60+.
Today is Day 2 of sheltering in place in Austin, Texas. We had 119 known cases as of last night (but no deaths so far), and we know the virus is being transmitted in the community. No one I know has it so far, that I’ve heard, but friends and relatives of friends do. The number of cases will almost certainly go up over the next two or three weeks. The hope is that then the number of cases will start declining because of first, social distancing, and now, sheltering in place.
For me, this means staying home, which I have been since Saturday, and for the week before, my outings were rare. I’ve ordered groceries online and picked them up. I have a wonderful daughter who can pick items up and bring them to me. I have groceries enough to last for at least a week, and I’m keeping a list on the fridge door of the items I run out of that I can get next time I shop (which will probably be online to be delivered or picked up curbside, but I do have a mask and gloves in case I need to venture inside a store). My fridge, freezer, and nonperishable shelves are full.
I feel pretty good about my chances of getting through this without getting sick, or of being mildly ill if I do get it. I had a cold in October that was mild and lasted two days, and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d previously had a cold. My immune system is robust.
However, it’s unpredictable. I’m in the 60+ population and therefore considered at risk. I do yoga and dance regularly (now doing these online), I eat healthy (organic unprocessed food mostly), and I meditate, which helps keep my nervous system more balanced rather than going into stress, which is hard on the immune system. I’m working on improving my sleep, getting more deep and REM sleep according to my Fitbit.
I take really high quality supplements from Premier Research Labs and Wellevate. (I have practitioner accounts with both that you can order through if you wish.) I have homeopathic remedies on hand too. I have health insurance should I need it, and I hope that if I do, the health care system isn’t overwhelmed and can tend to me. I’m very very fortunate and grateful.
Y’all, no one is immune. This virus targets humankind. It’s a great equalizer. It doesn’t respect fame, power, talent, or riches. Movie stars, professional athletes, famous artists, royalty, and politicians have come down with it. Because it’s novel, no one has immunity, except those who have completely recovered from it.
I’m hearing people say things like “What a year this past week has been” and “there are many days in a day.” We’re in a time of rapid change.
I believe when this pandemic is over, some aspects of our lives will not go back to the way they were. This will influence people living through it for the rest of our lives. We will not take our health for granted. We will better understand the relationship between lifestyle and health. We will require that our governments take actions that support our health over corporate profits.
Dead people don’t buy stuff.
I hope the biggest takeaway is that we humans are ALL connected through our humanity. We are all dependent on this planet for our lives. Maybe we will treat each other, and our home planet, much better.
Blessings for health, immunity, resiliency, resourcefulness, and connection. 💚🙏🏽
Update, September 17, 2020: I stopped doing intraoral manual therapy in March 2020 due to COVID. I’m resuming my in-person bodywork practice in Austin, Texas, one day a week on Tuesdays. I’m offering TMJ Relief sessions but not working in people’s mouths until COVID no longer poses a threat.
I’ve spent a lot of time and effort pivoting to teaching online. It’s risky to work in people’s mouths, and yet the need is even greater. The stresses of the pandemic and the recession (and all the related adjustments) have people clenching and grinding even more.
I’m offering a course, Self-Care for Jaw Pain, on Zoom. The next series of classes are slated for February 2021.
Check out my website, maryannreynolds.com. If understanding causes and finding remedies for your jaw pain appeals to you, please sign up for my class. Space is limited.
So far, since I began doing intraoral work for jaw issues in 2013, I’ve had several clients come in for TMJ relief sessions who had previously seen multiple practitioners who worked inside their mouths to try to relieve their TMJ symptoms.
They had seen chiropractors, chiropractic neurologists, Rolfers, dentists trained by the Las Vegas Institute (LVI), and/or other massage therapists.
These clients told me, “No one has ever touched me there,” after I worked on their lateral pterygoids.
These are small, sensitive, hard to access muscles, and they may be key muscles to soften to release jaw tension. It takes patience to reach them and gently influence them to soften and lengthen.
You can see in the image below that there are two heads to the lateral pterygoid muscle. The superior head attaches to the articulate disc between the mandibular fossa of the temporal bone and the condole of the mandible. Tension in this superior head pulling the disc anteriorly may create clicking or popping sounds on opening and/or closing the jaw.
