Written By Virginia Starr MED, MPT, SEP, CST

Virginia Karuna Starr specializes in working with the nervous system. True healing occurs in balancing this system, making it possible to live a life full of vitality and purpose. Virginia has master’s degrees in Education and Physical Therapy.  She has developed her work, as an artist develops her talent, specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing and Myofascial Release. She recently added to her skill set by becoming a certified Hypnotherapist, implementing the Hypnofit program which works to remove past limiting beliefs and emotions that become obstacles to living a healthy and productive life. You can learn more about her and get in touch on her website

A Resilient System

In the article, “The Healing Body”, the importance of having a healthy and resilient nervous system for optimal health was introduced.  Our system is created to be able to flow through various states of being, dependent upon what situation we are undergoing at any particular time. A resilient nervous system is one which has the capacity to cope with stressors and navigate its way to resources which sustain its well being. When we are in “flow” we can appropriately respond and optimize; if we come across an injury or hardship, we can heal and transform.

This naturally brings up the question of “how”? How does one create a resilient nervous system?  Is there some type of supplement? specific exercise? nuanced diet? particular meditation?  In our culture of quick fixes, and having lost the art of appreciating delayed gratification, many are not willing to do the “work” of building the strong network needed. Just as the our bodies and beings are intricate and complex, creating a resilient system is also multifaceted and truly more of an art than a science. Building this system is not the path of least resistance. It is also a path of great rewards. 

Building the System

One may respond by shrugging the shoulders, feeling overwhelmed or even blaming the outward difficulties which have lead to dysregulation and dysfunction.  Yet the most effective way to build a strong system is to go within that system, into your own healing capacities. Everything we need to navigate through this world effectively is already IN us. We come into this world with self sustaining power; we are more solar and wind energy than we are coal and gas. Yet we are led to believe that there is always the miracle cure just outside our reach, leaving us with that feeling of ‘not enough’ or ‘broken’.

How do we tap into our tremendous healing power?  This amazing source of strength?  There are multiple strategies and many ways.  As I have worked with various clients with a spectrum of diagnoses and difficulties, I have found AWARENESS to be the portal into the process of healing and resiliency.  Our first step is understanding what we are truly experiencing, to notice that we are not just a passive participant in this life.  

The First Entryway

The first doorway we can access to be aware of ourselves and lives is something that is with us from the moment we are born until the last second our life…our breath. By becoming aware of the breath and truly focusing on it, we are given a view into the state of the system. By learning to control the breath, we can change how the nervous system functions, helping it to flow through its innate states. Also, the breath is not just something within our own atmosphere. We share our breath with all the environment around us…breathing in what is around us, breathing out what is within.

Sometimes breath work is just too simple and not “scientific” enough.  The brain’s tendency is to convince us that if it’s not complicated or expensive, it’s not effective.  Yet we know from multiple disciplines that to control your breath is to control your life.  To begin building a resilient system, I would encourage you to start with this simple breathing exercise, Square Breathing. 

  1. Choose how long you want to pace your breath.  There is no number better than another, longer is not better.  Just find what count feels most natural to your personal rhythm of breathing.  
  2. Inhale for that particular count
  3. Hold the inhale for the same amount of time
  4. Exhale your particular count
  5. Hold the exhale for the same amount of time
  6. You can add a “mantra” to enhance the experience once it becomes more natural for you.
  • There’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
  • This system regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of calm.
  • The slow holding of breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. An increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. This produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body.

So Step 1…Breath. Simple, effective and the beginning of a new you!  Commit to a daily practice 5-10 minutes and be AWARE of any shifts in your system. 

Stay tuned for Step 2!