By Christine Frackelton
Earlier this month, I posted about how I ended up at the Farm, or what used to be a 1600 person hippy commune, but today is particularly well known for its midwifery clinic. I noted the midwifery clinic’s astounding labor outcomes, the clinic’s famous midwife Ina May Gaskin, and how, as a doula looking to expand my skills, I found myself with a scholarship to attend the clinic sponsored kinesiology workshop, without even knowing what kinesiology really was. If you missed the blog post, feel free to read it here: http://tremendoulas.com/my-amazing-trip-to-the-farm-part-1/. This week, I will focus on the workshop itself and what I really learned about kinesiology as it pertains to our well being, especially in the childbearing and postpartum years.
Somewhat to the dismay of we attendees of the workshop, kinesiology was only lightly explained to us upon our arrival. We were informed about the difference between the energy theory for wellness (under which kinesiology is categorized) and the medical model for health care that MDs fall under. We learned about yin and yang, meridians, and other Chinese theories such as 5-Elements, Ko cycle, and Sheng cycle. We also discussed our roles as practitioners, or in this case, doulas, a chiropractor, midwives, social workers, and childbirth educators who now were learning to incorporate kinesiology into our repertoire. Mainly, though, we experienced and practiced kinesiology. We were told that we could attempt to understand everything once we got home, where we could more thoroughly read our books and online class content. Lacking total understanding of what we were doing definitely pushed some of us out of our comfort zone, but the experiencing and practicing was precisely what we needed — both to understand the impact of kinesiology within our own bodies, as well as to effectively offer the tools of applied kinesiology to our clients.
Take, for instance, that one of my classmates had for years experienced chronic neck pain, managed by perpetual visits to her chiropractor. After one kinesiology muscle balance session, which is far gentler than a chiropractic adjustment, she had very visibly improved the range of motion for her neck and shoulders, and her face expressed a sense of relief too. She claimed to feel incredibly well afterwards.
Another example came from one of my classmates who had injured her ankle a few years ago, but noticed it never healed perfectly. The discomfort in her ankle led to more discomforts in other parts of her body, and impacted her lifestyle and occasionally her relationships. I studied our instructor as he rather intently waved his hands near her ankle for a few minutes, never actually touching her. When he finished, she wiggled her feet, stood, took a few steps, and lit up with a new sense of enthusiasm as she exclaimed, “it’s gone!” She was completely healed. And he never even touched her. I was entirely perplexed and amazed.
The skeptic in me struggled with what we were learning. I wanted to analyze every step. A part of me even secretly wanted to disprove that kinesiology was helpful at all. I just couldn’t make sense of what I was witnessing. It must have been obvious, too, for one of the instructors came next to me and taught our class that “we are human BEings, not human THINKings.” Fortunately, the instructors were merciful, and acknowledged that my struggle with this process was very common, and normal even. The truth, however, is that our bodies are more honest than our minds (just ask a lie detector test). I was humbled to find myself compulsively, publicly crying twice during the workshop. Realizing my body had something to say that my mind disagreed with was certainly eye opening to me.
Thankfully, I was not alone in my weepiness. Though we each had different conditions and circumstances, the kinesiology sessions found several of us compulsively crying. We even dubbed ourselves “the crying club”. Our bodies definitely were speaking to us, whether or not we really understood what we were doing.
I finally came to completely accept the information and skills we were learning when I received one of my first full yin balance sessions. My “practitioner,” a fellow doula from Alabama, helped me uncover an emotion at play with some parenting challenges I was facing. Just realizing that specific emotion — joy — was lacking in my relationships, created such deep feelings in my body. I totally lost composure over it. It was embarrassing. But so very healing, too. After undergoing the specific correction techniques my body needed, I felt as light as a butterfly. Moreover, I now felt richly in touch with my maternal instincts, more capable in my mothering jobs, and eager to return to Florida to work on my parenting goals and hug my babies who I’d left behind.
I’ve realized, since experiencing the workshop, that it is much easier to let others experience kinesiology themselves than to try to explain it myself. Nevertheless, you are reading this in hope for some understanding, so I will do my best to explain.
Let’s begin with the why — what is the point of kinesiology?
- When you have an emotion, hormones and neurotransmitters work to send chemicals throughout your body, which is what results in your body feeling a certain way.
- The reaction your muscles have to some of these biomolecules is often tension.
- Tension can effect your skeletal alignment, range of motion, and ability to maximize blood flow and energy where your body may need it most.
- This is a trick, of course, because, as an example, cortisol, the stress hormone, is designed to help us defend ourselves in dangerous situations. If a wild Florida panther is charging at us, cortisol and its teammate epinephrine are responsible for directing energy to muscles that will help you escape or attack quickly. However, in a stressful birth setting, cortisol may also direct energy to locations that may be used for fight or flight, thereby reducing energy flow to the uterus, where it is most needed in this situation. Cortisol also seems to hinder the hormones that aid labor progress (at least in the first stage, since adrenaline/epinephrine does seem to play a role in the pushing or second stage of labor).
- An accumulation of the biomolecules associated with our emotions results in a “blockage.”
