Would you like a nervous system reset?

Stress. Nearly everyone experiences too much of it.

Take driving in Austin. Rush hour. I-35.

Or reading/listening to the news. Loud voices convinced they are right, trying to persuade you to believe them. Politics, vaccines, polarization. Anger. Blame.

How about work/life balance? Money. Family and relationship issues. Social media. Injustice. The list of potential stressors goes on.

Stress is everywhere, affecting our body-mind systems. It can be acute, a physical reaction to a threat, where ideally our systems return to a calm, alert state when the threat is gone.

It can also be chronic, a long-term condition affecting the health of the entire system.

Chronic stress affects sleep, blood pressure, muscle tension and pain. It can cause headaches, panic attacks, anxiety, depression. It can contribute to addictions and obesity and chronic diseases.

You would have to live in a thick bubble not to notice and experience the effects of stress on our systems, our lives, living in these times.

Something you may not realize is that your body-mind system performs most of its health-maintaining and prolonging functions when you are relaxed.

Relaxation slows your heart rate and breathing (less wear and tear on those organs) and improves the functioning of your entire digestive system (more availability of nutrients to cells).

When you are stressed, your system’s resources are focused on managing threats.

Relaxation in this modern life takes some effort. It involves many choices made over time.

If you are feeling the effects of chronic stress and would like to reset your nervous system in the moment, you can slow your breathing and make your exhalations longer, practice the physiological sigh (3 times), or do the 4-7-8 breath (4 times).

Try them all and discover what works best for you, at least twice a day. Then use it when a bad driver nearly hits you, or you get an unexpected or unaffordable bill, or…whatever stresses you.

You can commit to a daily meditation practice. Ten minutes is a good length to start with. Even one minute of silence and stillness, with your attention turned inward, makes a difference, if you use it several times a day.

You can also jumpstart your nervous system reset by getting a craniosacral therapy session.

How does it work? In both biomechanical (i.e., Upledger trained) and biodynamic craniosacral therapy, still points play an important role.

A still point is a pause in the fluctuation of your cerebrospinal fluid, a subtle rhythm that affects your entire system from deep inside your body.

When a still point occurs, it gives your autonomic nervous system a chance to pause and rebalance.

With repeated still points, which can be brief or last 20 minutes or longer, as well as choices you make to minimize stressors in your life, the equilibrium of your autonomic nervous system can move toward more relaxation and greater health.

Link to a pilot study on the effects of craniosacral therapy on the autonomic nervous system.

Simply put, recurring or continuous stress that the body is unable to deal with affects us physiologically, structurally and emotionally. Eventually we reach a point of constant alertness, which depletes the body, and downgrades its ability to balance itself. By stimulating the rest and recovery systems of the body, the subtle work of CST allows the body to resource its powers of rehabilitation and revival.

Craniosacral Therapy Association, UK

If you’d like to experience a biodynamic craniosacral therapy session, I invite you to schedule one with me.

Even better for interrupting the patterns created by chronic stress, you can buy a package of 3 sessions or 6 sessions.

What people are saying about Biodynamics…

I’d been having problems falling asleep and staying asleep. After yesterday’s session, I slept much better! ~ LL, November 2021


Facebook post and text from long-time client LM, October 2021

After trading biodynamic sessions with AA, October 2021

From long-time client LD, October 2021

Two texts from MG, October 2021

It’s such a gift 💝 thank you ~ JH, October 2021


“You did such a great job of helping me relieve the issue, I’m so grateful for the change you made in my life. You will always be at the top of my list for referrals for tmj relief and cranial sacral.” ~ BT, July 2021



Treating TMJ issues: de-stress quickly with these relaxing breathing techniques

Learning how to de-stress yourself is huge. Everyone experiences stress. It’s just part of life.

Stress becomes an issue when there’s too much of it, and your system has trouble rebounding resiliently to a calm, alert state.

How is this relevant to TMJ issues? So much TMJ misery is related to stress. It’s one of the major contributors to TMJ issues. People clench and grind due to stress, and stress is always accompanied by muscle tension.

Staying stressed is bad for your well-being. It affects your digestion (including absorption of nutrients and detoxification) and creates unnecessary wear and tear on your vital organs.

