Mindfulness + Kinesiology

Mindfulness + Kinesi

We’ve talked about mindfulness before. While there’s a lot of information available as to the benefits, how does it fit in with kinesiology? Why do they work so well together?

 

What is Mindfulness? Why is it so good?

Mindfulness (or meditation) is a practice to calm the mind. It has been shown by calming the mind we can calm the nervous system and our stress response to daily stimuli. By calming stress it basically means from a physiological point of view we are reducing the production of hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, acetylcholine and glutamate. All of these up regulate the nervous system and therefore the body’s performance, increasing the demand on cells and therefore requirements for nutrients as building blocks for all the systems to function efficiently. When all of the systems’ requirements are upregulated it puts more strain on the whole and will impact parts of the system as well. When this continues this is where we often see the link between stress and dis-ease, illness or even injuries. Therefore, to downregulate the stress response is an advantage for the overall system which in turn means any practice that helps to reduce stress is advantageous especially in this modern lifestyle we all lead!

 

By practicing a form of mindfulness or meditation each day it is actually practicing how to focus on a feeling of calm rather than allowing the momentum of an unspecific distraction build which upregulates the stress systems. I believe it is this literal practice of letting go of the unspecific stresses, the busy mind that allows the body to reset to a place of wellbeing. It helps reduce down any fight, flight or freeze tendencies and helps the feel good hormones like serotonin, GABA and dopamine to kick in allowing us to feel good and comfortable. However, what if we are activated into fight or flight and we can’t turn it off? And why can’t we turn it off??

 

What is Kinesiology? Why is it so good?

Kinesiology (Kinesi) is a way of asking the body where stress is being held in the body. There are different types of kinesiology but the purposes of this article we will refer to kinesiology in general. By mapping where the stress is being held in the body and down regulating it (usually via balancing the meridians and brain/emotional triggers) this helps to reduce the physiological strain on the body thus improving the overall performance back to a place of wellbeing. A chance to reset the fight or flight stress, if you will.

 

 

The Fight or Flight response: what is it?

The fight or flight response refers to when our brain determines a perceived threat and switches off the parasympathetic nervous system and switches on the sympathetic nervous. This is to prepare the body to either fight the perceived threat or flight from it. I.e. if there was a sabertooth tiger standing at the front of our cave the brain will perceive it as a threat, switch the sympathetic nervous system on to prepare for the decision whether to stand and fight the tiger off or flight and run away. This in turn does a number of things physiologically.

 

Sympathetic Nervous System functions include:

  • Switches off the enteric system aka the digestion. As we don’t need to digest food if we’re fighting a tiger, right??
  • Upregulates the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline (adrenaline for the brain) and acetylcholine to keep the brain alert and focused on the tiger.
  • Switches the production of serotonin off. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that tells our brain we’re happy. If we have too much of this in our system the brain will not be perceiving the tiger as the danger that it is.
  • By switching the attention of the nervous system away from the digestion all the attention is on the extremities via the influx of adrenaline. Adrenaline in the blood makes our pupils dilate (allowing more light in and better vision), increases the heart rate (pumping more blood and faster to the muscles so they are ready to fight or flight), and dilates our lungs so we can get more air and oxygen in to get to the muscles for fuel.

 

Why do we turn on the Fight or Flight system?

This is a really good system when there is a threat. For example, if we’re crossing a road and we see a big truck hurtling towards us. In that split second of realizing it is there all attention is focused on the truck. The noradrenaline gives us a depth of field allowing us to discern how long we have to make a decision regarding if it is best to stand and fight the truck or whether it is best to flight (i.e. step off the road). The acetylcholine makes our brain very focused on the truck rather than being distracted on the cute puppy playing on the side of the road. This is a very effective system when it is required.

 

Can we switch off the Fight or Flight system?

Animals have a reset to the fight or flight response. But the problem is us humans can’t reset and down regulate it very well…. Or not at all. Furthermore how our brain has evolved along with our modern lifestyles means that many of our fight or flight triggers are not physical threats anymore, they are more mental and/or emotional based. Which means we are much more likely to be triggered into a fight or flight response and unlikely to be able to rest and reset.

 

Mindfulness and meditation helps to train the person how to reset. But it needs to be practiced regularly so when there is a significant stress all the practice comes into play and it is almost habit to turn down the sympathetic nervous system. This is what a lifetime of meditation earns you! Meanwhile for the rest of us who are only halfway through our lives, or  are just starting a meditation practice (say ten years in) or have no meditation practice at all… what do we do to reset? Try to sleep and hope for the best the next day??

 

 

What are the triggers?

Often the triggers are not what we think they are as the brain may perceive something that is happening in real time like something that happened years ago at band camp which wasn’t a pleasant ending and go into protection mode. Protection mode meaning stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and therefore Fight or Flight. It can happen instantly, from what may be an innocent comment (from someone elses point of view) or from something more significant like work, money or home life. And most people don’t even realise it’s happening o how wound up and stressed they are until something relatively small happens and they snap! Or it can be just the result of a really busy life as being busy will also upregulate all the same hormones and neurotransmitters and is translated the same way in the body. So many of us function from a mid to high level physiological stress, thinking and calling this normal. Often it is not until we really unwind that we notice the difference, many people feeling the mind just keep going with circular thoughts. For example, when the mind doesn’t switch off to go to sleep.

 

How do we know if we have Fight or Flight triggers?

Some key indications of Fight or Flight in every day lives are:

  • Constantly need to move and can’t keep still or relax.
  • Feel jumpy, startle at slight noises, touches or unexpected movements.
  • Constantly thinking, overthinking things, circular thoughts, over focused on a particular subject.
  • Can’t switch mind off to go to sleep and lay awake trying to sleep, restless sleep.
  • Faster heart beat, heart palpitations.
  • Extra sweating under arms, hands and feet or just generally.
  • Digestion either speeds up when stressed or slows down. That is faster bowel motions and more frequently or slower and further apart.
  • Butterflies in the stomach.
  • Loss of appetite, not wanting to eat or not needing as much to fill up.
  • Even loss of weight if it is prolonged.

 

 

How can we actually reset the Fight and Flight system??

This is where Kinesi comes in! Because Kinesi is a way of determining how the stress is affecting the body it is also a way of asking the body what it needs to rebalance and down regulate the stress responses like fight or flight. It is fascinating as to how much information can be gain from the body when using the kinetics (muscles). We can ascertain what the triggers are of the Fight or Flight system and how to downregulate it specifically for the individual.

 

How to maintain the resetting of the Fight or Flight system:

By resetting with a Kinesi balance the question is then: how do you maintain this balance?

As a naturopath this is where herbs and nutritionals can really help, depending what systems need support for you the individual. There are many herbs that can help support the nervous system and adrenals to help maintain the calm of the rest and digest phase of the parasympathetic nervous system. That is when the Fight or Flight is switched off!

 

And also adopting some frequent routine of mindfulness or meditation can really help. This might include a form of exercises that helps you get into that zone, some mindfulness moments in the mornings or some yogic breathing exercises. Whatever works for you can definitely assist in maintaining the Kinesi balance J

 

 

 

 

Photo cred: denmeditation.com

 

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