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Brain Health: Shiatsu for neck and back

Man neck and head  - brain health | Shiatsu Bodyworks

There are many ways of looking at brain health in general but this month I'm focusing on why keeping your neck supple and your back/spine flowing freely is going to help you have greater cognitive power and longevity. As well as Shiastu I will be including powerful additional material from Essential Oils to Boost the Brain & Heal the Body by Jodi Cohen, it's a wealth of knowledge on how the vagus nerve in your neck needs to be in top form to help your brain detox, and much more. This is where the shiatsu also becomes powerful as I spend more time nowadays working on my clients necks to free tension in neck and shoulders for longer and improve their brain health and happiness! Let's dive in to Brain health: Shiatsu for neck and back!

Brain health: Shiatsu for neck and back

I'm going to make a bold statement here: I feel like I'm surrounded by a nation of zombies at present! It's not just me saying it, it's my clients too, customer service in all aspects of life when provided by phone/internet is pretty awful. My client the other day contacted a bathroom plumbing supplier to say that parts were missing. The written response: please provide photos of missing items!

It worries me just how many people since the pandemic have ongoing brain and body fatigue issues. Me and my clients are the lucky ones, we have our shiatsu sessions regularly and we take our supplements. We're mentally alert, we're on it, and we're seeing that people in droves around us just aren't there. If you have symptoms that are directly labelled Long Covid then you're more than likely dealing with a lot of health issues at present, but many people are just going on with life not realising that they are way below par, especially in brain health. Whether it's memory, cognitive function to do your job or overall daily fatigue there is a struggle going on and the good news is that if you reach out to a holistic therapist you can turn your symptoms around.

Did you know that your brain detoxifies every night?

Overnight your brain shrinks slightly, allowing the Glymphatic system to flush out toxins. If your neck is tight though due to tension these muscles constrict the lymph pathways and the governing Vagus nerve, impeding this nightly process.

Your neck is the highway for oxyen and nutrients to the brain via blood and lymph circulation (toxins removal) , plus high performance nerve signalling to and from your body. The Vagus nerve also links your brain to your gut (aka The Gut Brain Axis) , a super-neuro highway! Think Gut feeling, Butterflies and the ever increasing anxiety. Then there are your tonsils, also know as the toilet of your brain (lovely!) you need to keep these massaged and flushed. Then your Thyroid which sits at the front of your throat, a lot of repressing emotion and not speaking your mind constricts muscles around this region of your throat. Muscular health around 360 degrees of your neck and throat needs help to release and relax.

Your lymph system is a clear fluid that circulates the whole of your body flushing out toxins, and it does this in your brain as well. The drawback of your lymph system is that it doesn't move by it's self, only with the contraction and release of muscles; this is especially noticeable in your legs if you suffer from oedema. It's the same for breast tissue, self massage cleans out lymph that has gotten stuck, shift lymph and you aid the cleansing of your body of nasties. If you don't shift lymph these nasties build up, this can be anything from excess sugar to infections to potential cancer cells.

If your neck is seized up, your brain is clogged up! You may be experiencing nasty headaches, brain fog, eye strain, neck pain, regular sore throats and more; the possibility of dementia is exacerbated. If your neck isn't free flowing in both directions your brain has a problem clearing out and a knock on affect to your immunity; you'll get ill more often.

Preventing infection in the brain, means keeping infection causes out of the veins in your neck. Infection triggers inflammation which can restrict blood flow and cause pressure and blockages. The endothilium is the lining of the Jugular vein, this is where bacteria and viruses like to hang out, this is where they get fed on nutrient rich blood, and poop their toxins back into your blood stream!

So that's all the scary stuff that can go on in your head and neck when you have tight neck muscles so let's look at what you can do about it!

The Vagus nerve and neck brain health
Image courtesy of Essential Oils to Boost the Brain & Heal the Body - Jody Cohen

Looking after your neck for brain health

There is so much you can do for your neck, brain and spine health - regular exercises, essential oils, shiatsu of course, and other holistic routines that help with optimal health. Here are the 7 areas you can focus on:

Supporting vagus nerve health

The Vagus nerve travels down both sides of your neck. Improving drainage in the neck takes pressure off this nerve. A wonderful combination of clove and lime essential oils in a roller ball bottle has a soothing feeling as you roll it up and down with strong detoxying properties. This is just one of the amazing oil combinations taken from Essential Oils to Boost the Brain & Heal the Body by Jodi Cohen. Essential oils have the ability to soak into your skin and deeper into your blood stream, they are therapeutically powerful and get to work on what your body needs gently and effectively (use in moderation and consult a professional).