- Accumulation and blockages may also occur along meridians. Western medicine has yet to develop a technology capable of dissecting, scanning, or photographing the meridian system, but doctors of oriental medicine have observed that meridians are vessels through which Chi, or energy, flows through the body.
- If an emotional blockage is cleared, the muscle and/or meridian will no longer retain the emotions that were previously being stored there, and healthy energy flow can be restored, in as little as one session
- This is my goal: to restore balance and healthy energy flow through your body.
Interested in a few examples? The following cases illustrate how muscular blockages can affect expectant, birthing, or postpartum parents. I’ve also provided a glimpse into how kinesiology could help in each situation.
- A mother has urinary incontinence during pregnancy and postpartum. A common condition often dismissed as a symptom of this season of life, for which the solution is often called pantyliners, pads, or depends, urinary incontinence in this season can be overcome. Of course, any decent practitioner will encourage the mother to practice Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles around the urethra, and may even refer the mother to a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor. Kinesiology solution: consider if this mother undergoes muscle balancing whereby she unblocks the emotional, biomolecular build-ups in her body. Now, her energy flows more freely and systems work more efficiently. When she sneezes or laughs, the muscles surrounding her urethra are more responsive to the sudden urge to pee, and she is able to withhold herself until the appropriate time.
- It is the big day! The mother is in active labor, has made it to her birth location, and has her provider at the bedside. Progress is lingering, though, and the mother is fatigued. How much longer can she make it, before requiring intervention? “Plateaus” in labor progress are quite common, with many potential sources. Is the baby poorly positioned? Does the mother feel safe? Will this plateau resolve on its own or not, and if so, after how much time? Patience in this time of uncertainty is usually dependent partly on the provider, but largely on the well-being of the mother and baby. Potential solution #1: one likely cause for this scenario is muscle tension. Muscle tension could be directing unecessary blood flow and energy to a muscle group that should be relaxed during labor, preventing that energy from going where it is most needed for labor. Or, muscle tension may be affecting spinal alignment, which naturally affects pelvic alignment, and thus may impair the outlet for the baby as well as the baby’s ability to position oneself optimally for birth. This is why chiropractors are sometimes called into labor; physically manipulating the spine could result in more ideal anatomy for labor progress. Ideally, though (and I believe most chiropractors would agree with me on this), a mother’s spine is well adjusted for birth prior to the start of labor. Undergoing kinesiology sessions and / or chiropractic adjustments in the months and weeks leading up to the birth can potentially prevent muscle tension and ensuing plateaus from occurring to begin with. Potential solution #2: If the cause of the scenario is a lack of feeling safe, physical manipulation of the spine is likely to provide only temporary relief of stalled labor. As a doula who practices kinesiology with my clients, I can work with a mother prenatally to sort through the emotions her body is storing — including insecurity about her impending birth. Through muscle balancing and my other doula skills and discussion points, we can explore ways to increase the mother’s sense of safety and help her find peace about her situation or even, if necessary, make recommendations for different providers or birth locations who may render a greater feeling of safety. I also bring emotional comfort measures from my doula trainings and kinesiology training into the labor, offering the mother practical tools to strengthen her sense of calm when she may feel a loss of control. Whatever the case — be it my support prenatally or during labor — gaining greater control of emotions for the birth can reduce fear, increase pain tolerance, and support production of the hormones that are productive for labor.
- It’s about 3 months postpartum, and things should be getting easier, right? For whatever reason, this mother just feels bad, though. There is very little laughter and joy in her home, no matter how healthy and normal her baby is. Why can’t she seem to shake her depressing feelings? Kinesiology solution: if emotions are built up within this mother’s muscles, she is going to feel the way she does until they are flushed out of her system. Undergoing a muscle balance helps the mother pinpoint exactly what feelings are at play in her situation, as well as what locations within her body are being affected. After teaching and applying gentle correction techniques that are specific to the muscles affected, we re-evaluate how the mother feels and discuss some kinesiology-based self-care techniques she can use at home.
So exactly what does a kinesiology muscle balance session look like?
Bear with me on this… there are a lot of steps in a muscle balance, and I feel most of us want to know what we are getting into before we start something that is unfamiliar. When we begin, I first ask my client what they are interested in working on that day — why they would like to be balanced. Then we undergo pre-evaluation and pretesting. This has several components, starting with receiving your permission to be tested, and becoming aware of any modifications that may be needed in the muscle balance, if a client’s particular health concerns for that day warrant modifications. The remaining parts of pre-evaluation are designed to ensure that we are obtaining accurate feedback from the client’s muscles, and that you are working with a goal that can give us a productive session.
This is what you can expect from a pre-evaluation:
- “Switching on” massage techniques. Under stress, we often experience electrical “scrambling” or neurological disorganization in the body (poor communication between our brains and our bodies). To remedy this, we have the client apply to themselves simple massages along specific acupressure points that enhance the body’s level of awareness.
