Using Neurogenic motion as a simple shortcut to relaxation

As theories develop in the body/mind field, both mental health professionals, different kinds of bodyworkers and movement facilitators saw that emotions could be held in injured tissues. Whether it was a holding pattern from a psychological wound, or the result of a car accident or IED explosion, the tissue held a time capsule of the emotions felt in that moment.  What bodyworkers see everyday in the healing process, is the emotions of past events held in the tissues that stiffened or shortened because of what happened. Talk therapists describe a physical holding that they can’t get to with words and seek an entry into the body.An interesting field in trauma healing, tension release and body/mind integration is using neurogenic motion to resolve old issues. Since we each have our very own body, we can find ways to access our own tissues, and not just turn ourselves over to someone else without participating ourselves by using these motions ourselves.

All mammals have the ability to shake off old emotions or traumatic experience so the body can return to homeostasis, its natural equilibrium. When an animal goes through a harrowing experience, it shakes all over, and then walks away from it. Whether a gazelle in Africa, or a dog in your home town, it is a genetically-given capacity. We have this same capacity, but have overridden it. It still does function in extreme situations, but it is generally viewed as weakness or pathology when it show up. As social beings we care what others think and have inhibited this very normal response.

So let us begin with the simplest shift. There are many motions that the body makes to self-correct. We can access and control these movements by very simple means. They may seem strange when they occur because they do not generate from the neocortex, but from the mid-brain that does that type of  maintenance work for the whole being, and is always making adjustments and sending messages to the other parts of the brain and body to accomplish this.

The two sides of the nervous system the sympathetic and the parasympathetic were designed with very specific jobs.  The parasympathetic is our calm nervous system, the one that rests and digests, enjoys the sunset and works out in the garden. The sympathetic nervous system is designed to give you the shot of adrenaline to move out of the path of the oncoming car, or tweak the senses when you are walking on a dark street in an unfamiliar neighborhood. The sympathetic nervous system is designed for short bursts of energy to handle an emergency. The parasympathetic is designed to live in.

This could be easily accomplished if we still were using  neurogenic motion to clear the adrenaline, slow down the heart rate, loosen the muscles and return the blood to the job of digesting our food. However since we stopped allowing the clearing, we continue to build up tension with every little thing that is upsetting until just about every little thing is upsetting. We are spending almost as much time in our sympathetic nervous system as we are in our parasympathetic nervous system. That’s  hard on many of the body’s systems and organs, and there are many studies of the effects of extended stress on the human body.

The simple and fortunate fact is this maintenance system is still in us ready to be put back online. We just have to tweak it a little to get it working again. A simple way is to stress a muscle that holds tension and is used by the sympathetic nervous system to ramp up for action, like the illiopsoas.

Getting to Know Yourself

With all the self-help books,  and different new age approaches, I’m a little afraid to bring the subject up, but the process of integrating our bodies into our self-concept is the next step in self-awareness and integration. As we move through the day most of us think of ourselves as the mind/personality who uses our robot/body to do our bidding; get to the next meeting, drive us to the store, reach for the object. The athelete has an image of himself as body, but the image is driven by the mind/personality and has inspirational music playing in the background. Hearing an athlete speak to his body or watching them re-enter the game on painkillers too injured to play reflects a different relationship between an athlete and his body.There are individuals who do not reflect this overview, I am addressing the typical response, and a typical approach to using our bodies. The body is here to serve, to be at our beck and call and stay out of our way otherwise. When the body makes a request for sleep, good nutrition, or a change in habit it is generally ignored. For many people only way the body can get more attention is through pain. Pain gets our attention. The stronger the pain, the more we are willing to comply with the body’s request. Consider that pain is the body yelling at us. Before the pain got so strong there were many other messages being sent from the body to alter course.We just are so used to ignoring these messages most of us claim we never get them in the first place.

The parts of the brain that keep the body alive function regardless. We cannot will ourselves to stop breathing, or to keep the heart from beating. But other areas of the midbrain that have to due with homeostatis or thriving can be overridden. The body will to anything to survive, but can be blocked from thriving.

Part of this perspective includes the subtext that the body and health is a mystery for someone else to figure out. When the pain gets too big to ignore we solicit the help of a professional. We may or may not comply with his suggestions, especially if it means we have to change a habit, or engage in activities that would help.