I’m talking about bad stress as opposed to good stress, such as anxiety before public speaking, which makes you a better speaker, or the adrenaline you feel when a bad driver nearly hits you that helps you successfully avoid being hit.

In my opinion, bad stress includes most news about politics (just donate money and volunteer for candidates you like) and traumatic events (there’s always something awful happening in the world). Also, the desire to control others’ behavior can bring about bad stress.

You can still care and have a constructive strategy to manage stressors.

You can do these things from a calm, alert state. Imagine that.

The beauty of using a little breathwork to get yourself out of an unhelpful state of stress (any stressor that does not require immediate action) is that breathwork bypasses your mind.

Has “you need to calm down” ever helped anyone to actually calm down, whether it’s yourself or someone else telling you this?

It’s also quick. You can simply do a little breathwork when stressed, and your system starts shifting into parasympathetic mode.

The more you practice it, even when not stressed, the more it gets wired into your neurology.

The physiological sigh is breathwork technique that’s getting a lot of attention now. It’s been recognized for 80 years as a behavior people do automatically when claustrophobic and in other stressful situations.

Now you can put it to work for yourself when you need to de-stress yourself.

I learned about it from Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford University professor who runs a neurobiology lab and has a podcast.

In brief, it’s two inhalations through the nose, and one longer exhalation through the mouth. (I think of it as the “sniff sniff ahhhhh” breath.)

Here’s a video demonstrating technique.

Dr. Huberman says sometimes people fall asleep if they do it 15 times in a row, but just three of these physiological sighs are enough to start slowing your heartbeat down in 20-30 seconds.

I nearly always yawn when I do three physiological sighs.

Another fairly quick breathwork technique for quickly reducing stress is the 4-7-8 breathing (the Relaxing Breath). Dr. Andrew Weil, who has been practicing and writing about holistic health and integrative medicine for 30 years, came up with it.

Dr. Weil recommends doing four of these breath cycles at least twice a day for two months to get the benefits. This wires it into your neurology.

He recommends slowing the cycle down, with the limiting factor being how long you can comfortably hold your breath.

It can also help with cravings and falling asleep.

In essense, you are retraining your nervous system to be more relaxed.

You may become less stressed from using either or both of these techniques and still benefit from receiving a TMJ Relief session to retrain your jaw muscles into relaxation. The breathwork will help your body retrain itself more quickly and prevent relapses.

If you’re ready to have that conversation with me, please connect. I’d love to hear from you.

Treating TMJ issues: the effects of stress

For decades, the news has cautioned us about the ill effects of stress on our health, longevity, and happiness. But what is stress and how do you know when you are experiencing it? What does it have to do with jaw pain and dysfunction? Most of all, what can you do about it?

Stress is your body’s response to threats, real or imagined. You become alert, focused, and energized, ready for action. It is a physiological response designed to protect you in dangerous situations, to get you away from the danger or to confront it. Something in us is always scanning for danger and ready to respond.

It also gives you the energy to meet life’s challenges, for example, taking a test, interviewing for a job, making an important presentation, having a difficult conversation, scoring a point, winning a game, driving safely. Doing anything difficult where you care about the outcome requires some extra energy and focus.

So stress isn’t inherently bad — but too much stress can damage your health and quality of life. In the fight-or-flight response (sympathetic dominance of the autonomic nervous system), your body releases stress hormones. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure rises, your muscles tense, your breathing quickens, and your senses become sharper, all so you can respond to the situation.

We’re designed to respond this way in extraordinary situations, and the rest of the time (which ideally would be most of the time), to live peacefully, nourishing ourselves, cooperating with the group, resting, relaxing, having fun, and enjoying our lives (parasympathetic dominance, or rest-and-digest mode).

Physiologically, the heart rate slows, breathing slows, blood pressure goes down, muscles relax, and attention becomes broader. In this state, your system has more resources for digesting and assimilating your food and repairing damage.

The switch from rest-and-digest to fight-or-flight occurs quickly and automatically, bypassing your conscious mind. You become aware afterwards that your state has changed.

This is a good exercise: How do you know you are experiencing stress? What tips you off? Do you notice a sudden sharp inhalation and muscle tension? (That’s what I notice.) Do you feel your heart pounding? Do you notice that your mind suddenly becomes focused and alert?

