A Client Says:
Align Spine & Mind is one of those things that seems too good to be true for stress relief because it’s so simple and easy. For someone like me with OCD/ADD/general anxiety, it has given me the ability to finally relax my bound-up chronic mental and physical tension, it feels akin to taking a calming drug it works so well. It doesn’t take long for me to do and it does exactly what what I need to be able to stay relaxed and focused for the day, or, it helps calm me down to sleep at night if needed.
Align Spine & Mind: Do It Yourself
I cannot describe how deeply relaxed I get each day by combining structural alignment, breath and meditation. I have done this to eliminate pain, improve posture, sleep, and for emotional well being.
I do several things at the same time that encompass physical therapy, meditation and breath training stacking protocols because I don’t have time for hours of health routines. I even do some part of it while driving.
I certainly don’t have the time and money to travel to specialized practitioners who treat a part of the symptoms and not the root causes, which I used to do when I was too tired to think clearly.
All the parts of a complete solution have to be done at the same time to get the deepest effect of retraining a stressed brain to be more parasympathetic, the rest and digest state, for sleep and to heal back and other pain, and emotions along the way. To simplify, I call this idea align spine and mind.
Yoga is More than You Think yet still Not Enough
The idea of aligning spine and mind draws on the breadth of “yoga,” but most yoga instructors do not fully understand yoga because they only teach “asanas,” which is the correct term for the physical movements they treat as an exercise fad. Yoga is a holistic approach to life, a spiritual path founded by Shiva taught by primarily Indian yogis.
Traditional yoga does not addresses modern problems like misalignments from chairs, shoes and bottle feeding babies. Most yoga is not designed to do for people in pain and with low exercise tolerance as with chronic fatigue.
Nevertheless, even a narrow understanding of yoga captures the idea that one of the best ways to tame the mind is through the body. This is obvious if you feel good from massage and exercise.
You can go much higher by being more systematic.
Or start lower as many people in pain cannot survive a yoga class or have chronic fatigue and lack exercise tolerance to strengthen muscles as most physical therapists try to do. These instructors or practitioners do not know how to help people who start much lower or want to go much higher. The practices of yoga are a perfect fit for that but most westerners do not have access to a proper explanation or appropriately adapted approach.
To improve pain, stress, sleep and emotions stack protocols. There are 3 components to do at once and a 4th to take progress further.
- Alignment positions and movements.
- Meditation in the sense of moving energy through parts of the body, not stopping the mind.
- Primal movement: walking, standing, bending over to align the body through normal movement, this is almost completely missed by physical therapists and yoga instructors.
ALIGNMENT from Teeth to Toes
Alignment of bones is key to getting out of pain that pinches nerves between bones.
The greatest “subluxation” as chiropractors call it, are jammed cranial bones that stress the brain in ways you cannot even perceive until you release it feel the difference. Cranial sacral therapy has an explanation for this, too, but I prefer to do it myself.
Muscle aligns bones, so you cannot rely on body workers to do it for you.
Alignment occurs from teeth and tongue to toes and all fits together as a system, with one thing being off forcing another out and forcing another thing to compensate. Most practitioners do not have the habits of thought or information to trace all the connections.
The sequence of alignment is generally:
- Release passively muscle tension starting with the hips, the illopsoas complex that is responsible for more tension in the body than you know until you release and experience this amazing feeling. You can feel all the way up to the neck. Neck muslces attach to cranial bones and can thus constrain even orthodontic expansion of the palate, which may be a therapy goal.
- Release by expand the cranial bones through the mouth with tongue, fingers and maybe orthodontics. This is not addressed in traditional yoga because now we are bottle feeding babies and other reasons the tongue does move properly to expand the palate. This is huge news for many people and needs a separate article.
- Hip and cranial releases open the breath like you would not believe.
- Stretch muscles that the body is ready to stretch.
- Move normally in walking, standing, bending, to use muscles to align bones, that is the first stage of strengthening, and is enough for now. The feet are the key to aligning the hips that align the spine. You can feel it in your chest and chin as an indicator of when you got it right.
- Shoes with some barefoot features: wide toe box and zero drop from heal to toe. This aligns the hips that aligns the spine. Altra is the brand.
