The Stillpoint and Relaxation techniques
Specific effort to counter and manage stress daily can help us reach a place of absolute calm where the mind is truly quiet. Further discussion and evaluation in use of stillpoint to reset or downregulate muscle relaxation and massage is important. What is actually known about ‘the stillpoint’ and how to achieve it?
Stress relief practices such as meditation, 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, which is supported by deep and measured breathing to oxygenate and
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 (diaphragmatic breathe).” 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. CST theory and practice 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 goal and challenge is to change, reduce or 'still' these movements to positively affect the parasympathetic nervous system - and thereby change pain symptoms in the body.
The gentle stillpoint technique is used to help shift the central nervous system from its usual state of alertness to one of calmness (similar to sleep, where the mind shuts off and lets muscle recovery begin). The natural rhythm that is always occurring within the craniosacral system eases into a therapeutic standstill. Recipients report the experience as a 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 quiet 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 contacting two very particular spots at the back of the head – beneath the Occipital ridge. 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 use a gentle hands-on method to help patients achieve the kind of release described above, and the goal is to identify and affect the rhythms of the human body (ie. Identified through touch). However, through years of working with clients, it can be shown conclusively shown that it can be empowering for people to be able to access stillness for themselves, easily and quickly, whenever they need to.
With this in mind, many therapists recommend two Tennis Balls taped or wrapped in a sock (tied at one end), and these 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.
Enhance yoga practice
If yoga or meditation is your chosen approach to relaxation, and you are having difficulty finding 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. By using pressure on the occiptal area at the back of the skull, your position may accompany 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 flexibility, and you can experience a deeper, longer, and more rewarding Shavasana.
Yoga instructor Leslie Howard 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 healthy 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 wherever you need it.
To find a massage practitioner, you can search for a craniosacral therapist who practise the stillpoint technique at: NCBMTB and AMTA and ABMP websites:
Promising research on Stillpoint in Medical Treatment
I. Dementia: A small study examined the effects of the stillpoint technique on nine older patients with dementia. Treatment was given daily for six weeks. Even post-treatment the patients had reduced physical aggression and verbal agitation. They were more cooperative with caregivers and had more meaningful interactions with family and caregiving staff.
II. Sleep: In another small study researchers investigated the effects that cranial manipulation, specifically the CV4 technique, had on muscle sympathetic nerve activity. In the first study of its kind researchers showed that this technique was able to alter sleep latency (the time it takes to go from full wakefulness to sleep) in healthy subjects.
While this study provides insight into the possible physiological effects of cranial manipulation, it doesn’t explain how these changes occur.