Zen and the Art of Chiropractic Adjustment and Healing

Science, Art, and Philosophy of Chiropractic

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Meditate in Ease

“Zazen, Wabi/Sabi and then Chiropractic,” the previous blog, was written about posture in Zazen and how crucial in proper meditation. Improper posture will make the meditation called Zazen more difficult or harder than normal. Improper posture can be caused by many things such as a condition called subluxation in Chiropractic. In this blog, there will be additional information about posture, breathing, and mental state and how it can influence the quality of your meditation experience. To have the best meditation in ease is to eliminate conditions of dysponesis.

Before we talk about dysponesis, here is one fact. The human nervous system is innately geared towards survival of the whole entire body. This ability to survive manifests itself by efficient use of energy for all the metabolic and physiological process. These processes of survival are all based on the input from the environment that the body receives. Conserving energy or efficient use of energy to optimal function to express life.


Our body has sensory nerve endings that will take in information and adapt to any environmental changes. Lack of proper integration of this information will lead to misinformation to the brain and leads to dysponesis. Dysponesis is described by Dr. Christopher Kent,

“Dysponesis is a reversible pathophysiologic state. It is composed of neurophysiologic reactions to various agents and the repercussions of these reactions throughout the organism. The neurophysiologic reactions consist mainly of covert errors in energy expenditure. To the chiropractor, it is essential to develop clinical strategies which are effective in disclosing these covert errors in energy expenditure and correcting them.”

Dysponesis will lead to improper sensory integration, inefficient/imbalance in muscle coordination, disability, disease states, symptoms, and loss of optimal function to the human body.


There are many measurements that are able to detect dysponesis. Being able to visualize the body provides tangible measurements, although there might be some information will be missed. Traditional techniques such as the plumb line or bilateral body weights were used to make observable postural changes and weight distributions. Our body has a reflex, called the righting reflex, utilized by our eyes to make sure our eyes are horizontal to the plane for the most efficient energy expenditure. The plum line analysis and bilateral body weight distributions can show the muscle that is being over-utilized or underperforming for an energy efficient structure. (Dynamic posture in walking and running will be considered in future blog posts.) This method will reach its limits due to the complex and abstract nature of our dynamic body structure.

Modern technology has found a way to measure complex and dynamic body structure. Modern surface EMG equipment is able to display real-time action of muscle groups for excess energy expenditure. As we are sitting still, all of our muscles are contracting and relaxing to adapt to the sitting posture. Modern surface EMGs are very sensitive and able to read and measure every small contraction that is made by the muscle. With this measurement, we are able to assess efficient energy expenditure and in turn measure dysponesis.

The next measurement that is a bit more difficult to understand is the reflex control of breathing. For the purpose of this blog, breathing reflex will be discussed in simpler terms and the physiology will not be discussed. It is important to note, however, that breathing reflex is a very complex set of several reflexes and when there are inefficient breathing patterns the nervous system to shift a negative state of conserving energy for oxygen. Due to the importance of oxygen to our brain and body, breathing reflex is a highly controlled mechanism and this reflex is a primary concern for all physiological processes.


Breathing reflex is well known in many meditation techniques. Breathing from the belly instead of chest breathing. Chest breathing increases the speed of oxygen but less oxygen is taken in. In turn, you expel less CO2 and create hyperventilation and increase the fight or flight responses. If belly breathing is done properly, oxygen intake is increased as is the expelling of CO2. This will stimulate the parasympathetic system which induces rest and digest and promotes a relaxing state for a better meditative state.



Further research has been conducted to analyze breathing patterns. There are many patterns that are induced by uncoordinated muscle control of the breathing muscles. Most belly breathing does not emphasize on which muscles to contract. There can be compartmentalized breathing that is observable in the spine that is concomitant with breathing. Normal breathing should not be compartmentalized, decreased, or incomplete in the breathing pattern. The pattern in breathing should start from the pelvis. A respiratory wave moves smoothly towards the neck and moves back down the spine to the pelvis. If in any way this pattern is obstructed, there creates a lack of coordination in the breathing reflex and this results in dysponesis.

Final measurement will be our mental state in dysponesis. Meditation should be an exercise to help distressed mental states, although there can be an underlying condition that will hinder towards performing meditation for individuals. According to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, dysponesis is a misdirected neurophysiological reaction to various agents such as environmental events, bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Individuals with PTSD, ADHD, anxiety or other mental conditions may have difficult a time performing meditation.