Healthy sinus and tonsil drainage

Infection starts in the neck and throat so this is where you can capture and expel it too. Drainage is important, and if either your tonsils or sinuses are inflammed this can cause referred neck pain. Regular shiatsu works the whole of the neck and throat, especially if this is the focus of the treatment. Shiatsu is also particularly good at helping relieve sinusitis and you'll less likely to catch bugs when receiving regular shiatsu, as your immunity is strengthened.

Reduce toxity in the mouth

Have you heard of oil pulling? I'm not about to do this myself, it's where you swill your mouth out with an oil (you can use coconut) but you're doing it for around 15 minutes; not my cup o tea! Instead I've combatted the bacteria in my mouth with a liquid probiotic, I've hardly had any plaque build up since. I use Biolive, you have a choice of 10 with blends of herbals to support sleep, liver health, menopause, digestive issues and more. If you're new to a probiotic then Revive is a good place to start, check it out here.

Chinese meridians in the neck and shoulders | Shiatsu Cheltenham

Align the Spine

Your spinal chord is the highway from your whole body, limbs and organs to your brain, just like a motorway and don't you just hate it when you hit congestion? So does your body! Unless you're doing regular and specific back/neck exercises/ therapy you're not clearing the congestion. Then you hit a narrowing of lanes, it's gone from 3 to 2 lanes when it approaches your neck so there's always going to be some back log unless you are actively aiding release and relaxation on a regular basis. Just look at all the Chinese Meridians of the body and how tightly packed they are as they squeeze through the neck, the green meridian Gallbladder is the one that is most regularly blocked causing migraines and painful neck issues.

Relieve the Jaw

A tight jaw or any known issues with the Temporomandibular joint can compromise lymph movement. It's the pumping action of your jaw that triggers the flushing of the Glymphatic system to clean your brain out. Grinding your teeth at night maybe a way that your body is trying to support this process,

Tight muscles in your jaw or neck will impede the blood flow and nerve signals to your brain; I know I had this when I was 18, it wasn't a good time for my health either. My neck issues were only resolved when I started to receive cranial osteopathy, this relieved my symptoms a lot . HOWEVER I only RESOLVED my neck and head pain issues, along with teeth grinding ( I used to have to wear guards at night) when I received shiatsu and learnt the Chinese medicine understanding behind it all!

Look after your liver

Liver always pops up, it's central to so much of your health! Liver is a powerful organ that oversees the detoxification process of your body, your lymph system feeds into this, but the liver has ultimate say. Liver in Chinese medicine (and it plays out in life!) holds all of the emotions associated with anger. When you hold in anger you create a stuttering effect in your liver and it stops your Qi flowing freely; this triggers a host of health issues under the surface. There are many things that aid with your liver in holistic health and I'm a fan. These include essential oils blends, liver detox programmes, and shiatsu massage to relieve pent up tension. Understanding from a Chinese medicine point of view of how anger sits in your body, how to release it yourself, and very importantly whether you even register anger (that's a biggie!). Just a note: if you have Gallbladder issues you have repressed anger; get it seen too! If you have acne and rashes regularly this is a sign your liver is harbouring toxins in your fat cells and it's not being flushed out.

Help your Lymph flow

Lymph can easily get stuck, it's very good at this, and especially if it's clogged down with toxins and grime that it's try to shift from your body to your liver. Any kind of muscular activity helps so if you haven't moved in a couple of hours - move! Leg flexing to shift from the lower body, twisting exercises to massage your internal organs is powerful too. A favourite of mine for women is arms above the head. Think washing your hair, where your hands are on top of you head. I can come out of the shower a bra size smaller; that just shows how much fluid/lymph I've moved. I'm also a fan of Qi Gong, you remain in your normal clothes, you stand on one spot and not only will it shift lymph, it will calm you down and energise you. Your head will feel completely different after a couple of minutes of Qi Gong - check it out here.

Love a bath? Make it a detox one!

2 cups of Epsom Salts or Magnesium flakes to calm your nervous system and relax muscles (this releases toxins) . Add a cup of Baking Soda this helps rebalance the body and shift toxins too! A couple of drops of your favourite essential oils (preblended in the Mg salt before adding to water) will also help in the process, lie back and relax for at least 15/20 minutes in as hot a water as you can bear :)

Man receiving shiatsu for neck and brain health | Shiatsu Cheltenham

How shiatsu helps your neck and brain health

Shiatsu is one of the best all round body mind therapies there is! I may be biased but only after 30 odd years of receiving many therapies, and I come back to shiatsu every single time. Why?

