THE MIND BODY-CONNECTION
Humans are anything but simple when you start to dive into the intricacies of human physiology. Therefor when it comes to training and choosing a direction to go in, it can be hard to start. There are so many areas to improve at when it comes to changing your health. Do you need to change what you’re eating and how often? Are you getting enough sleep and restful recovery? What about your adrenals, are they supercharged and overly active? Is your pulmonary-arterial functioning sufficient, meaning can you breathe with ease when physically exerting yourself? Can you regulate your heart rate and manage it in a way that is conducive to the stressor at hand? Then you have emotional factors to consider like are you happy day to day? Are you productive with your free time? What does productive mean to you? Is there something that you can connect to in yourself, on a daily basis, that feels like it nourishes you, whether that be emotionally or physically? Do you feel like you have people to talk to about how you feel? All of these considerations in one’s health are mind-body related, none of them rest in only one realm. Each ‘circle’ (mind, body, heart) has a direct interdependent relationship with the other.
THE DAILY EXAMPLE
Here’s an example. You race to get to the train station for your trip and because you hadn’t given yourself enough time to get there early, you’re already moving at a semi-sped up pace. You get out of your cab and now have to run to the ticket booth, down stairs, and across the railway to make sure you don’t miss your ride. And then what happens? You make the train just in time, plop into your seat, and your heart rate is skyrocketing. Lets start to make connections.
The first thing I’d note is your lack of planning, so right off the back we have some sort of ‘imbalance’ having to do with scheduling and or time management. Now for your heart rate, there is a high chance that your diaphragm isn’t able to move through its’ full range of motion without demanding more work from your heart (this is a physical example). So now we know your diaphragm is held either short or long, but for some reason it isn’t ‘malleable’ it doesn’t flow easily. To dive deeper. Your arteries’ jobs are to move blood away from your heart and pump blood into the muscles that are needed to perform said movement (in your case, hustling to the train station). Now, because you’re breathing heavy, your sympathetic nervous system turns on triggering your adrenals to release stress-inducing hormones. Somewhere in you your nervous system is feeling ‘panicked’ (even though you may actually be just fine).
Back to your breathing, now you have red blood cells transporting oxygen from your lungs to the tissues needed to keep you standing upright. The RBCs are also taking carbon dioxide out of the tissues and returning it to your lungs for an exhale (this is happening incredibly fast). Now your arteries, they don’t have the elasticity to constrict fully, because the energy needed to give them their full range of contraction is being distributed to your heart and adrenals to make sure your head stays on top of your body (because after all, when your nervous system senses haywire, your adrenals kick on). So now the arteries are narrowing, making the amount of oxygenated-blood sent to your muscles less. Your muscles don’t have the strength to perform the movements alone so they recruit your ligaments, tendons, low back, jaw, neck, anywhere your knee can grab on for better balance and stability. If the body feels imbalanced it will grab for what it needs from somewhere.
Okay- you made it. You’re off to your destination. Your nervous system gets to relax for a while…
CONNECTING THE DOTS
All we did under this example was look at the physiology taking place at a biomechanical (physical) level. We didn’t talk about the psychological piece, or the emotional component. Though you can bet, that there are several correlations to why your diaphragm isn’t working that well. Superficially I could say, “you’ve got to do more cardio.” And that’s great, so we go to the gym, build aerobic strength, muscular stamina, boom you’re done. But what about the fact that we got anxious in the first place? What stimulus from environmental factors cause our stress-receptors to turn on and become overly dominant? More than that, when faced with unpredictable stress, what systems do we have in place to mobilize ourselves to stay in control of everything happening in our body and mind? The harder questions to start asking is, “how do you feel when faced with tight timelines to get things done? Why weren’t you able to give yourself the time needed to accomplish your task at hand? What areas of your life are being neglected or malnourished in regards to maintaining allostasis?”
Now, I am sorry that the above example doesn’t prove to be all that simple (contrary to why you might have started reading this post), but if we’re going to hope to have simpler ideas for optimizing our mental and physical health, it starts with understanding the complexity of larger concepts. I wanted you to see how regular everyday scenarios have a lot more to do with our health than we realize. To see how your vascular, neural, musculoskeletal, hormonal, psychological, and emotional systems all step into the picture every time you move towards something in life.
NECESSITY IS A GOOD MOTHER
So I don’t like to think that “training” just means physicality. The necessity of prioritizing our health usually appears when we start realizing (or our doctor tells us) that something in us (a tissue, an organ, a nervous system) has hit a wall in its ability to regenerate and self-cure. Our options to bypass the diseases or inflammation are surgery, medications, and although we could probably push through it, pushing through it isn’t going to work this time, it isn’t a sustainable answer. And so we dive into the deep-end of human health with our hands grasped tightly around ourselves. We reluctantly or excitedly step into territory we know nothing about. We feel like we’re starting over, and this time it’s this or disease.
I call this a wake-up call, and what I use with my clients to wake them up is a method of training I call alignment training. In a nutshell, it is movement based practices that are built around making neurological connections. You can think of it as human-being training, training for growth, training towards your center, training for human optimization, whatever it is, homeostasis is the goal. The technique is designed to build a robust nervous system that can self-regulate, self-mobilize, and adapt to new experiences without the subconscious fear of causing more damage. When you’re training for health, it involves looking at your values, changing your behaviors, and tapping into the emotional process behind why you do what you do when you do it. Its a gut-wrenchingly painful process that gets easier and more fun every time you do it. And this is why I insist on achieving complete physical autonomy, from the inside out, top down, and bottom up. To cultivate a deeper understanding of what’s going on thats inhibiting people from evolving further.
WHERE TO GO NEXT
Human motion is a beautiful cascade of information continuously pressing forwards in order to get one where one wants to go. Whether its through the grocery store, at work presenting to colleagues, or even towards your family as you try to communicate with them. Motion is a constant, and we can use it to our advantage if first we understand what is going on at the subconscious and unconscious levels of human physiology.
With so much information flooding the internet, and so many practitioners you can see, and plenty of ‘quick fix’ solutions that swear will give you what you want, what does one do? Who is selling snake oil and who is selling the real thing? Are humans doomed to remain only as bystanders of their own physiology as it declines and creeps towards decrepitude?
What small steps can you take to maximize your efforts in a way that leaves you feeling healthier, more upright, and more balanced in your body?
Find out in Part 2…