Stress Reduction and Breathing Techniques

Stress effects us all, even our children. Stress can erode health on almost every level and it certainly diminishes our quality of life. At The Healing Point, we employ many methods to help our clients reduce stress. Just walk in the door and you’ll feel what we mean. So many people comment that simply being here helps them feel more relaxed.

If you are interested in learning skills that will help you manage your stress, consider an acupuncture session with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Also, Ted Kardash, our psychological therapist, is experienced with many Oriental meditation techniques. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR for short, incorporates meditation techniques and awareness exercises that help the practitioner become more aware or “mindful” of what is happening. MBSR exercises can help you understand stress by feeling how stress effects your body. When you are able to more fully experience your body in a stressed state, you are then able to apply that awareness and perspective to create other, more relaxed states of being. The key to releasing is awareness. MBSR teaches invaluable tools that can become transformative.

What Is Stress Anyway?
I use the term neural static to describe a condition where there is extraneous electric current in the body. It is essentially an interference field. This current is like the buzzing of electrical transformers on telephone poles after a rain. The buzzing of cheap fluorescent lights also describes neural static. How about if you rub a balloon in your hair and then the balloon “sticks” to the wall. Do you remember rubbing your feet on the carpet and shocking your friend when you touch? When you rub your feet on the carpet you generate static electricity. You can’t feel that charge in your body until that electricity becomes kinetic energy the moment you touch someone. Then you certainly feel it and it can even hurt. The body can only process a certain amount of electrical interference on its own. We can help by grounding the errant current in the body so it doesn’t disrupt the intricate function of the brain and nervous system. While this is not the whole story when it comes to defining stress, I find it a useful analogy.

More on MBSR
This body of work has been increasingly integrated into western medicine over the past few decades. In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn developed a MBSR program at UMass Medical School in Boston for chronic pain patients. The success of this program has enabled more growth in the field and we now have trainings and programs through UCSD and Scripps Integrative. I have referred many patients to these programs and have been a guest presenter at Scripps. I recommend all of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books, especially Full Catastrophe Living. I also recommend the works of Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron, two Buddhist monks who are gifted writers. Their works directly and clearly convey the core principles and work involved with being mindful. I appreciate the humor, compassion, and candor that these authors bring to the sometimes painful and arduous task of being present.

Vipassana
MBSR borrows much from a lineage of Buddhism known as Vipassana. Vipassana means ‘insight’ and is often used to describe one of the two main categories of Buddhist meditation (the other being Samatha or tranquillity). There are three characteristics that vipassana directly addresses – dukkha (suffering), anicca (impermanence) and anatta (not-self).

Suffering relates to physical pain and emotional pain like depression, sadness, fear, discontent, etc. Many believe that suffering is part of the human condition. Any health issue or disease naturally involves suffering. Stress also creates suffering by increasing constriction in the body. Any violent feelings or actions arise from suffering and then perpetuate it. The process of becoming mindful is about making the choice to pay attention, at this very moment, no matter what is happening outside of me or inside of me. Many of us spend lots of time, money and energy trying to avoid suffering. Sometimes it is more taxing and damaging to constantly avoid suffering than it is to experience what we are feeling. This is one reason why MBSR is a natural fit with chronic pain.

Impermanence reminds us that all things pass; nothing lasts forever and everything is subject to cycles. We often lose sight of this when we attach ourselves too tightly to beliefs, ideas and people. This clinging is often a response to the eventual truth that this will all end. Each of us is inextricably attached to our own physical body which will also fade. We are here only briefly and this present moment is all that is real. Whatever abstractions we may entertain about the future are just projections (good or bad). When we start believing these projections, time passes and we miss another moment, another opportunity to be aware right now. If we view life as a series of unique moments strung together, we can start to navigate and choose how we approach the next moment as it comes. If we ignore the fact that each moment is temporary, they pass us by and then they’re gone, leaving us with only memories of the past and projections of the future.

Non-Self describes an awareness that is not bound by our limited physical condition. We are always experiencing the world through our senses, which are inherently limited. All of the sensory data we collect is processed through the various filters of our sense organs (eyes, ears, etc) and through our nervous system. We then interpret these signals in the brain (and other places). If we were to wear rose colored glasses, everything we see will be rose colored. No matter what, our perceptions are colored by our body (our processing device). Non-Self is a transcendental state of perception that is not limited by our senses. Imagine living on a flat plane, with no understanding of up or down. You can only go forward, backward or left-right. Then, one day, you find yourself flying, looking down on the landscape and having an entirely new perspective of the terrain. This is a quantum leap, a flash of insight, and some form of enlightenment.

Neural Pathways
You may be familiar with the commonly used term “neural pathway”. Neurologists believe people develop neural tendencies by activating only certain neurons, forming a chain or pathway. If neurons are not utilized, they will tend to decay (use it or lose it). Because we limit the neurons that our brain uses, we become limited to those circuits. In the example with the rose colored glasses, it is as if we have rose colored blinders, since these limited neural pathways are like ruts that we can’t get out of. The result, especially over time, is loss of perspective. We forget that there is another option. By activating new neural pathways, our brains learn and we are less limited by our habitual tendencies.

Acupuncture and MBSR
The combination of acupuncture and MBSR is very powerful. Acupuncture has the uncanny ability to balance the nervous system and induce very deep relaxation. When combined with guided imagery and mindfulness exercises, the results can be profound. Many patients have experienced transformative healing in their very first treatment. I use breathing techniques as the cornerstone and foundation of the treatment. For more, schedule a session and experience firsthand how these modalities weave together to create a deep sense of peace and internal clarity.

Acupuncture with MBSR is a wonderful way to work with both the body and the mind.

You will learn approaches to breathing that enable you to release deep tension and holding patterns. You will also have the opportunity to connect with your body in a kind and loving way, helping restore both personal integrity and self-esteem. MBSR acupuncture can also help you find and open your heart. Add CranioSacral therapy and really explore deep relaxation and peace.

I have developed a four session protocol that incorporates sequenced mindfulness exercises and CrainioSacral therapy while receiving acupuncture. I began working with blending these therapies over ten years ago when I noticed that acupuncture potentiated these two modalities. Over the past decade of continued study and clinical experience I have refined this protocol. The four treatments are individualized for each unique person while offering a structured and systematic sequence of tension release that allows for deeper healing and integration. The series establishes a foundation of both principles and techniques while also serving as a training, empowering you to continue your mindfulness practice. The tools learned from this series help you recognize and deal with stress whenever it arises. And because stress is omnipresent with our hectic lives, we can certainly benefit from easy and effective tools that help us release stress on the spot. For more on this and related protocols, check out Detox Packages.