It is important to address this early on to prevent irreparable damage. Even when there is damage to the disc or the tissue behind the joint, intraoral manual therapy can relieve tension.
It’s not that the other jaw muscles don’t contribute. The medial pterygoids are also major internal pain-causing culprits, and the external jaw muscles — the masseters and temporalises — also play important roles in jaw tension and pain (they can have trigger points and taut bands within the muscle, and also be in a long-term state of contraction due to clenching and grinding).
I’ve learned through trial and error that one 75-minute session provides relief (sometimes tremendous relief, as in experiencing a pain-free and spacious feeling around the TMJs), but it will probably not last.
That’s often the issue with bodywork: the soft tissues tend to revert toward their previous tension until we change that muscle tension pattern through timely repetition.
For longer-lasting relief, 5 sessions in 4-6 weeks with support for habit change and self-care homework can retrain the jaw muscles to lengthen and relax.
If jaw tension or pain resulting from jaw tension is your major complaint, and you’d like a sense of spaciousness in your TMJs (if you can even imagine how great that would feel), please seek a practitioner that works intraorally on the pterygoid muscles.
I have been breathing since shortly after I was born, but I never really gave much thought to it until I started doing yoga a few decades ago, and there wasn’t much instruction. In fact, I was a mindless smoker for part of my younger, ignorant, addicted life.
Pranayama (breath work) is the 4th limb of yoga, right after asana (postures). A few of my yoga teachers have included pranayama techniques at the end of asana class. Awareness of where I feel my breath, feeling it down to my pubic bone, feeling it on the sides and back of my rib cage and in my lumbar area and between my shoulder blades, keeping my shoulders down, letting my diaphragm really expand downwards, moving the heart/lungs and liver/gallbladder/pancreas/stomach/spleen on either side of the diaphragm, increasing the movement of detoxifying lymph with each breath, being present with the energizing inhalation and the relaxing exhalation, noticing the pauses, noticing what happens in my chakras and in my whole being…
Some of the yogic breathing techniques that have stuck with me through the years are kapalabhati (breath of fire), a rapid bellows breathing that floods the body with cleansing, nourishing oxygen as well as increases motivation — and also prevents discomfort from my hiatal hernia, and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), calming and believed to balance the hemispheres of the brain.
Were you aware that throughout the day, one of your nostrils is more open than the other, and that they periodically switch sides?
I practice these two techniques every day along with a more modern technique, 4-7-8 breathing, that was taught to Dr. Andrew Weil by his mentor, Dr. Robert Fulford, an American cranial osteopath/shaman (Wikipedia describes him as a pioneer in alternative and energetic medicine) who obviously had studied pranayam.
Dr. Weil recommends doing no more than four rounds of 4-7-8 breathing daily for a couple of months to train the nervous system to quickly move into a relaxed state. I notice that the main times I need to use it are when I’m driving and I narrowly avoid hitting something or being hit.
Another practice that’s not a technique (at least that I’ve ever heard of) is something that occurs in meditation. I call it “being breathed”. It occurs after settling the body and calming the mind, paradoxically by using the breath to relax by lengthening exhalations.
As relaxation/parasympathetic dominance increases, a gradual detachment from controlling the breath allows it to shift to operate on its own, automatically — as it does naturally when we’re not paying attention.
When you notice that your breath has become automatic — you aren’t doing anything to it or with it — you’re simply allowing it to do its thing — breathing becomes completely passive, occurring on its own, and observing it doesn’t change it — that’s what I call being breathed.
There’s a kind of awesomeness to this experience. I wonder if this is what Shri Krishnamacharya, founder of modern yoga, may have been referring to when he said pranayama could result in samadhi.
Am I experiencing samadhi? I don’t know. There’s a sense of oneness and a subtle sense of bliss that permeates. Namaste, my friends.
So that’s my current practice, doing three techniques daily that take 5 minutes, plus meditating (10 minutes with Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, and usually a few more in silence, breathing equally through nose and mouth with my tongue on my palate behind my upper teeth, a Kum Nye technique).