The inner workings of our bodies are complex and exciting but, when we look at the neurological system, we can learn the bedrock from which to build and support ourselves for optimum health.
Optimizing our nervous system is different than looking at our health through the lens of disease or degradation. If we are to think in terms of longevity, sustainability, or high performance, we realize that most of the states that we desire—whether you refer to them as the zone or simply flow—occur when the system is harmoniously doing its thing (coherence).
To sum up the role of the nervous system, information from our senses gets filtered and processed by our brain, and some form of action or movement is produced. You can think of it as a unifying, self- correcting vortex or tornado that goes up and down from sacrum to brain through the spinal cord—in constant communication, with no separation between the brain and the body. One unimaginably beautiful system.
That may sound like a recipe for chaos, but when we learn some of the finer points, we can learn to honor our neurology and harness its power.
Things to know…
• The architectural design
The way the nerves are situated within the body, the sensory nerves are more external than the motor nerves, so they are the ones more likely to be affected in either injury or spinal issues, like stenosis or disc problems.
• The brain has to constantly make predictions.
That is part of its job with regards to protection. But, with less information if we are not receiving as much sensory input or if we are overloaded with sensory input, there is less accurate prediction, so there is more disruption to the system with regards to motoric output—whether that be in movement, behavior, or experience of pain.
• The brain is a self-organizing system that is on a metabolic budget.
We develop not only habits, but also compensation patterns in our bodies to optimize energy expenditure. These patterns may not be biomechanically sound, but they save energy.
• The complexity of the stress response
The stress response is often reduced to fight or flight, but studies on primates indicate that there is an anticipatory component. Humans have taken it to the next level with the cortical processes that allow us to continue to ruminate in those stressors and keep us anticipating based on the past in our unreasonable demand for certainty.
In knowing these things, the question becomes: what can we do?
The goal is to create protective lifestyle factors, or practices for our neurological system, that allow us to explore both the sensory and the motor components.
Things to do…
• Celebrate extension
Serious neurological events, like a stroke, often result in people getting stuck in flexion patterns as the brain inhibits other possible options. The majority of our daily activities also involve us being in flexed or forward postures. Exploration of extension, whether it be of the spine in gentle stretching, or even simply wrist extension, is a novelty and also a necessity against the forces of gravity.
Breathing is a simple and evolutionary system that allows us to be able to recruit and relax certain muscles. Inspiration is active extension, expiration is more flexion. When you inhale, a lot of the stabilizing muscles in your legs calm down. Breathing has a central role in giving those muscles a break and, in a way, recycling that energy.
• Attention training
Through our neurology, we are constantly experiencing sensations, yet it is through our perception that we have active choice in where our attention goes. For example, you may feel the pressure of the seat beneath you once you become aware of it, but it was always there. This has applications in everything from our posture to our social environment.
Looking at the constraints and affordances of the nervous system, we diminish the boundaries between other systems and look at how our health is affected as a whole. While that helps to take some of the confusion out of what is happening in each system individually, the flip side is looking at how everything we do, even something like obsessing over things we can’t control, has an impact on our overall well-being.
Studies have shown that people with autism process sensory information differently, which is perhaps linked to the peripheral nervous system in an interruption in proprioception. While so much of the focus is on the brain and spinal cord as vital components of the transmission and interpretation of input, the manner in which we take in and process things at the level of first contact is also part of the equation.
Western philosophies tend to focus more on the motoric output of the nervous system, while the eastern perspective is more attune to the sensory input that is being received. Brainfullness aims to meet at the intersection, understanding how we can influence our nervous system with strategic action to affect the anticipatory aspect of the stress response and more accurately welcome those sensory signals.
Having an understanding of neurology helps to break down the barriers between brain, body, and mind, so we can be conscious and contributing participants in the constant communication that is happening within the system.
Check out the links below for other neurodynamic exercises to further celebrate your neurology.
Video 1: click HERE
Video 2: click HERE
Video 3: click HERE
Video 4: click HERE
Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment.
Dr. Tabrizi completed his undergraduate studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., obtaining a Bachelors degree in Psychology with a focus on cognitive neuropsychology. He later went on to obtain his Doctor of Chiropractic from Logan Chiropractic College in St. Louis, Missouri, after which he completed studies in osteopathy.
Book an appointment with Dr. Tabrizi here.