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Natural Awakenings of Greater Ann Arbor & Detroit / Wayne & Monroe Counties Michigan

Stress and The Body

by Saul Goodman

Stress is defined as emotional or physical tension. It is the time of tension between a new stimulation to the body and the subsequent adaptation. It is the body seeking to find some way to harmonize or resolve new input, whether that be physical, emotional or psychological. If the body is not able to fully resolve the input, the compensative responses are stored in the body and it becomes stuck in the state of the stress. This stress response will then continue even though the initial stimulation is no longer occurring.

There are four main types of stress: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Whether the stress is emotional or physical, large or small, it has physiological effects in the body. There is an immediate chain of reaction in order to mobilize the restoration of homeostasis (balance). A stress response always involves a tightening and compression within the system as the sympathetic nervous system responsible for our fight-and-flight response shifts into gear. This can have immediate and long-term ramifications on how we function in day-to-day life.

For example, if someone is crossing a busy street and suddenly twists to pull away from a car, a few vertebra stay in the turned position. Some of the sensory and emotional content of the event will become stored at the site of the compromised vertebrae instead of being discharged during repositioning. The body itself will now carry a physiological imprint of the stress event forward into the future. Stress can also present itself through a series of ongoing small-scale tensions that occur over a period of time, such as a repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Stress can also come in the form of emotional tension. Negative thought patterns and restrictive mental conditioning. When they are too strong, thought patterns become stuck in non-adapted states, and feelings of being overwhelmed, inadequate, hopeless or unfulfilled can become commonplace.

We can encounter any of these types of stress. Depending on the amount of impact and also our condition, we often adapt to them and maintain a dynamic state of homeostasis. However, if a stress cannot be fully resolved, the physical effects, as well as the sensory and vibrational information of whatever caused it becomes internalized. This helps explain why a stressful state tends to lead to a more stressful state, which tends to lead to degeneration and disease. Bodywork can identify and release restriction patterns and misalignments created by unresolved stress. This supports someone in regaining optimal function.

Saul Goodman, the author of The Book of Shiatsu, is the developer of Shin Tai and the founder and former director of the International School of Shiatsu, with branches in more than 15 countries. For more information, call 267-372-1644 or visit