In my practice, I’m fascinated by the mystery of hormones, the chemical messengers that enable our mind-body connection. I am known to geek-out on the minutae of physiology, nutrients and genetic biomarkers, searching for the pieces that may be missing from a patient’s diagnosis. I’m also passionate in my ever strengthening belief that the picture of true, complete health is composed of and cross-informed not only by our biochemsitry and physical status but also by our mind and thinking and our posture and spiritual interaction with the forces of our space and surroundings.
Mind/Thoughts + Body/Hormones + Spirit/Posture = LASTING HEALING
Our thoughts, our hormones and our posture all interact and affect one another. For example, how you hold your body can affect your hormone levels which can then affect how you think and feel.
For me, the “posture” piece means the alignment of the body. I’ve been in many lectures given by brilliant doctors speaking about the hormone-brain connection, who have stood with their heads protruding forward and their shoulders hunched: a physical posture which greatly inhibits the very interaction which they describe. (This is a postural dynamic that I work on regularly with my own patients.)
Experience has convinced me that for the brain and the body to interact and cross-inform optimally, they must be well-aligned. I have come to believe that this alignment is something that may be best achieved and sustained through an understanding of posture and how our bodies occupy and interact with the space around us.
We all know when someone stands in our “personal space”. We can think of “personal space” as that area which surrounds our bodies by an arm’s length, in all directions. One way to improve our alignment and posture is to cultivate an improved awareness of our personal space and how we connect with this area around us. As this awareness grows, we can actually awaken to the idea that our “personal space” can, in fact, be much bigger than we may initially imagine. People who have practiced Qi Gong or studied Chinese medicine, for instance, will be familiar with the phrase “I am in the Universe and the Universe is within me.”
As we develop mindfulness and explore our relationship with our spacial context, we may begin to understand new ways to interact with the infite space around us. We can achieve dramatic improvements in our posture and alignment as we play with and leverage the dynamics of our location in universal space. We can move through the world with more grace and efficiency.
It may sound clichéd, but to heal or to remain vibrant, we need to address our mind (thoughts), our body (hormones) and our spirits (posture); these are the components of my three-legged stool for healing and maintaining health. The patterns in our thoughts, hormones, and postures are unconscious patterns, mainly formed before we even developed the conscious part of our brains. So, we must do some work at this level in order to address and change unhelpful and chronic patterns.
The habitual patterns of stress and anxiety affect our hormones and wreak havoc on our entire body. There are ancient mechanics at play where stress and anxiety are concerned. If you’ll pardon the pun, we bear the chemical legacy of our forebears when it comes to our “fight or flight” response, which is lodged at the very heart of modern stress and anxiety dynamics.
Were our ancestors to have encountered a fearsome bear while alone in the woods, their brains would register the threat and cortisol and adrenalin (the fight or flight hormones) would jet from their adrenal glands into their bloodstream. This would instantly increase sugar in the blood, producing a burst of energy and the elevated heart rate that would help carry our ancestors from the threat of harm to a safer haven.
The problem that this amazing system presents in modern life is that our brains cannot distinguish between different types of stress or fear — whether physical or emotional, real or perceived. So, if you have a worry, perhaps even one below your level of conscious awareness, your brain will perceive stress and tell your body to release cortisol. While this is great if you are in real danger, elevated cortisol also lowers your serotonin which directly affects your sense of well being.
In addition, elevated levels of cortisol will cause weight gain around your belly, affect your beauty sleep, lower your anti-aging regenerative hormones, cause problems with digestion and immunity, and disturb your metabolism and your mood. Our brain habituates a reaction to stress and this becomes a worn pathway – a neurological rut in a sense. We become stuck in a fight or flight response with our body and mind focused on survival. Any processes not geared toward survival are shut off- fertility, libido, digestion are some of the physiological expendibles, and concepts such as what we desire in life and/or what brings us joy, have no room grow.
We are able to change our habitual reactions to stress, even as we head into this stressful holiday season of weight gain, sugar, increase in cash demands, family tension, darker days…I’ll be sending you some tips over the next few months to ease the transition from light to dark and then back to light. Feel free to join me on the journey. I will be getting into the nitty gritty ways in which we can approach stress and mitigate its harm; but I want to start with something inspirational — the inspiration of your breath.
You need to breath, so why not use your breath to calm your nervous system and lower your cortisol levels? This Ocean Breathing technique (inspired from Spacial Dynamics), might be the reverse of what you are used to; just try it out. You can either spend five minutes in the morning focusing on your breath or do one or two deep breaths every hour. Any little bit of awareness will help; even if you accomplish one good breath a day, feel good about yourself.
OCEAN BREATHING TECHNIQUE:
Imagine you’re sitting on the beach looking out at the big wide ocean. Let’s make it a sunny warm day.
As you EXHALE, the tide comes towards you, water rushing to the shore, up the beach; pause.
As you INHALE, the undertow draws the water back off shore, out to the ocean.
Feel your ribcage expand in all directions as the water draws out; pause.
Repeat exhale and inhale with awareness.
And finally, I would love to hear from you! Let me know if there is anything in particular that you would like to learn about in future blogs or webinars! I’ve got some ideas but, ultimately, I want to support you on your journey of healing, reclaiming your whole and complete health.
I appreciate you.
*When my daughter was little, she wanted to record her voice on our answering machine. I pressed the record button and she said, “This is the Wallace family. Love Everyone”. 18 years later and I’m still taking her advice.