by Susannah Kent
Stress relief practices such as mediatation, tai chi, and yoga counter the harmful effects of stress. Another method, the stillpoint technique, can help us reach a place of absolute calm where thoughts are stilled and the mind is truly quiet.
Robert Harris is a stress expert and one of Canada’s leading craniosacral therapists. He explains, “By finding your stillpoint, you can sink into calmness naturally and quickly, enabling you to identify and sustain the ultimate Shavasana.” This is the ability to completely detach yourself from all thoughts.
WHAT IS A STILLPOINT?
The term “stillpoint” has its roots in osteopathy and craniosacral therapy (CST).
The latter is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on therapy [practiced by Fred Samorodin, RPT]. CST theory and practise is based on the concept of the continuous subtle movements of the cranial bones, which are understood to be in constant motion in response to rhythmical cerebrospinal fluid fluctuations within the spinal cord and brain environment.
The gentle stillpoint technique is used to help shift the central nervous system from its usual state of alertness to one of calmness. The natural rhythm that is always occuring within the craniosacral system eases into a therapeutic standstill. Recipients report the experience as feeling of deep peace pervading the body. This
sense of peace and tranquility indicate that the fight-or-flight responses of the sympathetic nervous system have stepped down.
Harris describes the stillpoint experience as “relaxation so deep that one not only feels their mind going guiet and staying quiet, but eventually there is the feeling of becoming liquid. In this liquidness we access the potential for great surrender and release of chronic tensions.”
HOW TO FIND YOUR STILLPOINT
A stillpoint can be achieved with relative ease by contracting two very particular spots at the back of the head. Even the slightest pressure in this area can create slack or release within the connective tissues of the brain. When this happens, there is a neurological recognition and response. The tensile nature of these tissues eases off, and the nervous system goes into temporary suspension.
These two spots lie opposite the pupils of the eyes along a horizontal plane at the back of the cranium. Along this plane there is an internal divide between the upper and lower brain, marked by an inwardly folded membrane called the tentorium cerebelli.
Trained craniosacral therapists such as Robert Harris [and Fred Samorodin] use a gentle hands-on method to help patients achieve the kind of release described above. However, throught years of working with clients, Harris came to the conclusion that it would be empowering for people to be able to access stillness for themselves, easily and quickly.
With this in mind, he developed a tool he calls Becalm Balls. These soft rubber balls are designed to be adjustable, allowing individuals to lie on them comfortably in a position that gently cradles their head at the exact spots where the relaxation response becomes activated. [Fred Samorodin, does not carry this product, however recommends the CV-4 self-help device that one can assemble with toy rubber balls]
ENHANCE YOGA PRACTICE
If yoga or meditation is your chosen aproach to relaxation, and you are having difficulty find and maintaining a relaxation response, discovering your stillpoint may help.
During stillness, the mind is settled and less distracted; it has better focus and heightened sensory awareness. Accompanying this is a relaxation of muscle tone and a release of soft tissue restrictions.
As a result, your yoga practice can become more directed. You can execute postures with greater ease and flexibilityu, and you can experience a deeper, longer, and more rewarding Shavasana.
Yoga instructor Alicia Grant describes what a stillpoint experience is like for her. “Going into stillness at the end of my yoga practice is like lying back into the ocean…the oceanlike wave lulls me back to source, to a place, where I am just hanging, suspending.” she says. “I return with less anxiety, more clarity and calmness.”
She also observes that inducing a stillpoint during her yoga practice has enabled her to “listen and accept those around her with greater ease and understanding.” This is a crucial element for stress reduction, on or off the yoga mat.
It has been shown that spending time, even just a few minutes a day, in a state of stillness can have a profound effect on stress. Every time our stress cycle is interrupted it takes a little longer to re-establish itself, and the body gets better at restoring a health balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
We can’t eliminate stress completely from our lives, but fortunately, we can find some relief. Connecting with your stillpoint will help you reach the ultimate relaxation, when and whenever you need it.
Alive: Canada’s Natural Health and Wellness Magazine. August 2011, pp 41-3.