Spine Time

People who are passionate about what they do are truly magnetic. Seemingly lit from within, they emanate an intrinsic confidence and undaunted fortitude that draws others directly into their orbits. Like the sun at the center of its own universe, John Amaral, D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic) is one of those people.

“I believe that more people need to experience what it feels like when they’re not trying to be someone else or be somewhere else, to just experience who they are, why they’re here and what they’re made of without self-judgment or striving,” Amaral says of his dedication to helping others attain a higher quality of living.

He does just that as co-founder and co-owner of The Well Being Center with his wife Christina Amaral D.C. Here, Amaral specializes in a clinical chiropractic system called Network Spinal Analysis (NSA), a system that, as he puts it, “helps the body, brain and nervous system do something totally unique and new, that’s never, ever been demonstrated before.

“I guess you can call it predictable transformation or a new form of human evolution,” he adds.

Used to helping people experience dramatically greater levels of well being, NSA works by advancing the way the nervous system processes information. This concept may sound like it’s been taken straight from the pages of the latest sci-fi novel, but as Amaral can demonstrate, first-hand, it really works.

The method of connecting the body and mind was developed by Amaral’s mentor Donald Epstein, D.C., a well-respected wellness, human evolution and personal systems developer. The NSA process initiated by Epstein creates substantial alterations in the functionality between body and mind. Considered revolutionary, it’s currently being studied by some of the world’s more prestigious scientists.

But most people may have never heard of NSA, although it has been evolving as a system for decades. In fact, the first NSA seminar was taught in the early ’90s. Before that, Amaral says, it was called Network Chiropractic, noting that there are close to 500 NSA practitioners worldwide. A chiropractic license is the “jumping off point” for the practice but an NSA practitioner is “really looking at a person’s overall development as a human being, not just the mechanics of their body.”

There are practitioners throughout the United States, Europe and Australia and a handful in Asia and South America.

But how does it work?

During a session Amaral works on people’s spines with just a few ounces of pressure. “This causes a ‘wave’ of movement and energy to release through the spine,” he says. “The body learns to create this wave on its own, and the wave is associated with a new type of learning in the nervous system that we’ve tied to quality-of-life changes in virtually every category of human experience.”

In a nutshell, it’s chiropractic but it can also be a life-altering transformation.

It also mirrors Amaral’s mission in life, which is to help people awaken to what’s really possible in their lives and in the world. “Everybody has unique talents, gifts and capabilities as well as challenges,” he muses. “What I’m passionate about is helping people discover the patterns that hold them back so that they can get unstuck, so that they can tap into their inner-strength and power, and do what they know somewhere deep inside they were made to do in the world.”

Not only does Amaral practice NSA out of The Well Being Center in Santa Cruz, but he has also worked with people from more than 50 countries, teaching individuals, organizations and corporations the key insights that create optimal body/mind health. In fact, seeking and working with groups is one of his greatest passions.

“When it is a keynote event, the theme is typically about how to create well being, how the body/mind really works, and new research and breakthroughs in the body/mind consciousness field that change the way we not only view, but also achieve, wellness in all domains: physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, cultural,” he says. “Whether I’m facilitating through individual hands-on sessions, working with a team or speaking to a whole company or student body, I’m always looking for ways to help people discover, tap into and experience the benefit of the resources and possibilities within themselves and their communities.”

Amaral never intended to become a chiropractor, a public speaker or a teacher at all, but life seemed to have this career path in store for him. A philanthropist at heart, he did know that he always wanted to inspire people. “I originally wanted to be a visual artist,” he says.  “My parents inspired me to think creatively from the start. We didn’t have a television until I was 8 years old so I would read or draw and create for hours on end.

“When I was in high school I had a wrestling coach named Gary Garcia. Gary taught me the power of focus, discipline, practice, self-reliance and follow-through early on.”

But he credits NSA developer Epstein as his “greatest mentor.”

“He is totally outside the box in the way he perceives reality,” Amaral says. “Donny is always demonstrating to me that success in life is about constant change and innovation in a way that benefits humanity.”