Misalignment is the body working against itself, stressing itself that can send the brain into stress mode and overreacting. Once the internal struggle is corrected, one can harmonize with the outside world with less stress and appropriate stress responses, neither over-reacting (fight or flight) or under-reacting (freeze) to avoid conflict and allow abuse.
Alignment also affects the nervous system through the cerebrial spinal fluid which has a flow and rhythm studied by the field of craniosacral therapy, a good form of holistic systems thinking to help understand some of the vaguer eastern ideas of energy I will discuss below. However, this is not about what kind of specialists to go to, it’s about doing it yourself.
BREATH Why does a Cat Purr?
One aspect of deep stress in the brain is hyper ventilation: breathing too much as if running away. This is an inherent part of a stressed brain, which is known as autonomic nervous system, ANS, dysregulation, or dysautonmia. Controlling the breath is one way to train the brain to a more relaxed state.
A western understanding of breath chemistry provided through the theory of Buteyko medical breathing is helpful here as it explains a lot about chronic fatigue Hyperventilation expels too much CO2 that is necessary to utilize oxygen. The resulting state is known medically as “respiratory alkalosis” of the blood because carbon is lost. This forces the body to pull out acid reserves, mechanism that may overcompensate and lead to mobilizing alkaline reserves, creating nutritional chaos. It is the kidney’s job to balance minerals by excreting excesses, so if you are waking to urinate at night this might be the reason. If you are waking to urinate especially after not having much liquid in the evening, then it’s not just about liquid intake.
Many people advise to “take a deep breath” when they should be breathing less.
Correcting the breath is not optional for chronically ill people. Nutrition is not enough because utilization matters. A stressed brain scrambles chemistry.
The Buteyko breath technique depends on other things, too, like walking and diet, they say. In fact, for many complicated cases of ANS much more needs to be done and can make Buteyko breathing go faster. Nevertheless, slower breathing can be a part of the program. Yogic pranayama breathing or other techniques vary widely but some aim to get in a very shallow breathing state that that compatible with the goal here. A synthesis of east and west seems best.
There are certain yogi techniques that can get you to parasympathetic fast.
Why does the cat purr, grasshopper?
Well for you a purring type sound is soothing to the nervous system, including the vegas nerve people have isolated for attention. The right sound deepens meditation fast. In fact, without this, the benefits of meditation can be reversed to create a more racing mind, according to Yogi Lahiri Mahasaya, founder of the kriya yoga lineage made known to the western world in Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. The organization he founded, however, has changed the practices but there are many other sources of information.
MEDITATION Is Not What you Think or Not Think
Meditation is another word like yoga that people don’t understand. They think all meditation is about stopping the mind.
Many forms of meditation are more about feeling and moving energy.
Most meditation in the yogic tradition moves energy by placing attention on your body, mostly up and down the spine and head, and at points called chakras, explained below. “Energy” is felt as tingling or subtle sensations.
Techniques to enhance meditation include hand positions and tongue positions. These amplify the strength of a meditation and sensations notably.
Mantras are prayers that are repeated that give meaning and intent.
You can also connect to your spiritual source in your mind or through a picture or shrine. This is devotion or surrender.
Meditation techniques can be done with alignment positions, movements, and breath work.
This completes the outline of the 3 basic activities in a session of movement and meditation.
Meditation in Indian yogic tradition and Chinese Daoism focuses on moving energy along the spine and cranium at energy centers known as chakras or dan tiens.
EMOTIONS and CHAKRAS
Moving energy up a down the spine can focus on and the seven energy centers known as chakras. Kriya refers to this kind of energy meditation. Each chakra represents emotional issues and if you balance that chakra you automatically get better results for those emotions and abilities, usually by opening and strengthening a chakra or sometimes by closing it up a bit. Chakra’s can be strengthen from bottom up as a foundation that builds up. These are felt on back and front sides of the body or spine and head.
1st Root Chakra
The first standard chakra at the base of the spine is called the root chakra. It deals with survival, basic security and wealth. Its emotional problem is fear, which dominates the brain of chronically stressed people with autonomic nervous systems dysregulation or limbic overload. This chakra is used for “grounding,” or getting a basic sense of reality and direction. This is in contrast to people living in fear and not dealing in reality. It is for people who can’t get focused on their basic needs, as with many chronically ill people who are shattered and scattered. Strengthening this chakra gives a sense of power. It also can automatically open it’s paired opposite at the top of the head, the crown chakra that is the connection to spirit. I have done this routinely and felt a tingling at the top of my head.
