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Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Stress, Brain Development & “Relaxology”

Relaxology”. That’s what one of my recent classes renamed reflexology after their introduction to the art.  I had to smile – it is a perfect name, isn’t it? It certainly describes one of the primary benefits and one of the main reasons that people seek out reflexology.

Some of you have heard me say before that I believe that relaxation is the basis of health; that health can’t exist outside that internal environment. Because of its effect on the central nervous system – specifically the autonomic branch – reflexology has a unique ability to relax both body and mind, and in turn the damaging effects of stress.

Data from a Princeton University study adds still another reason to reduce stress in our lives:

Led by psychology professor Elizabeth Gould, observations of the brains of primates confirmed that effort and determination play less of a role in brain development than we would like to believe. Prior to Professor Gould’s research, modern neuroscience was predicated on the hypothesis that all brain neurons emerge during prenatal and early postnatal development; that brain cells were thereafter fixed. Her research demonstrated two important findings to the contrary:

1. The primate brain (that includes ours!) is always creating new neurons.

2. The structure of the human brain is largely influenced by its surroundings, not by concerted effort and determination. The research proved that chronic stress halts neurogenesis (the production of brain neurons). This groundbreaking study revealed that the brains of stressed primates literally stopped creating new cells and neural pathways. In addition, evidence showed that existing cells retreated inward. The brains were said to “disfigure.”

Gould’s research carries monumental implications when we consider not only our personal health, but also the health of a society in which stress factors continue to mount.

Fortunately, there is much we can do with reflexology for our clients and ourselves when it comes to combating stress and encouraging brain development. Reflexology is a modality proven to shift the autonomic nervous system from its “flight or fight” response to stressors to the healing state of “rest and repair”.

When people request a stress-reducing session from me, I immediately focus on the reflexes of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord); add in the adrenal reflexes to support those busy glands in their efforts to respond to excess stimulation; and the diaphragm reflex to aid in deep, relaxed breathing and improved oxygen delivery to the brain.

It’s nice to know, isn’t it, that both stress reduction and brain development can result from something as simple as a soothing session of “relaxology”?

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8 comments to Stress, Brain Development & “Relaxology”

  • raju

    excellent information KAREN ,COULD YOU SOMEHOW SEND TOTAL NERVOUS SYTEM CHART so it would become easier for us to understand.is there any natural herb or spice which would help in reducing stress and be good for brain

  • That’s a good idea, Raju. I’ll write more about the nervous system soon and include a visual chart.

    As far as herbs to support the brain and the nervous system, I’m probably not the best person to ask. Of course, everyone knows that a hot cup of chamomile tea is very relaxing to the nervous system; I’m sure a certified herbalist could say more.

    Anyone out there who could offer some additional information?

  • Cregg (Apollo) Mullins

    The brain- my favorite topic= thank you.

    Karen Ball- my favorite “relaxologist”

  • thank you for the info and blogs! I often update my fb with your educational blogs to spread the word of Reflexology with a direct link here ;D

    regards! Antoinette

  • Hi Karen, I must commend you for your superb writing about Dr. Manzanares’ research (your article April 4th) that also posted in the Massage Magazine. Our office in Los Angeles has received comments from that posting – on behalf of Dr. Manzanares thank you for a job well done with accuracy of reporting his research and for giving his url. Dr.’ website will launch very soon with more resources on his research. Also I just had to let you know in response to this months ‘brain’ article and ‘Relaxology’, I just taught a teleclass for reflexologists on really creating a niche around relaxation and how to ‘market’ this approach we take for granted. And guess what word they coined? Relaxology! I plan to teach a marketing class on it – power of collective consciousness, right? Thanks for the great information you are providing. I send my students to your links! Linda, The Reflexology Mentor

  • Ha ha! Yes, “relaxology” is a great word!. I think your idea of marketing reflexology as relaxation is fabulous. It really is the basis for good health, so why not start there and let the body do the rest.

  • My statement to students about massage, reflexology, bodywork, always is: “The body heals only when in a relaxed state, so… let’s go to work relaxing it.” Yes, I liked your article in Massage Magazine; that is how I got to your website.
    Thank you. D.

  • Thanks Dasha for writing. I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I hope you will register to receive future blog posts from this site.

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