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The Body/Mind/Brain Connection

On a pre-pandemic work trip to New York, I was fortunate enough to see David Byrne’s piece “American Utopia on Broadway”. A friend was adamant that I see the show and within seconds of the curtain rising I understood why.

David Byrne is on a bare stage holding a (fake) brain. He sings;

Here is a region of abundant details, Here is a region that is seldom used, Here is a region that continues living, Even when the other sections are removed…”

Before the first refrain was finished, I was in tears. David Byrne was singing about the brain and (in my own mind) the relationship to the mind and bodywork! Well of course he wasn’t singing about bodywork and the brain. However, he was singing about the neurological connections and emotions that control our physical actions -- which guide our spirit to help us make decisions on our journey through this ethereal plane.

It occurred to me that the relationship between massage/bodywork and the brain is never discussed. 90% of the time when someone books a session it’s to help relieve physical stress, back, leg or foot pain.

Often, if they are stressed by a work deadline, their lower back hurts from too much sitting, the wrists hurt from the laptop and their eyes ache from overuse. That person can be sore and tired physically, but the brain is the crucial processor and component of your body which you are most likely to overlook.

Let’s say you are being chased by a tiger – your brain releases cortisol to switch gears into action. Let’s say, you are being rushed by an impossible deadline, your brain also releases cortisol to kick you into high gear. In both situations your muscles are flooded with these stress chemicals to make you move stronger and faster. Dopamine and serotonin kick in after the tiger is outrun or your deadline is achieved, rewarding you with a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and safety.

What happens if the tigers keep coming; and the deadlines pile up? Your body will not know when to turn these chemicals off. Evolution tells our body that we need to store these chemicals and keep them at the ready. But any mechanical or biological system can get overtaxed. In this case your body can get flooded with too much cortisol and lactates.

Cortisol, Dopamine and Serotonin are the main neurotransmitters that are stimulated during bodywork. Cortisol is a steroid hormone your body produces (in the kidneys) in response to critical events and stimuli, i.e., a tiger attacking.

Serotonin is the chemical that is transmitted throughout the body and regulates mood and desire, happiness, optimism and arousal. Deficiency of serotonin can cause depression, anxiety, chronic physical pain and sleep disorders.

It’s not so much that massage and bodywork can wring out the bad chemicals as much as this modality of self-care promotes the positive stimuli to your body. Bodywork not only stimulates the production of chemicals that control our emotions, but it also clears the channels and nerves of toxins and rigidity that these neurotransmitters move through. When the fascia, tissue and muscles of the body are compressed they are not able to transmit these important chemicals efficiently. The highways and byways become muddy and backed up like an afternoon on the 405 freeway

Shorty after fertilization of the embryo, the zygote, there is a sheathing around this reptilian brain that protects the embryo called the protoderm. This thin layer will become the derma or skin of the young embryo. This thin derma, or skin, will have roots and stems which will arise our limbs and neurological connections, and is connected to our brains throughout our entire lives. When we touch our skin…we touch our brain.

When we are holding a newborn, their infantile brain is being stimulated by the neurological connections of its skin which further promotes brain growth. Is it no wonder in it’s first few weeks of life a newborn will perish without loving human touch? Babies who are not only held and touched but massaged, gain more body weight and sleep more soundly, creating a healthier growing body.

I am always proud of my clientele as people with high levels of creativity and accomplishments, the movers and shakers, if you will. But creatives share the same type of repetitive motion injuries as with the physical laborers, such as a tree-trimmers or factory workers. Hours and hours of practice on their craft can leave one in physical, as well as mental, anguish. Through bodywork, the mind can step back, relax and disengage, letting the subconscious work through the nitty gritty while their body is given a respite.

I have a client whose staff keeps a stress jar for donation$ in the office. Whenever they think he’s acting testy or stressed they pass the jar around as a gentle reminder for him to get some bodywork. I know that when my partner is on a writing deadline, thoughts are translated to the page more easily after a good upper body session.

With a bodywork session, there is an increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in stress chemicals. Not only do some people use bodywork and massage therapy to manage chronic physical pain but also chronic stress to be able to work better, be more present in their jobs whether you are a CEO of a corporation or a parent of three.

The brain uses the spinal cord, with its numerous branches, to manage our central nervous system. Amazingly enough it does this while maintaining control of our vital organs, bodily functions, emotions and physical output. If our computer desktops are messy and loaded with layers of data they work slower and less efficiently. No matter how powerful the processor, (and believe me our brains are of the highest caliber of super computers), why would we care better for our physical equipment than our own bodies and brains?

David Byrne sings (as he points to a brain)

“Here is an area of great confusion Here is a section that's extremely precise And here is an area that needs attention Here is a connection with the opposite side”

Not everything has to be body/mind related, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. No matter where the pain in your body resides, the body/mind/brain is forever present. Sometimes the confusion in our brains resides in the physical anatomy; when our legs feel like tree trunks, a beleaguered back.

When we work the body, we create a mindfulness of the spirit and forge a deeper connection to the self and our environments.

When you receive bodywork not only does your physical body feel better, but your brain is more alert and senses more aware. Your mental faculties are more astute and able to make sharper decisions. Not only do we feel better about ourselves, but we operate more efficiently and even kinder to the world around us.


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