The root chakra is especially physically related and opened by yoga asanas that move the hips. This was emphasized in the asanas used before meditation taught to me by the yogi known in the west as Sadhguru.
2nd Sex Chakra
Around and above the pubic area is the second sex chakra which is more broadly a source of creativity and generative life energy.
3rd Solar Plexus
Below the rib cage this chakra is about will power, getting things done and asserting oneself in the world. It adds an element of defending boundaries to the survival drive of the root chakra.
4th Heart Chakra
Important for self love and empathy for others. The heart is self love to take care of oneself and not neglect needs. It allows to connect with others in nourishing relationships.
5th Throat Chakra
This enables speaking out and a more collective sense of connection and heart.
6th Third Eye Chakra
Between the eyebrows and a little above is the seat of awareness and wisdom. This area corresponds most closely to the frontal lobes of the brain where higher more rational thought occurs. This chakra is mostly discussed in relation to the stress regulation and other hormonal centers: the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, and lower brain stem that regulates stress responses. The third eye shifts conscious to a higher less reactive level of the higher brain or frontal lobes. The 3rd eye is the focus of meditations, but care must be taken not to jump to the head without building a foundation and connecting to the heart. The lower feeds the upper.
7th Crown Chakra
The top of the head receive the divine in life. This is often subtle, like just making better decisions and things coming more easily. Being able to receive in general. Knowing when to act and when to wait. There can be an overall feeling of peace, being supported and guided.
The crown chakra is included in meditation that moves energy up the spine on an inhale to the top of the head and over to the third eye where the breath stops and then there may be a pause, before exhaling down from the forehead to the root chakra.
Meditations that move energy affect these chakras with their associated benefits. Energy is moved by concentrating on these areas while breathing and holding the hands and tongue in a certain way. Body position is important, too.
ENERGY AND STRUCTURE INTERACT
Sometimes posture changes just with meditation and not directly by stretching or moving. Emotional energy causes tension and distortions.
Sometimes my physical structure finally feels totally balanced when walking correctly, primal walking, after releasing emotionally through breath and chakra meditation alone. Like the time I was doing this while driving, which is not a full meditation but worth doing during what would otherwise be the dead time of driving. I had already done a full routine of physical positions and meditation, but additional breath and meditation took me deeper with an emphasis on opening the third eye and heart. Emotions contort the body a lot and solutions are not just mechanical. Interactions with people are better with the heart opened.
In fact, pain itself can be a neurological issue or from a stressed brain or emotions: people with the same Xrays of a problem can have pain or no pain, it’s the nervous system, too, not just structure. With a combination brain and structural transformation people can get out of pain even with herniated discs that are not fully healed.
Moving energy can be faster and more effective than talk therapy.
It is not all bliss. Meditation can bring up things that need to be felt and processed, so staying with feelings and going against the reaction to run away is a healing process. Feeling through discomfort can be helped a lot with spontaneous movement and sounds, sometimes called spontaneous chi gong.
There is no substitute for personal integrity and honesty and wanting to be aware. Not using bliss processes to spiritually bypass difficulty or to feel superior. More like being more present with people to connect, understand them, and be flexible with best possibility for that interaction. Some people fall into the trap of religion and following a guru as a substitute for self development, these people are not fully present with themselves or others.
The most common result is to be at peace and less reactive. This is healing the deep stress of the brain.
This has helped with insomnia and getting to sleep earlier on a daylight based circadian rhythm so that I am awake during daylight hours and able to get more sun.
What particular techniques works can be highly individualized. It takes the right combination of things that can be done in a realistic amount of time. Individuals might also focus on a particular chakra at times, although mediations are designed to circulate energy between them to get them all working together.
Align Spine & Mind is Track II of Primal Rejuvenation that addresses 3 root causes: a stressed brain, alignment, and emotions, that affect sleep, pain, stress. See my section on Pain & Alignment for further information.
Track I addresses the 3 other root causes: Eat to Energize, detoxification and infection for a complete health solution.