Tuning into Sensation
December 21, 2018
We are moving into another new year. What a wonderful opportunity to tune into ourselves and recognize the many ways we stay connected to our body and the environment around us. The latest research confirms that our inner world is even more complex and nuanced than we thought. How do we tune into this inner world more? And how has research helped us understand the impact of body awareness and self-care?
Technology has helped various types of research move well beyond our basic understanding of life – from the study of the macrocosm of the universe to the internal microcosm of the human body. Certainly biology is undergoing quite a paradigm shift. It is becoming increasingly clear that the markers of human development, nutrition, physiology, and health are influenced by the complex microbial communities they host. What shapes our ecology and evolution is now being looked at in new ways. Concepts like holobiont – the science of a host and its microbiota – are showing up in many fields of life and medical sciences.
During the International Fascia Research Congress held in Berlin this past November, researchers shared their work using confocal laser microscopy – allowing us to see cells in a whole new way. With quantum physics at the helm of this new research, scientists like Peter Friedl shared insights into the fascial continuum. In his enlightening presentation where he showed 3D color microscopy, he discussed how quantum physics has been used to understand the vast micro-components within us. The ability to see cells and the surrounding environmental properties in such an expansive way has provided insight into how cells communicate through the vast system of fascia – similar to how particles in the universe can communicate over long distances.
Other researchers, such as Dr. Bruno Bordoni and Dr. Marta Simonelli, recently published a paper in the journal Cureus entitled “The Awareness of the Fascial System,” which described how cells communicate with other cells by sending and receiving signals in a mechanometabolic way, meaning cells sense and respond to what’s around them.
On the screen, I watched a fibroblast – a connective tissue cell – use its tentacle-like arms to grab hold of a collagen fibril and alter the shape of the tissues around it. Fascial cells not only have memory but are aware of their environment and seem to anticipate, prepare, and alter it to manage homeostasis and metabolic balance.
Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains and respected educator in our community, discussed the concept of interoception in a recent article in Massage Magazine. His article, “What Am I Feeling? Recent Research on Interoceptive Sensors of the Myofascia,” focused on how touch stimulates the nerve endings in the myofascia, leading to an interoceptive response.
Interoception is our body’s ability to sense what’s going on in its internal environment. Internal sensation is relevant to every aspect of our being from emotions to health, pain, time perception, and even decision making. Interoception is intrinsically linked to our nervous system – from sensorimotor response to our emotional management of day to day life.
It’s widely understood in certain circles that fascia sends and receives information both mechanically and metabolically bodywide. This information influences the microscopic shape and functions of our entire body. I know that there are those who are steadfast on the idea that the only communication system in the body is the nervous system. However as I said in my first book, the nervous system and our fascial system work together – what I call a neurofascial system – to support, protect, stabilize, and communicate bodywide, without interruption. Both function independently and codependently to sustain homeostasis.
A recent blog from one of my favorite practitioners, Dr. Russell Schierling, discusses fascia as a second nervous system. When it comes to staying connected to our environment and ourselves, the entire network is more important than the individual parts. Fascia communicates with our nervous system and it’s the largest sensory organ in the body, with more sensory nerves than you have in your muscles by the billions!
Collagen, one of the primary components of fascia, is truly a superconductor, transmitting forces like tension and compression throughout the system to manage even the most subtle motions and environmental changes within and around us.
So what does this mean for how we sustain health and longevity?
Does it mean we all should get daily massages? Alas, I don’t think that’s possible for most of us. This is truly where MELT comes into play to enhance interoception, as well as proprioception (our ability to perceive its positional or spatial relationship with the outside world), and even exteroception (our responsiveness to external stimuli).
MELT, with its slow, sensation-focused practice, allows us to focus on what’s staying stable (the interoceptive aspect) rather than just what’s moving (the proprioceptive aspect). This greatly enhances our own internal body awareness.
Using a series of soft balls and a soft roller allows the participant to focus on receiving “Hands-Off Bodywork” rather than on the sensations of giving it.
Before we even start MELTing, we guide the practitioner to pay attention to what they sense inside their body through a foundational MELT move called the Rest Assess. Using their Body Sense – the ability to sense what you feel without the use of the common senses like touch or sight – they are guided to pay attention to the sensations, position, and alignment of their body while lying still. Interestingly, some participants fidget during the Rest Assess, attempting to use movement to determine the position of their body or because they’re uncomfortable with tapping into their body’s sensations, for a variety of reasons.
The value of slowing down and pausing to notice what we sense is vital to optimizing neurofascial communication – and it’s essential for the positive changes you experience when MELTing to be long lasting.
To experience how MELT can tune up your Body Sense, try the Rebalance Sequence on MELT On Demand, which starts and ends with a Rest Assess.
As we step into a new year, I encourage all of you to tap into your own body sensations and self-care practices, as they are so vital to living a healthy, active and pain-free life. You can do it in as little as 10 minutes a day.
Happy New Year, and Happy MELTing!