To measure the mental state, there are many ways to measure such as EEG or HRV. eeg-brain-imageElectroencephalogram or EEG measures electrical wave from the brain for the state of being which is mentioned in another blog “Stress.” EEG measures the state of the brain by stimulating the brain waves into a certain pattern, it will help the mental state to be more calm and meditative. It may help to see that meditative state but there are very specific requirements to fulfill the test and many things can cause the inaccurate reading if the assessment is not prepared properly and professionally. Also, EEG measurements are not readily available because it is very expensive and healthcare specialists are needed to perform the test.

Heart Rate Variability or HRV, on the other hand, is less expensive and measures the state of mental conditions like the EEG. HRV measures the real-time measurement of the cardiac rhythm and provides the quantitative assessment of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. HRV is able to show how your body is responding to stressors, the overall balance of the nervous system, and even fitness performance. Compared to EEGs, HRV tests shows more information about the overall function and energy expenditure which is dysponesis.HRV

After finding dysponesis, addressing them properly with chiropractic adjustments will be much more specific and scientific.  Does your chiropractor have all these assessments to address dysponesis?



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Zazen, Wabi/Sabi, and then Chiropractic

What do Zazen, Wabi/Sabi, and Chiropractic have in common? It is the spine!! The posture of the spine is a very important component to Zazen. Wabi/Sabi inspires asymmetric structure to be a beauty and harmony. Structure of the spine doesn’t have to be straight but instead, it needs adaptive structural integrity that is balanced to the natural forces from the environment. Chiropractic has a lot in common with Japanese ideas about the way of life and health. Chiropractor’s job is not about making perfect straight spine but finding Subluxation and correction of Subluxation!!

Zazen Meditation

Zazen meditation has specific instructions for posture. The first thing to pay attention to is the position of the body in zazen. The body has a way of communicating outwardly to the world and inwardly to oneself. How you position your body has a lot to do with what happens with your mind and your breath. It’s very important to keep the spine straight with the lower part of the back curved. All of the aspects of the posture that is important when seated on the floor are just as important when sitting in a chair. The importance of keeping the back straight is to allow the diaphragm to move freely. The breathing you will be doing in zazen becomes very, very deep. Your abdomen will rise and fall much the same way an infant’s belly rises and falls. In general, as we mature, our breathing becomes restricted and less and less complete. We tend to take shallow breaths in the upper part of the chest. Usually, we’ve got our belts on very tight or we wear tight clothing around the waist. As a result, deep, complete breathing rarely occurs. In zazen, it is important to loosen up anything that is tight around the waist and to wear clothing that is non-binding. For instance, the material should not gather behind the knees when you cross the legs, inhibiting circulation. Allow the diaphragm to move freely so that the breathing can be deep, easy, and natural. You don’t have to control it. You don’t have to make it happen. It will happen by itself if you assume the right posture and position your body properly.

Keeping a good posture has many implications for the spine. Roger Sperry, Ph.D. (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1981) discovered that 90% of the brain’s activity is used to balance your body within the gravitational field of the earth. If your body is mechanically distorted, it will affect the other 10% of the brain’s activity, which controls all the other body functions such as breathing, digestion, and cognition. If the body framework (bone structure and spine) is in an off-balanced or misaligned position it can impede or block the electrical and chemical transmissions of the nervous system, which controls all of your body’s functions. This interference with the nervous system can cause or contribute to all kinds of symptoms and illnesses (in other words, the feeling that “I am hurting or I am sick”). Published research studies indicate that when body balance is restored, the body enters a healing cycle that alleviates pain and symptoms, elevates the immune system, increases blood and oxygen circulation, normalizes nervous system communication and creates more optimum body performance (“I feel good again”). When head tilt develops (as pictured above) and the body becomes imbalanced, the brain stem is compressed, restricting the flow of communication between the brain and body. Health and healing messages are restricted in the part of the body serviced by these compressed nerves. Diminished and impaired function and pain follows. This can cause pain and suffering and decrease the quality of your life. When the body is balanced, there is no stress or tension in the brain stem. This allows communications between the brain and body to travel back and forth unimpeded, promoting maximum health and healing.

If you feel your posture is off it only means you need to look in further and deeper. When you have distorted posture there can be many problems that will cause pain and disease. How does Chiropractic help? Let’s talk about Wabi/Sabi and you will find the profoundness what is healing.


The two dominant principles of Chinese and Japanese art and culture are wabi and sabi. Wabi refers to a philosophical construct, a sense of space, direction, or path, while sabi is an aesthetic construct rooted in a given object and its features, plus the occupation of time, chronology, and objectivity. Though the terms are and should be referred to distinctly, they are usually combined as wabi-sabi, as both a working description and as a single aesthetic principle.