Through various circumstances, Amaral eventually wound up in an anatomy course studying the human body. From there, he says, his curiosity just spiraled and the next thing he knew, he was in chiropractic college where he met his wife. They’ve been together for 17 years. In fact, she introduced him to NSA and inspired him to discover a more conscious and passionate way to live in the world.

“I owe most of my success and fulfillment in life to what I’ve learned from my wife,” he says.

The dynamic duo has since provided chiropractic care and other wellness programs for individuals using the NSA process at The Well Being Center.

But the work Amaral does has a deep impact not only on people’s bodies, but also on their entire worldview. “I’m passionate about helping people ‘reorganize’ their lives rather than just try to ‘restore’ function and return to where they were at before an injury or challenge,” he says. “So many times, people feel like an injury, disease or condition is the cause of their suffering. The reality is, we’re all going to experience pain and discomfort at times in life, but how we respond to our challenges and difficulties is the key. Pain is a given but suffering is optional.”

Amaral shares a story about a woman in one of his workshops who had shattered her foot two years prior. “She’d had multiple surgeries and therapies after the fracture,” he says, “and after two years she was limited to 20 percent function in her foot and told that her foot was stable and that there was nothing else that could be done. She’d just have to live with it.”

Luckily, the woman had the good fortune of being in the workshop with Amaral, who tapped into the body/mind connection using NSA. He began to physically work with her foot and continued to talk with her. Suddenly, she started feeling energy and heat moving up her leg, and began to sob. As the waves of emotion released through her, her foot unlocked and the range of motion instantly began to return.

“Within 15 minutes she had regained 80 percent of her range of motion and the pain was totally gone,” he says.

Too good to be true?

NSA is based on methods that have consistently been proven effective. It has been determined that over time, the gentle pressure NSA places on different areas of the spine encourages the body to correct itself and be more self reliant in the future.

“We’re creatures of habit and we like predictability and sameness more than we’d like to admit,” Amaral notes. “The more we try to keep things the same, the more we’re going to suffer. The more we realize that life is constantly giving us circumstances to catalyze our growth, the more enjoyable life becomes. We become more open to what the future may bring instead of looking over our shoulders and trying to recreate the past in the same way.”

Having had the opportunity to study with distinguished teachers and mentors in various fields, Amaral has also cared for some of the most successful people in the world, such as self-help king Tony Robbins, Hollywood producer Robert Weiss—he created The Blues Brothers, Naked Gun and dozens of other hit movies and television show—artist/sculptor Richard MacDonald and robotics wizard Dean Kamen (who founded the organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), to note but a few.

“What I’ve found is that everybody, no matter how easy they seem to have it from an outside vantage point, has their struggles and challenges,” he says. “The key to wellness and happiness seems to be somehow learning and growing from what we can’t control, and taking decisive action and clearly focusing on what we want in life.”

We’ve all heard the catch phrase “be here now,” but many of us have difficulty putting it into actual practice. Instead we focus on our trouble-ridden pasts or on struggles that we may encounter in the future. Amaral notes that the work he’s doing helps people “get in touch with their core, with the energy, the emotion and the knowing that they are valuable and that what they have to offer is needed somewhere, somehow.”

“I love working with people,”he adds. “I’m interested in people.  I’m curious about them. I want to know what they’re all about, what inspires them and what they’re aspiring to be, do or create. I want to know what wisdom I can learn from them. I’m a perpetual learner and by working with so many people from so many different walks of life over the years, I’ve been able to recognize how interconnected we all are. Regardless of culture, ethnicity, or class we all share a similar biology; Our brains and bodies are made of the same ‘stuff.’

Fortunately, that “stuff” has been giving Amaral an opportunity to help others find new health and wellness possibilities, where none existed before, in the hopes of providing new solutions to any number of life’s challenges.

“I love that no matter how good or how bad life seems to be for someone, there’s always an opportunity for them to improve their situation,” he says. “It’s often like giving somebody a 64-pack of crayons after they’ve been coloring with the eight-pack for decades.

“What’s possible for somebody versus what they think is possible is often very, very different. And I love to help people become aware of that ‘next level,’ that more compelling future or even just the perfection of the moment right now.”

