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Anasuya Batliner on the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems

Posted By Loolwa Khazzoom On December 23, 2008 @ 1:26 pm In Mind-Body Medicine | 1 Comment

A few months ago, I recorded a conversation with Anasuya Batliner — an extraordinary cranio-sacral therapist, acupressure practitioner, and nutrition counselor — about issues related to energy healing, the right and left brains, and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Loolwa Khazzoom: A conventional doctor would scoff at me if I were to say that just their hands being around the vicinity of my body could cause me pain.  But when I say it to you, it’s a no-brainer. You respond by moving your hands somewhere else, like above my body, and continue working with me.

I don’t know what exactly you do with your hands, but with my eyes closed, I feel you’re moving things around in my body. It’s a very physical sensation. It could look like voodoo to somebody who’s just standing on the outside – like, “What? You’re just waving your hands around this person. Nothing is happening.” But it’s tangible. It’s real.  

What is that energetic exchange? Why is it that some of us can feel it viscerally; some of us can even see it; but some people are just like, “You’re making that up” – implying that they have no consciousness about it?

Anasuya Batliner: I think it’s helpful to look at the left brain/right brain model, to understand why some people can’t see or understand it. The left brain is going to say, “That’s just voodoo, because I need things to be factual. I need to be able to articulate something clearly in order for it to be real.” 

The right brain has more of a flow with things. Energy falls much more in the right-brained way of understanding the world. It can feel and sense energy. It just goes, “Oh yeah, that’s it.” 

There are two sides to our brains, and it’s not that one is good and one is bad. When each side can accept the other, it’s better for us. If my left brain can take a break from rationalizing things away, then I can experience more energy healing, more vibrational sensations.

LK: In a previous interview, you talked about how sunlight, water, and air are things that go into the foods we eat. They get converted into calories, which is an energy form that is tangible even by Western scientific measurements. 

Similarly, when I give myself permission — when I’m “tuned in” — I can feel my body shifting and changing. I can feel my pain levels going down, by absorbing the energy of the sun, the earth, or a tree that I’m hugging. Please talk about how that works.

AB: My left brain would like to say that there’s a shift between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic is the part of our nervous system that is more tuned into alerting us to danger. It’s constantly scanning the environment outside of us, to keep us safe and ensure that we respond appropriately.

It’s connected to the fight-or-flight response. When we’re feeling pain, I think that system gets activated more. The parasympathetic system, however, is a little bit more connected to some of the automatic mechanisms, like breathing and digestion.

If we’re in the sympathetic mode, it’s harder to do deep breathing. It’s harder to digest food. But when you take time to tune into the sunlight, to tune into the earth — to tune into those energies – then you allow more of those parasympathetic functions to happen more easily in the body. I think that’s part of why you may have less pain: You’re making that shift from sympathetic to the parasympathetic.

LK: So when I’m in the parasympathetic, that’s the part of the body that’s more at ease – that’s more in tune with nature?

AB: I don’t know if it’s the part of the body that’s more in tune with nature, but it does control the more automatic things — digestion, breathing, and so forth. If we’re always in sympathetic mode, it means that we’re in that fight-or-flight mode. You don’t really need to digest your food if you need to do fight-or-flight. You need to be able to contract your muscles. You need to be able to move quickly.

If you’re in the sympathetic mode, you’re more likely a lot to have contracted muscles.  If you’re in the parasympathetic mode, however, things like digestion are more important. So the energy shifts from reacting to the outside environment to allowing the physiological things that need to happen inside the body to happen.

LK: It’s interesting, because I’ve been reflecting on how stress from certain family members has been affecting my ability to heal. It’s my intuition that in order to move more towards the parasympathetic, I need to let go of a lot of stuff from my family, because it’s keeping me in that fight-or-flight place.

AB: I think that if we got that fight-or-flight mechanism activated early on in life, the switch gets almost locked on. It’s harder to turn it off, because we’re geared for combat of some sort. It’s like our body is doing it’s darndest to keep us safe, and it has equated being in that sympathetic mode to keeping us safe. So some of the other functions fall by the wayside.

LK: I’ve been reading these books that resonate with what I was intuitively moving towards in my own life: They suggest that in order to facilitate healing, you have to look at all of the aspects: Who are the people in your life? Is your job causing you stress? You have to look at all of these different factors, to move into a place of health and wholeness.

It seems that orientation is related to energy healing: You have to look at the energy field around you, in every single dimension of your life. What is causing you distress? What is promoting healing?

AB: Right, I agree. You can eat the best food and take the best supplements. But if you’re always working; if have a very stressful job; and if you never really have any rest time, that setup can work for only so long.

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