The term wabi-sabi suggests such qualities as impermanence, humility, asymmetry, and imperfection. These underlying principles are diametrically opposed to those of their Western counterparts, whose values are rooted in the Hellenic worldview that values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection. The contrast to Western principles of aesthetics is rooted in the contrast to Western philosophical premises of power, authority, dominance, engagement, and control, whether of others or of nature.

The design principles of wabi-sabi fall into several categories; of course fine arts like poetry, drama, and literature, have not physical objects, embody these principles in a different way: type, form, texture, beauty, color, simplicity, space, and balance.

In the philosophy of Wabi/Sabi, the work reflects the physical balances found in the natural world. Hence no preconceived formula for symmetry is tenable because nature defines itself by circumstances: a tree grows tall or short, thin or thick, leafy, crooked, etc., in the context of other trees, rocks, water, soil, hummus, etc. in the forest. This balance as circumstance is a design principle for the artist to infuse into a work. The work, like the tree, is unique. The regularity, uniformity, and prescriptions contrived by the artist are secondary to the requirement to reflect a natural and unforced appearance to the object and its context.

We talked about posture is an important component of Zazen and your health. Now we need to take a closer look at how the actual shape of the spine inside your body. Most people are diagnosed with Scoliosis, Forward Head Tilt, Hunch back postures that are connected to health hazard and Pain. Those diagnosed postures and pain are just a tip of the iceberg. On x-ray films, we can see the actual shape of the spine compared to what you can see. There are two things that the healing professionals try to strive for and they are important for a good posture, having a straight spine and having curvature.

Most Chiropractors, Orthopedic Physicians, Physiotherapy, or any other healing professions correct these postural problems tries to make the spine straight and restore the curvature. There are many devices and techniques that try to straighten the spine and restore curvature of the spine. There are techniques in Chiropractic profession that will answer the public questions about the posture problem. Although for a Chiropractor having a normally straight spine and curvature is not the answer for everything.

Just like the concept of Wabi/Sabi of Balance, asymmetry of the spine is not as crucial as most healing professions advertise. In Wabi/Sabi, they strive for uniqueness in a natural process of growth in a tree. This natural process is the same with how Chiropractic views the spine. The famous Dr. Gonstead who established the Golden Standard for Chiropractic Technique said in his book,

“It is not to be implied that the chiropractor’s objective is to straighten the spine. Since every individual has some structural variations, each spine will vary according to those differences. ‘What is normal for one may not be normal for others.'”

The Wabi/Sabi and Chiropractic Philosophy has the same contrast with the western ideals of balance and symmetry. In the medical normal of the spine is based upon structural symmetry. Many medical profession will advise children with a severe degree of scoliosis should get surgery/brace to control the body. Other healing professions would take control of the spine by strengthening the muscles and or use manual therapy of manipulation of the spine.

Dr. R.W. Stephenson said in Chiropractic Text Book, ” Chiropractic does not pretend to “straighten” curvatures by force, or to force abnormal spine to an “educated ideal.”….Neither does Chiropractic adjust with the intention of forcing or driving vertebrae into perfect alignment; for Chiropractic does not treat effects at all. It seeks to remove the cause and the cause is always in the spine. “ Dr. Stephenson further says about postures, “Curvatures caused by occupations, as hod-carrying, bookkeeping, locomotive driving are occupational curvatures. They are adaption to the occupation instead of having a disease….the X-ray shows many vertebra “out of alignment,” and if he has apparent curvatures; if he still has practically perfect health, it is a mistake to adjust these vertebrae……That the spine is just as she wants to be.”

What then? Why do we need a Chiropractor? The job of a Chiropractor is not about aligning the spine to be straight.Chiropractor’s job is to find “Subluxation” and correct them. What is Subluxation? Dr. R.W. Stephenson says, “It is the condition of a vertebra that has lost its proper juxtaposition with the one above and one below or both; to an extent less than a luxation; which impinges nerves and interferes with the transmission of mental impulses.” These subluxations will cause the difficulty to have good postures, deformed shape of the spine, causes pain, and health hazards.

Do you have good posture? Did you see your spine on an X-ray film? When you are meditating or when you’re doing a Japanese Tea ceremony, you should be asking these questions to your self. At our office, we take X-ray films and analyze them and understand the person’s condition and give them health care that you need and nothing Extra. We have exercises that will help you condition yourself so that you won’t need Chiropractic all the time. You have healing From Within!