For more information about John Amaral D.C., The Well Being Center and Network Spinal Analysis visit wellbeingcenter.org.

Time to Get Well
The Well Being Center of Santa Cruz was founded by husband-and-wife team John Amaral, D.C. and Christina Amaral, D.C. in the late 1990s. Both chiropractors by trade, “We wanted to create a practice that provided people with superior tools and skills to thrive in the world,” John Amaral says. “Too many people are just dragging themselves through the day.” Using the Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) method of chiropractic, the Amarals strive to create a space that is welcoming, relaxing and, above all, promotes the well being of both body and mind. “We set up The Well Being Center as a community ‘hub’ where people can come to de-stress, resolve injuries and reset their bodies and minds,” says Amaral. “The effect of the NSA sessions (called entrainments) on the nervous system is profound.” Amaral likens entrainments to the feeling that you get a few days into a much-anticipated vacation. It takes your body some time to de-stress and relax. Amaral says that the same process occurs with entrainments. “They create a radical shift in the physiology from stress to ease, within minutes. Visits to The Well Being Center are like mini-vacations for the body and brain,” he says.

The center offers various programs depending on the outcome each individual desires. “We measure both what is changing in a person’s body and what is changing on the inside, in their subjective experience of their life and their health,” Amaral says. There are three distinct programs to choose from. “Body Revitalization” is a four- to eight-week program designed to rapidly get people out of acute or chronic stress and pain. “Body Transformation” is a bit more intensive and the patient will spend between 12 and 24 weeks working to breakthrough and resolve their chronic patterns. “Body Awakening” is a complete lifestyle program that ranges from nine to 12 months or more, and is designed to help people reinvent themselves and their way of life.

“They’re in pain, they’re stressed out, worn down, overwhelmed and burnt out,” Amaral says of many of the patients they see at The Well Being Center. “The pain, stress and fatigue makes it that much harder to be kind to others, to listen, to be compassionate, to be grateful.” In other words, a visit to The Well Being Center is not only a positive step for you, but it will make for a more kind and loving Santa Cruz County. Visit wellbeingcenter.org.

HEALTH BOOKS HOT LIST Local booksellers reveal their top picks for wellness books

Gateways books
1126 Soquel Avenue Santa Cruz, (831) 429-9600, gatewaysbooks.com

Awaken to Healing Fragrance
The Power of Essential Oil Therapy
by Elizabeth Anne Jones

Woman Who Glows In The Dark
A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health
by Elena Avila R.N., MSN with Joy Parker

The Honey Prescription
The Amazing Power of Honey as Medicine
by Nathaniel Altman

Green Medicine
Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care
A New Synthesis of Ancient and Modern Healing Traditions
by Larry Malerba, D.O.

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook
Includes MP3 CD with 21 Guided Meditations
by Bob Stahl, Ph.D. & Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, (831) 423-0900, bookshopsantacruz.com

Food Rules
An Eater’s Manual
by Michael Pollan

Fast, Fresh & Green
More Than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers
by Susie Middleton

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook
by Bob Stahl & Elisha Goldstein

Anatomy for Yoga
An Illustrated Guide to Your Muscles in Action
by Leigh Brandon & Nicky Jenkins

Women, Food and God
by Geneen Roth

Capitola Book Cafe
1475 41st Ave. Capitola, (831) 462-4415,

Women, Food and God
by Geneen Roth

The Roadmap to 100
The Breakthrough Science of Living a Long and Healthy Life
by Walter M. Bortz II,M.D.

The Checklist
by Atul Gawande

The Healing of America
by T.R. Reid

Contributor at Good Times |

Greg Archer is an award-winning journalist, editor, author, humorist and cultural moderator. His work spotlighting Agents of Change and culture vultures near and far regularly appear on The Huffington Post, and various media and television outlets. His feature stories, film and TV reviews, and celebrity profiles have been published in Oprah Magazine, Live Happy, San Francisco Examiner, The Advocate, Palm Springs Life, Via Magazine, Bust, and other media outlets. He served as Good Times Editor for 14 years (2000-2014). Learn more his books and articles here.

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