Perhaps because so much midbrain activity takes place in our subconscious mind there is the habit not to pay attention to anything the body does, unless perhaps we walk into a wall, or fall. I am not suggesting we take our bodies to a spa once a week (sounds good though, doesn’t it?) or make it the center of attention, I just would like you to consider letting it come to the table and join in the determination of what we are doing with our lives.

I guess I’m making the suggestion that we remake our consciousness map to give a larger proportion of self-awareness to the body, a bigger area to communication with it and a deeper sense of trust in ourselves. This will result in a whole being that works. Systems that communicate, integrate and support all of what makes us, us.

Somatics: A place to begin

The body is a part of a continual feedback loop, that connects us to ourselves, all the parts of ourselves,  and our social and physical environment.  As we learn about the organisation of the brain, we can appreciate how we think through the body: the systems of self-regulation, of automatic subliminal resonance with and reading of others bodies, and the way this information overlaps with the multiple, fluid composite maps of our elemental systems.

For at least 300 years, western science  has continually subdivided the physical aspects of a human being desiccating the sense of the whole. Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century medicine still worked with humors, and rudimentary understanding of the body’s systems, by the Eighteenth Century medical science was the systematic breaking down of the body into systems and naming all the parts. There has been a continuum of subdivisions until it becomes hard to even imagine the whole, or how everything affects everything. While much was achieved through this method of categorization, it began to break down the deeper understanding of the whole, which is necessary for homeostatis, or a body that finds its own equilibrium.

The body has never lost sight of the fact that it functioned as a whole, and while parts of the cortex have been in continued celebration of it’s superiority, the brain knows it can’t exist without the more rudimentary aspects of the brainstem (diencephalon) being in charge of the whole, and for continual communication and feedback throughout all systems. For an individual to choose to listen to all the parts and participate with awareness in learning about itself, to take responsibility in a whole new way; to improve the body not to acheive athletic excellence, or to look good on the outside, but to know itself from the inside out, to support further integration, so that no one part of self is in charge of the other parts opens the door to human flourishing.

Now that technology can provide a way to watch the human brain in the act of thinking, moving, responding and participating we can begin to put the pieces back together. We can integrate the ancient understandings of the whole person with the minute data of modern medicine.

One of the working theories of consciousness is that the brain stem makes a map of self that changes as we live. That map defines who we are and gives us a point of reference to determine our actions and reactions.

We are beginning to take a more personal view of health, that we are capable of determining the best approach to health for ourselves and define for ourselves the particular balance. I have seen many times that if a body’s needs are met she can change practically anything within her scope, or as Thomas Hanna said,”The salutary results of self-teaching, self-learning, self-healing, and self-regulation should not be understood as “miraculous,” but as somatic: they are genetically-given capacities intrinsic to all human beings.”

As paradigm shifts go, this one is personal, intimate, exciting and continually  fascinating.

Considering bodies, minds and how they communicate to each other

I decided 2012 is a perfect time to begin a blog. It’s an opportunity to talk about the many interesting discoveries that are happening in the field of bodymind. Most of us are so proud of our congnitive abilities, we tend to underestimate what the brainstem is doing and how important the integration of all parts of the brain is to the general overall health of the individual. The last 10 years has seen many new discoveries about the brain and the next ten look as if it will be even more exciting. We can now monitor a living brain and what it does in a variety of circumstances. It has given us insight to neuron mirroring, group fields and other theories.

Hopefully, this exploration from a bodyworker’s perspective will provide an easy way to understand and integrate how the bodymind works, how it talks to the rest of the brain, and how the inner wisdom of the body can become a great resource for everyone willing to learn how to listen to the body, and follow it’s process to health and integration.

I feel real passion about this subject matter, and any of you who share that passion, or even a passing interest are welcome to comment, question and research what you find here. I will do my best to document and reference any topic that includes scientific studies. You will also come to know people I feel have something to say to anyone who wants to learn more about herself through her body, ways toward self-care, and just fascinating facts about the body in life and how the bodymind and mindbody works. We sometimes forget that the brain is in fact part of the body, that the left hemisphere is good at telling lies (they are generally interesting lies) and what we can do to help ourselves understand and use more and more of our resources.