- Obtaining a clear circuit. Ensuring that your muscles are capable of switching on and off also ensures we are obtaining accurate feedback from your muscles. In the same way that you can flip a switch to turn your lights on or off, we will turn off and on the circuitry from your anterior deltoid (a powerful indicator muscle) to your brain. We want to test this by giving you brief, minor physical and emotional stress. The physical stress involves, basically, a big pinch to your anterior deltoids. The emotional stress could be having you think of something embarrassing. I will test the the anterior deltoid’s response to this physical and emotional stress by applying very light pressure to your muscles and gauging their response. We will, of course, turn this circuitry back on by soothingly massaging the muscle back to its original state and having your think about something that is not embarrassing.
- Dehydration testing. When a person is lacking water, this impairs the body’s electrical system, lymph system, and organ function. By evaluating the client’s hydration level with a little skin pinch test and feedback from the indicator muscle, we can determine if the client needs to drink some water before continuing to the next step.
- Checking Chi flow along the central meridian. Without strong energy (Chi) flow to the brain (through the central meridian), a person may not be able to properly concentrate. We have our clients run their hands along their central meridian in the direction that Chi normally flows, as well as in the opposite direction, and after each of these we then test their indicator muscle’s response (I again will use the anterior deltoid as an indicator muscle). Depending on the feedback from the muscle, we can teach the client another simple technique to flush their central meridian and improve Chi flow.
- Setting a suitable goal for the balance. Earlier, we talked about the client’s specific reasons for wanting a balance this day. Now, we develop those interests into a specific, positive, time-bound, affirmative goal, which is critical to our process. Having our kinesiology clients take personal responsibility for their wellness through goal setting reinforces their inherent dominion over their bodies, and is supported by the premise that our bodies are well designed to improve and heal on their own, when properly balanced and cared for.
- Identifying a primary emotion related to your goal. Using your anterior deltoid again as an indicator muscle, we will obtain biofeedback about how your body feels about your goal, emotionally. Following protocol from the International College of Professional Kinesiology Practice (ICPKP), I will read out the Chinese 5 Elements, yang and yin meridians, and emotions affiliated with each of these meridians, gauging your muscle’s response to each emotion until we find which emotion causes what we call an “unlock” of your muscle. (If we never find an unlock, then we return to step 5 to find a more challenging goal). Once the emotion is identified, we make time for you to talk about what you think this emotion means in your life right now.
- Pre-testing and self-assessing. Keeping in mind your goal and the primary emotion associated with your goal, we will perform simple tests, activities, and movements to give you a baseline determination of how you feel and how your mind and body respond to this challenging goal that you have set. These little tests could include stretches and poses, visualizations, stair climbing, mathematical problems, tossing a hacky sack, or any activity that is relevant to your goals. At the end of our muscle balance, we will repeat the same tests so you can make notes of any changes and improvements.
We’ve finally finished our pre-evaluation, and can now move on to muscle balancing. This is where we identify specific locations in your body where emotions are being stored, and then apply correction techniques. I will go into less detail here than I did about pre-evaluation. The training that I obtained has qualified me to test the 8 muscles that most often indicate blockages and imbalance. Each muscle is also associated with a meridian. Applying very gentle pressure against each of these muscles, I will obtain feedback and evaluate if the circuit from that muscle (and meridian) to the brain is functioning smoothly. When a muscle identifies as having a blockage (which will happen unless the goal we created is not challenging enough), we teach and apply correction techniques. There are several techniques for each muscle and meridian, and we will try each one until we find one that seems to help. Most of the correction techniques involve either massage of certain acupressure points and/or meridians or very light touch to specific neuro-vascular points, however, other techniques are also used, including nutritional therapy as well as a powerful stress relieving technique.
After we have undergone evaluation and balancing of each of the 8 muscles, we can wrap up the session with checking the changes. Using our indicator muscle (anterior deltoid), we retest the goal and the emotion we identified earlier. We also repeat the pre-tests, activities, and movements from our pre-evaluation, making note of any changes in performance, posture, pain, range of motion, emotions, mental acuity, and other measures. Finally, we come up with a plan for ways the client can continue their progress at home! And that’s it!
One of the great benefits of kinesiology correction techniques, and of muscle balancing in general, is the relatively low level of risk. Effects of a kinesiology session are measurable, but techniques are noninvasive. Compared to surgical procedures, scans, and medications, the process is simple and safe. I need no diagnosis to help you restore your body’s energy flow and wellness, so you can heal yourself of ailments — be it physical, mental, or emotional. Kinesiology is a holistic practice, and can help bring to light the answers you are looking for which medical science may not even be capable of finding.
I know not how many of my doula clients are interested in kinesiology. If they are anything like I was prior to that time when I was looking for excuses to travel to the Farm, kinesiology may be nowhere on their radar. However, if this blog post has done anything to educate or intrigue you, I hope that you may be shifting in the way you think about, listen to, and care for your body. The experience I and my classmates had has certainly suggested to me that kinesiology can make a tremendous impact on our well being, and the possibilities for its applications are limitless!
If you would be interested in trying it out, please let me know! I am currently offering muscle balances as a complimentary service to all of my doula clients, but am such a believer in the transformative power of kinesiology that I am willing to make arrangements for others as well. Contact me today to get started!