Another good exercise: How do you know you’re okay? Is there a kinesthetic signature that lets you know you are relaxed? I feel a peaceful, happy feeling in my chest. What do you notice?

What does stress have to do with jaw pain and dysfunction? Almost every bit of information available about the causes of TMD connects it to stress. Muscle tension is a universal response to stress. The jaw muscles tighten.

Most everyone experiences stress, but not everyone experiences jaw symptoms. No one seems to know why this is. Here are some of my observations and hypotheses.

  • I’ve observed that most people carry way more muscle tension from stress in their upper bodies, in the upper back, shoulders, neck, jaw, and/or face. For some, all of those places get tense. For others, only one or two get tense.
  • The jaw is the only part involved in chewing and talking. Chewing doesn’t have any associations with threats or danger that I can think of. If the food tastes good and is safe and your teeth and jaws are healthy, chewing is a pleasure.
  • Talking can be dangerous. Some clients have directly related the onset of their jaw symptoms with feeling unsafe about freely expressing themselves about a difficult situation they had with another human being. This could have happened long, long ago, with the unpleasant memory being repressed.
  • Some people have had so much stress and/or trauma in their lives, it’s become chronic. They don’t know how to deeply relax.

Maybe some people are predisposed to have jaw issues. It could be from the strains of their birth and an attempt to reshape the head. It could be a learned strain pattern that runs in their family. It could be from a lack of nutrients that help form healthy jaws (read more about the work of Weston A. Price, DDS, on this topic). I’m sure there are many other possibilities.

I do know that for everyone, help is available. You can release (or get help releasing) the tension in your jaw muscles. You can examine your past, with psychotherapeutic help or by journaling or talking to a trusted friend. You can learn to deeply relax, and it’s a pleasure. And that’s a good topic for tomorrow.

Treating TMJ issues: what various professions do to help

What do various healing professions do to treat TMJ issues?

I’m going to try to answer that, to help you be better health-care consumers and know what to expect in terms of results.

By the way, I am a massage therapist who specializes in TMJ work, including intra-oral (inside the mouth) work, in which I’ve had advanced training from three teachers and experience since 2013. I admit, I am biased!

I want to say up front that most massage therapists do not work inside the mouth, which is where the jaw muscles most likely to be causing TMJ pain are located. Most massage therapists do have the skills to release tension in the external jaw and neck muscles.

Maybe that’s all you need, if your jaw pain is mild and intermittent. You will feel better after such sessions.

But if you are really suffering from chronic or more severe jaw pain and dysfunction, you definitely need more than that to get relief. You could greatly benefit from intra-oral work, which takes special training and experience to do effectively.

Do not hesitate to ask whether a therapist you are considering working with is trained in releasing tension in the internal jaw muscles.

Also, since COVID is still around, ask what their COVID safety protocols are.

Whole-body work can also help, when the TMJ pain is related to your posture (for instance, head forward posture) or to muscle tension due to stress.

Here’s a look at results you might expect from working with practitioners in different professions:

  • reducing stress (massage therapist, acupuncturist, yoga teacher, meditation teacher)
  • reducing tension in your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
  • releasing trigger points in your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
  • doing myofascial release on your external jaw muscles (massage therapist)
  • releasing neck tension (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
  • getting your pelvis aligned and balanced (massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor)
  • getting your head aligned on top of your spine (chiropractor)
  • preventing your teeth from cracking due to grinding (dentist or OTC night guard)
  • reducing tension in your internal jaw muscles (massage therapist with special training, physical therapist with special training, Rolfer)
  • restoring alignment in the cranial bones (craniosacral therapist)
  • repairing or replacing a dysfunctional articular disk (oral surgeon)
  • getting whole-body therapy to help with alignment issues and release strain patterns (craniosacral therapist, Rolfer, Zero Balancer, yoga teacher, yoga therapist)

There is one major caveat here: these are generalities based on my own knowledge and experience. Each profession has its specialties. Not all physical therapists work on the jaw or pelvis — in fact, not many do.

Do not hesitate to ask questions and do your own research.

This is a brief and imperfect overview to help you get the results you want, and there are many fine points not mentioned here.