The Mind-Body Stress Reset:
Somatic Practices to Reduce Overwhelm and Increase Well-Being
by Rebekkah LaDyne
New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
publishing date: March 1, 2020
AMBER LOVE 04-FEB-2020 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
Somatic or “body-based” skills are at the cutting edge of wellness and stress reduction. This book offers do-it-yourself techniques designed to help you “reset” your nervous system, beat stress, and cultivate calm.
Stress—it’s not just in your head. Whether you’ve experienced a racing heart, shortness of breath, a tense neck or shoulders, or a knot in your stomach, you know that stress is something that you can feel in your body. And that’s why you need help relieving stress in the body before you can achieve a sense of calm and well-being in your mind. But where do you begin?
This book offers an evidence-based set of tools based on the author’s innovative Mind-Body Reset (MBR) program. Mind-Body Stress Reset works from down in your body up to your brain, to deeply alter the way you feel, which then changes the way react to stress. In this book, you’ll find simple and accessible self-regulation skills that create somatic and cognitive shifts to help you actually reset the baseline of your nervous system.
You’ll find key MBR tools to help you:
Breathe your way through stress
See and sense the here and now
Connect with your body
Find lasting peace of mind
Downloadable audio practices are also included to help you soothe stress reactivity, promote stress resilience, and get back to fully living again.
I wanted to like this book. I wanted to LOVE this book, but I have to be honest and say that only half of the content felt like I could recommend it. The pros and cons of it are split: some has stellar research; while other parts, mainly about mindfulness meditation and yoga, it seems LaDyne either misunderstands or doesn’t have enough experience to be writing on the subjects. This was a shock because in her own credentials she lists having taught mindfulness for many years including at the well-known Spirit Rock facility. It would seem that she where she used reputable references for the Western science summaries — Bessel van der Kolk, Stephen Porges, Peter Levine, and Robert Sapolsky — she didn’t have references for any of her particular take on mindfulness nor mindfulness meditation which she considers two separate practices (they aren’t).
Instead, LaDyne’s purpose of this book is to glean from the reputable sources who have researched trauma and its relationship in the body and used that to create her own protocol she calls mindbody reset (MBR). If she had taken all of the research into account, she would also have come to different conclusions about animals versus humans. She says:
“Zebras don’t suffer from lasting mental stress, either. A huge reason they don’t get ulcers is that they don’t replay their stresses in their heads.”
“Fretting over a fight with an ex-husband? Not the kangaroo.”
This isn’t some agenda on animal rights, by any means. I bring up the animals, because in van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps Score, he references other validated research about the effects of stress on animals. Lab animals, sure, but still mammals. Plus anyone who has ever had a pet companion has probably witness their range of emotions on a daily basis. There is no doubt at all that some animals DO have chronic anxiety, depression, and fear illnesses. Destructive dogs tear apart their surroundings because of boredom and anxiety. Separation anxiety is a big one. Again, this isn’t something I need to read about because I’ve witnessed it with several of my own animals. They howl and cry while wandering around as soon as their favorite human companion walks out the door or if they don’t know what room they’re in.
What concerns me about LaDyne’s conclusion is that it is similar to one I personally fell for: that sharks don’t get cancer. I wrote a paper on it with the information available at that time (in the 1990s). It is dead wrong. Sharks get cancer. LaDyne’s conclusion that pets don’t have the capacity to suffer chronically from the most common mental conditions like anxiety, depression, fear, and grief is simply wrong.
LaDyne’s references and summations to Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory regarding the power of the vagus nerve is important and well-done. She spends plenty of time weaving this throughout the book. The exercises at the end focus on stimulating and resetting that vagus nerve through movement.
LaDyne could have benefited from reading and citing Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastophe Living or Coming to Our Senses or probably any of his fifteen books. She clearly has no understanding of something she was teaching and that’s alarming. The point in creating portmanteaux like mindbody and bodymind and heartmind is because the organs are linked and American English doesn’t have words in existence already to use.
“A good way to stop all the doing is to shift into the ‘being mode’ for a moment. Think of yourself as an eternal witness, as timeless. Just watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you hear?” Jon Kabat-Zinn (Wherever You Go There You Are)
Kabat-Zinn and others in the field have a holistic or wholistic approach utilizing the entire somatic union of the human experience. Yet, LaDyne states she had, “to shift from a mindfulness focus to a ‘bodyfulness’ focus. Current science continues to show that body-based methods, not head-based methods, are our best tools for extreme-stress recovery.” That makes sense and if she fully understood what mindfulness meditation is, she wouldn’t dismiss it so readily. Kabat-Zinn is famous for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (essentially secular yoga); Full Catastrophe Living explains gentle movements to reset bring the nervous system back to a safe and social zone. Is it for everyone? No, nothing is.
“Awareness is central for somatic regulation; meditation is not.” Rebekkah LaDyne, The Mind-Body Reset
LaDyne chooses to reference Ellen Langer instead which is where seems to get the notion that mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are two different things. Meditation in a well-rounded yoga life does not mean sitting all the time. There are walking meditations (again, something Kabat-Zinn and others cover). Dave Potter has a video, the Raisin Meditation, about how to mindfully experience a single raisin for all that it is. Meditation can be silent or include sounds like mantra chanting or sounds that have no meaning but feel good to vibrate through the body. You can meditate while petting your cat and listening to the rhythmic purring. Meditation does not exclude awareness which LaDyne strongly states.
In a body scan meditation, one is guided or can do it on their own, to bring awareness to each body part. The left big toe, the second toe, the third toe, the fourth toe, the pinky toe, then all the left toes; the bottom of the foot, the top of the foot, the ankle, the entire foot. This is not only in body scan meditations but also in the practice of Yoga Nidra. Awareness does equal meditation.
Breathing Techniques or Pranayama:
Though LaDyne never uses yoga terms like asana (the movements and postures) nor pranayama, she uses those exact practices without going back to any yoga sources. And she contradicts herself on one of “her” techniques instructions first stating there is “no intentional sucking in or tightening the abs” and then instructing to “gently draw your belly in to empty the lung fully.”
No Pain, No Gain is Dangerous:
On this subject, we agree. The commercialization of the fitness, beauty, and fashion industries would have everyone in the world the same cookie cutter sizes and shapes (and let’s face it skin coloring too). LaDyne states that in her MBR approach if there is pain, there is no gain. Some movement can reset that nervous system from hypo- or hyperarousal back to the ventral vagal zone (optimal level of arousal), but overdoing that into extreme fitness for hours a day, every day is something only professional athletes need to do and that’s because they’ve been conditioned for it their whole lives.
LaDyne does a fine job of explaining heart-rate variability too. Again, this is not from her own research though. This is from the cited research. Her research backed up data about cortisol.
I can’t recommend Rebekkah LaDyne’s The Mind-Body Reset as a primary source for information about breathing and movement techniques for bringing bodies back to ventral vagal baselines. While there is plenty of good information in there and it is explained in layman’s terms with biographical stories for examples, there is simply too much wrong with the book to suggest anyone pick it up for their first exposure into this subject matter.