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

What is a still point?

Like the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, and other systems in the human body, everyone has a craniosacral system. This system consists of the bones, membranes, and fluids that surround your central nervous system — your brain and spinal cord.

Cerebrospinal fluid is produced in the brain in a tide-like, rhythmic manner. Craniosacral therapists can feel this subtle rhythm. It is palpable bodywide. It’s subtle but not magic — most of us learn to sense it in an hour or two of training.

With experience, we learn to read its qualities (weak, strong, fast, slow, whether it’s symmetrical in both sides of the body, etc.). These qualities vary from person to person, day to day, even moment to moment.

Still points occur when this rhythm pauses. They occur naturally and spontaneously. No one knows precisely why they occur, but they are regenerative. It feels as if the system is gathering resources during these pauses.

Still points can also be induced biomechanically or invited biodynamically, depending on the craniosacral therapist’s training or preference.

They help rebalance the autonomic nervous system, which because of stress often tilts to the sympathetic branch. The parasympathetic state feels more relaxed and refreshing. The body has more resources in this state for repairing and renewing itself.

Someone experiencing a still point may enter a state of internal stillness that feels deeply peaceful.

When the rhythm resumes, it feels as if the body has reorganized itself in the direction of greater health and well-being.

Still points can last for a few seconds or much longer, 20 or 30 minutes.

Craniosacral therapists stay connected to still points and can usually feel a difference in the qualities of the rhythm when it resumes. They may invite (or induce) multiple still points in a session as well as note when the client has spontaneous still points.

I enjoy inviting still points at the beginning and end of every session, including TMJ Relief sessions.

The poet T.S. Eliot wrote about this pause in 1936. I am not aware of whether he was familiar with craniosacral still points, although they were known to cranial osteopaths at the time. He captures the in-between state, the pause, the gathering, well in these words:


Treating TMJ issues: restless legs and sleep bruxism

A new clue about bruxism.

A neurology practice noted that of its patients who had restless legs syndrome (RLS), 60% also had bruxism (grinding teeth during sleep). Eighty-three percent had RLS and migraines, and 52% had RLS, migraines, and bruxism.

Do you relate?

The lead neurologist for this study speculated there is a gene that links these conditions.

It gets more interesting. Both restless legs syndrome and bruxism are involuntary movements occurring during sleep. Is bruxism “restless jaw syndrome?”

I’m always happy to see more research about TMJ-related issues, especially because there are so many factors that play a role in jaw dysfunction and pain.

This may be something to show your doctor, or you may be interested in taking a supplement or adding foods to your diet that help your body produce more dopamine (more info below).

More about bruxism.

Bruxism includes clenching and grinding the teeth. Some distinguish these as “waking bruxism” and “sleep bruxism”.

They may have different causes, in my opinion.

Sleep bruxism, in contrast to daytime clenching, is hard to treat because it occurs when you’re unaware of your behavior and unable to change it.

Waking bruxism is a habit that can change with awareness and practice. I’ve helped many clenchers learn how to relax their mouth position.

Some things I’ve noted about bruxism in my manual therapy practice:

  • Many people don’t know they grind during sleep until a dentist tells them they have damaged teeth.
  • Sometimes the noise of grinding during sleep is loud enough to wake up family members, and that’s how people learn they have sleep bruxism.
  • People who grind at night often wake up with jaw, face, or neck pain, earaches, and/or headaches.
  • Bruxism often results in the need for expensive dental work: mouthguards or splints to prevent further damage and crowns to fortify cracked or broken teeth.
  • Over time, bruxism can damage the temporomandibular joints, possibly requiring surgery.

Dentists and jaw issues.

Many people expect dentists to be experts on jaw issues, yet their domain is treating the teeth and gums.

Learning about TMJ disorders is not required in dental school.

General practice dentists can prevent further tooth damage with appliances like mouthguards and splints. They can repair existing tooth damage or replace teeth with implants.

Some dentists may try to adjust the positioning of the TMJs, and a few dentists also address airway issues (like sleep apnea, which may accompany sleep bruxism) in their work.

Dentists do not address stress or tension in the jaw muscles, which contribute so much to jaw pain. Any overworked muscle will hurt, tighten, and perhaps spasm. The jaw muscles are no different.

Some dentists and hygienists in the Austin area refer people with jaw pain or issues opening wide to me for TMJ relief bodywork, including intraoral work on internal jaw muscles.

Solutions to try.

If you grind your teeth during sleep, it is possible to stop by using hypnotherapy and EFT.

I often recommend a recorded hypnotherapy session for bruxism that’s available on YouTube to listen to before sleep.

I don’t know if it works for everyone, but it’s soothing — I always fall asleep before it ends. Less stress is always desirable.

I’ve also heard that starting a regular meditation practice can over time reduce or stop bruxism completely. There are many types of meditation. If you don’t have a good teacher, I recommend Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction taught online by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

As mentioned above, dopamine agonists are prescribed for low dopamine levels.

Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward — when you anticipate a pleasurable activity such as eating a delicious meal, spending time with someone you love, or receiving a big check.

It’s sometimes called “the happy hormone” because it affects your enthusiasm, motivation, and focus.

If you suffer from bruxism, before going the pharmaceutical route with dopamine agonist drugs, you may want to consider nutrition — consuming foods or taking supplements that raise your dopamine levels.

In particular the amino acid tyrosine increases dopamine.

I found a few links that may be helpful:


I invite you to work with me!

MaryAnn Reynolds, MS, LMT, BCTMB
Austin, Texas
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy • TMJ Relief
online scheduler: maryannreynolds.as.me
text or voicemail: 512-507-4184

Treating TMJ issues: portrait of a typical patient

Based on patients I’ve seen for jaw pain since 2013, I created this portrait of a typical patient. And of course, I’ve seen other patients who don’t fit these criteria.

She’s female. It’s been said that women are nine times more likely to suffer from jaw pain.

She first experienced jaw pain in her teen years.

She’s suffered for at least a decade, sometimes two decades or longer.

She clenches and/or grinds her teeth.

A dentist has prescribed an appliance to prevent damage to her teeth. The chances are 50/50 that she uses it as prescribed.

I wish I knew more about this.

Her pain level fluctuates, increasing with stress, and she usually hasn’t gone more than 6 months free from jaw pain since onset.

Her neck and shoulders are tight. Sometimes she has headaches, migraines, or ear pain.

She may also have pelvic alignment issues.

She has sought help from physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and/or massage therapists.

She’d like to find lasting relief from her jaw and related issues.

Can you relate? How do you fit this profile, and how are you different?


I invite you to work with me!

MaryAnn Reynolds, MS, LMT, BCTMB
Austin, Texas
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy • TMJ Relief
online scheduler: maryannreynolds.as.me
text or voicemail: 512-507-4184

Using energy hands for distance healing

When I started doing distance sessions at the beginning of the COVID lockdown in March, I would feel energy pouring out of my hands just as I would when doing bodywork with someone in my office, even though the receivers were now at a distance, sometimes in other states.

I didn’t know what to do with it at first with no body in front of me, but I definitely understood it was an indication of me being in a resourced state for healing.

In the 27-hour intensive course I just completed in Long Distance Healing, the instructors called this phenomenon “energy hands”.

Courtesy of namastest.net.

It’s fairly common for bodyworkers to experience this energy flowing out their hands, especially when the type of bodywork they practice includes deep listening with their hands, as do craniosacral therapy and Reiki, or if they are also trained in some types of yoga or meditation that cultivate this kind of awareness.

(By the way, distance healing is not craniosacral therapy, which always includes physical touch, but some craniosacral skills transfer over to distance healing.)

With my distance receivers, I started placing my energized hands on the area of the body the receiver had identified as wanting attention. Usually these identified areas are experiencing some form of disconnect from the healthier parts of the body.

Receivers would begin to feel sensations of change in that area: for example, the area would change shape, color, or temperature, pain would lessen or disappear, tension would soften, and sensations would become more diffuse, possibly move to another area, or even bounce around (“Hey, you’re finally looking at me! Yippee!”).

Although our bodies are constantly healing themselves below our level of awareness, in these sessions, receivers sense the healing as it occurs.

To be clear, I don’t heal you. Your own cellular intelligence is the healing power. I show up for you in a resourced state (built on years of yoga, meditation, and studies in how healing works), which your system can entrain to. I show up with presence, curiosity, and some suggestions, as an ally and a witness, with an intent (shared with you) for healing to take place, but no agenda about how that will happen, because it’s your body, your history, your awareness, and your healing.

I have not yet worked with anyone who did not experience a change for the better. I’ve worked with people trying their first energy healing session after Western medicine was unable to help, and I’ve worked with people who are deeply experienced in their own somatic awareness.

Courtesy of psychiclibrary.com.

We practiced with partners during the training, placing energy hands on our partner’s shoulders and having them say when they felt them and whether they wanted the touch to be more intense or diffuse, and then disconnecting and switching partners.

We also did this with the adrenals, which pump adrenaline and cortisol into our systems, since most of us are feeling some stress and anxiety because of COVID, the economy, our culture, the future, etc.

When my partner held my adrenals, after about a minute, I felt my autonomic nervous system down-regulate into a deeper parasympathetic (rest and digest) state.

That’s another benefit of working with energy hands. I can put my energy hands inside your body, not just on the skin.

I want to do more distance healing sessions. These sessions are collaborative, empowering, use a lot of dialogue, and are based on consent. I cannot do anything to you that you do not allow.

If you’re wondering what it’s about and would like to try it, I’m offering sessions on a donation basis for a limited time. Look at what it’s worth to you, what you can afford, and donate accordingly.

After half an hour, if you don’t think it’s doing anything for you, we’ll end the session without your donation.

Click here to schedule a session.

If you’d like to talk first, you can schedule a 15-minute phone consultation. Click here to schedule a phone consultation.