Reflections on San Diego
January 22, 2015
I’ve just come back from San Diego where I spent three days sharing NeuroFascial Science and applying this information to the MELT Hand and Foot Techniques to teach 135 curious minds. This group included medical, bodywork, and exercise practitioners.
We discussed the systems that support, protect, and stabilize our body over a lifetime, and these points served as the focus of this first step in the MELT Method Instructor Training Program.
In between I spent four days with my fiancé Chris planning our wedding, discussing our soon-to-be marriage, and trying on wedding dresses. Talk about stuck stress… actually the most stressful moment of this trip out West was trying on wedding gowns.
I spent yet another five days there sharing advanced learning of neuroscience, motor control, and all things relating to balance and alignment to 18 Advanced MELT Instructors desiring more understanding of stability.
I love teaching the MELT NeuroStrength Training and seeing how five intensive days of tapping into the NeuroCore system really affects people on a physical and emotional level.
It’s difficult to attempt to simplify the topic of how the body can sustain stability on all levels over a lifetime. After all, I’m attempting to boil down hard science and my decades of studying the human body. But it’s all worth it to empower more people to help others restore function (if it is lost) or merely inhibited to function efficiently, or to sustain the good function they intend to have for years to come. Every person that they share MELT with (and hearing the results) makes it all worthwhile.
How do I begin to take neuroscience – the foundations and fundamentals of motor control, upper motor neurons and how they relate and maintain balance, posture, form, and function and simplify this not only on paper but in physical motion? I do this in a five-day training. Yet once again, in my attempts to define the most complicated elements of motion in a simplified way, I’ve realized I’ve got to slow way down, teach fewer moves, and ground people in the very foundation of this science.
What is it that NeuroStrength is based upon?
Well, for starters,I want to understand how motor pathways are formed, how the mechanisms of stability in our core, and girdles (both shoulder and pelvic) allow us to move with grace and flow. I want to explain motor control and how our body and brain process information. Trying not to make anything too complex means finding my own language that encompasses a LOT of scientific concepts.
For example, I talk about “Primary Pathways” that our brain and body have connected during our first two years of life*—even before we were born and how messed up these dominant pathways can become. I do my very best not to go into too much detail about neurons, synapse, nuclei, or the destination of axons that form the divisions of nerves used to construct “balance-ability” without our conscious knowing. The complicated network of circuits connecting the brain stem and limbic system within the brain called the reticular formations as well as the somewhat more defined sensory and motor nuclei scattered among the definable elements of our structure are difficult to subdivide and simplify.
So instead I do my best to break these complex elements down to their most simplified forms to show contrast between compensatory pathways we adopt and the primary pathways we developed in our infancy and how to restore the later as adults. As I stated before, it’s not easy.
Even the simplest movements we make are not so simple
Posture and movement can be appreciated by analyzing both during voluntary movements and patterns we use from day to day. What’s profound, and something all of my students are well aware of prior to coming into this advanced training, is that our connective tissue allows even the simplest, and distinctive movements of our arm to be accompanied by activation of muscles far away from the arm itself.
In fact, our soleus, a muscle in the lower leg contracts a moment before we bend our elbow to lift up anything so our body can sustain its posture against the forces of gravity and our own bodyweight. Though at first glance the thought of muscle contraction in the leg seems to have little to do with the primary movement of the arm, but without its connection our torso would tilt forward every time we lifted anything with our arm.
Anticipatory maintenance of alignment is only achieved through an efficient, fluid connective tissue system. Without its stability, our joints compress and our posture declines with every movement we make. Sadly, this is perhaps happening to you right now as you read this and consciously, there’s not much you can do to alter its compensatory occurrence but as long as we are on the topic, if it hasn’t made you sit up a little straighter just thinking about it… why not try it now?
Making sense of this for MELT
During this five-day intensive training, I discuss how a neural pathway connects one part of the system with another through neurons that cluster together to make a nuclei—acquiring connection or synapse allows movement to occur and the quote I’ve heard from many a neuroscientist, “Neurons that fire together, wire together” becomes omnipresent in my training.
Neural pathways serve to connect relatively distant areas of the nervous system to create body-wide connection and ultimately movement. Neuromuscular pathways refer to the relationship between the nerves and musculature yet this simplistic mechanistic model of stability cannot be so easily understood or defined. Yet, I keep trying.
During this event, the ever present 4 Rs of MELT still ground us in the inherent connection of the neurofascial system yet once we do Reconnect, Rebalance, Rehydrate, and Release this dynamic system of stability, the next phase is to Reintegrate the timing of these neural pathways so we can restore and Repattern movement away from what I call the “path of least resistance,” aka compensatory pathways.
To simplify this, think of a young child seeing something on the floor that they want. They bend their knees, dorsiflex their ankles, rotate their pelvis, mobilize their spine and balance their big head over it all as they reach down to “get that thing.”
The young child’s movement is perfect. But, by the time they are 5 they have watched their mom and dad hip hinge, only moving one joint instead of multijoints to pick up stuff on the floor. It’s not long until our brain organizes movement to become more efficient and clearly, it’s more efficient to move one joint as opposed to eight in sequential, accurate timing. Now suddenly, to “get that thing” looks different. The brain adopts this path as less resistant and faster or more efficient and our stunning show of multidirectional function becomes nothing more than flexion.
What this means moving forward
As we age we learn to manage and compensate to move about and live our life. I mean this on every possible level. Emotionally we compromise our wants to have a relationship, nutritionally we compromise by eating energy bars instead of a wholesome meal, neurologically we learn to drink coffee to deter our utter exhaustion throughout a day and so on. And as we do this, our natural form and function suffer.
So back to this weekend and what transpired. I warned or perhaps gently reminded these participants about how profound an action it is to give yourself permission to relocate our true core, to peel away layers of long since needed protection and mismanaged stress that has been trapped in our tissues so our brain could manage day to day functions even with the miscommunications going on in the body.
We poked, prodded, and sat with the reintegrative processes of NeuroStrength Moves like the Advanced Core Challenge, Double Leg Lift, and Standing Balance Assessments. We then delved into the shoulder and pelvic girdle to restore balance and timing in these vital girdles of stability so our arms and legs moved with less inhibition.
The ah-ha moments are like tiny miracles that reconnect us to the depths of our own being and with that, tears arose from over half of the group. Some felt anxiety, near panic by day five without knowing why. Unraveling them from the blanket of compensation left some raw with emotions, some grateful for the learning, and for the most part, all of us exhausted from the repeated attempts to rewire the entire system—in five days, which is hardly possible, but a step in the right direction. I witnessed breakdowns, breakthroughs, empowerment, and epiphanies. My life truly is filled with miracles and gifts.
The key takeaways for me
I left the training feeling somewhat like a car on empty, giving my all to each and everyone of them, assuring them of their ability to do this without me, to repeat it over and over to themselves and to teach it to others.
I also left realizing that I’m teaching still too many NeuroStrength Moves in one gulp. Such is the way of learning. How much can people absorb and not have a meltdown from the learning? All in all, I am as always in awe of the graciousness and curiosity of others and their willingness to allow me to share what I know and believe to be the missing link to wellness and good health.
I returned to NYC a better person because, much like neurons that fire and wire together, I realize by sharing my knowledge I am forever linked to each and every person I come in contact with making my external connections just as powerful as the ones within me.