Shiatsu is gentle on the body, and this gentle touch helps emotional release. Once your body trusts that it's not going to get hurt it opens up and change happens. A lot of people want to understand how this works and this is where it becomes very powerful. When you start to understand the link between your emotions and thoughts and how this plays out in your body you are truly stepping into holistic health, and the only way is up! Shiatsu touch is like the tip of an iceberg, it maybe gentle and it may seem like I always get the ouchy point but in a nice way (how does that happen?!) but it's based on a mountain of knowledge that lies beneath. This knowledge is Traditional Chinese Medicine and it's really done all the work in the thousands of years that it's been developed.

If your neck is rigid, your throat is regularly sore, or your thyroid underactive and you suffer from migraines then your body is already under a lot of duress physically and emotionally and isn't going to relax those muscles if they are pummelled. There is a lot of pent up emotion attached to any of these symptoms and the body will only release neck muscles when it's ready, feeling safe and secure. A deep tissue massage to neck and shoulders may feel good in the moment, but how soon before the issue returns?

Shiatsu aims to support the underlying emotional and physical issues so that the neck is regularly relaxed for the weeks between the treatments and not just the 2 days afterwards.

Alongside shiatsu I will offer certain essential oils or other holistic modalities that you can do between treatments if brain health and neck issues is the focus of your treatments. If you would like to know how I can help you, book a 15 minute health and vitality call here.

Essential Oils to Boost the Brain and Heal the Body | Jody Cohen

How essential oils help your neck and brain health

Essential oils are fats, and they are of a design that means they penetrate the skin, enter the blood stream and can have a significant effect on your body in a short space of time. Whether it's to relieve a headache you'll be using menthol no doubt (this is extracted from essential oil), relieve skin issues with calendula or witch hazel; many creams, gels and ointments on the market today have essential oils listed in their ingredients, so you're already using them! Then there are the beautifully scented products to help you sleep, relax, revitalise, calm, meditate, ground or just create a spa like scent; the good ones and more and more nowadays are using essential oils. This is because companies are cottoning on that they work. if they make you feel good they are having a positive phsyical effect on your body. I'm excited that we are moving away from a chemical laden industry and into products that are made from nature.

There are hundreds of essential oils that a practitioner can use. Did you know blue coloured oils relieve pain and inflammation? You may never have come across a blue oil! Essential oils when sniffed can have a powerful effect on your olfactory nerve going straight to your brain and triggering brain chemistry changes. Whether it's to calm you for sleep or clarify your thoughts to write a blog (yes I've popped on my Focus blend!) combinations of essential oils are powerful. As I mentioned earlier there is a blend to help cleanse your vagus nerve in your neck and Jody Cohen even has a blend that's for structural realignment, it's known as a Chiropracteur in a bottle!! I'm just in the process of adding these oils to my collection :)

Essential oils can help many many health issues but you're not going to know where to start. This is why I incorporate oils into my shiatsu practise when necessary, let me take the guess work out of it for you and create an even more powerul therapy for you. If you want to know how incorporating essential oils can help in your treatment especially for cognitive function book a Health and Vitality call with me here.

Book a shiatsu for your brain clarity and neck health

You don't need an excuse to ever book a shiatsu for your health, just book one for your health! Shiatsu resolves your current ailments but aims to get ahead of the curve to be truly preventative. If you're sat reading this and your neck aches reach out and get some treatment. It's going to be the start of an amazing journey where you reconnect with your body, clarify your mind and feel calmer and more in control of you.

Shiatsu is fully clothed, but you'll leave feeling like you've had a full body massage. If you would like the focus of your treatment to be specifically for your neck please let me know!

Book a 15 min free chat with me or return to main site to read more.

About Andrea at Shiatsu Bodyworks Cheltenham

Andrea is a qualified zen shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner with over 20 years immersed in holistic therapies and the energetics of mind and body. Based in Cheltenham, UK she offers in house clinic and online shiatsu sessions to help people with midlife health issues and also offers online consultations as she is a menopause specialist too.

If you're ready to get started you can book in here!

Shiatsu Bodyworks - Using gentle bodywork to make your body work better!


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