The Science Behind Self Care
“If there is any religion that could respond to the needs of modern science,
it would be Buddhism.” - Albert Einstein
The job of the Central Nervous System is to receive and interpret outside stimuli, integrate information from outside and inside the body and initiate appropriate responses. In Qigong, it is believed that if you want to avoid illness you must learn to balance and relax your thoughts and emotions. When there is imbalance in the mind, the organs will not function properly.
The Autonomic Nervous System maintains the vital functions of the body without need of conscious thought. Comprising three systems, the Sympathetic Nervous System (muscles); the Parasympathetic Nervous System (organs); and the Enteric System (gastrointestinal), also known as the second brain. The Enteric System is capable of acting independently of the other two, but can also be influenced by them, but we’ll save that conversation for another time. It is the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in which we strive.
The Sympathetic Nervous System is our active self. It is how the CNS (central nervous system) gets us moving and it determines how we react and respond to stimuli. Our brain’s ability to let go and relax is hampered by an overloaded, unregulated hyperactive sympathetic state caused by the constant stress of our daily lives.You see, it works like this: When we engage the sympathetic system, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, the stomach tightens and the bowels move towards spasticity, as blood is diverted from these vital organs to the muscles preparing to move our body. Conversely, when we engage the parasympathetic system, the heart slows down, blood pressure goes down and blood is directed to the vital organs to aid in digestion and rest.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates
Current findings today support a deeper look into the parasympathetic state: The vagus nerve, so named because it “wanders” down the body like a vagabond, sends out sensory fibers from your brainstem to your visceral organs. The vagus nerve, the longest of the cranial nerves, controls your inner nerve center, aka the Parasympathetic Nervous System. And it oversees a vast range of crucial functions, communicating motor and sensory impulses to every organ in your body. New research has revealed that it may also be the missing link to treating chronic inflammation, and possibly the beginning of an exciting new field of treatment for serious, incurable diseases.
Self Care to engage the Parasympathetic Nervous System
Massage, specifically Abdominal Massage, is a direct line to engaging the parasympathetic system, allowing the body to relax. Massage Therapists who view the body as a whole cannot overlook that if our breath is optimized, organs are massaged all day long by the diaphragm. Abdominal massage should become part of the Therapeutic routine to encourage the breath and to engage in aiding the body to find its core balance. If nothing else, but that is just my gut feeling.
Another way to engage the Parasympathetic system is through Medical Qigong. This is an ancient form of Chinese energetic medicine, and is one of the four main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with acupuncture, herbal medicine and medical massage. As with the other "branches" of TCM, healing occurs through balancing qi or electromagnetic energy which surrounds and pervades all living creatures.
Disruptions in the electromagnetic energy of the body occur throughout our lifetime as a result of poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, injuries, surgery, suppression of emotions, and aging. The goal of qigong is to correct these bio-energetic imbalances and blockages. This enables the body to strengthen and regulate the internal organs, the nervous system and the immune system, relieve pain, regulate hormones, and strengthen and release deep-seated emotions and stress.
The body is amazing and self healing. We break a bone and the body mends it. When we cut ourselves, a scab develops and mends the injury. If we can allow the body to continue to work in this manner we need to look to self care. We need to be able to manage a balance to allow the body to do what it does naturally. Whether we look to Chinese Medicine or Science to understand Self Care. We need to find a path that works for us to maintain homeostasis in order for the body to do what is does naturally.