If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!Heidi Hadley
The expression “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” is very true in many areas of life, but today we are going to discuss your brain and how you can make it grow in size and activity.
For many of my clients online or in person, you are aware that we always start our somatics practice with a soma or body scan. Why? What is the relevance for this? Is it really necessary? Can we just skip the scan and start on the movements? What am I suppose to feel? These are questions I have been asked over the years working with clients. In today’s blog I am going to explain the importance of the body/soma scan and introduce you to some areas of neurophysiology.
Firstly, why do we always start with a body/soma scan? By incfeasing our awareness to how our body feels in gravity, with the walking assessment and out of gravity with the floor assessment; we are activating certain areas of our brain. When we scan through our body, noticing the weight of our feet and legs on the floor, the position of the pelvis, the level of tension in our lower back and shoulders; we are increasing our mindfulness to specific areas. The reason for this is to highlight to our self how the movements can affect and relax our entire body, after all in Somatics we are working to release a ‘full body pattern of contraction.’ Somatics focuses on groups of muscles rather than isolating one muscle, after all our muscles work together. As one muscle relaxes the opposite side of the body contracts to produce movement. Somatic education is focused on bringing these natural movements back, so we no longer move like a robot or live in a figurative corset. The beauty of somatics is that we can create muscular changes to our body without exerting effort or straining due to the fact the effects are from ‘cortical learning.’
In neuroscience a body/soma scan is known as tapping into our proprioceptive sensation. This includes the sense of static limb position and kinesthesia; which is the sense of movement. In order to completely focus on proprioceptive sensations, I always encourage a client to close their eyes. This reduces external sensory stimuli and increases their somatics awareness. This awareness may include identifying their position of joints at rest on the floor before and then after the session repeating the scan and noticing the differences.
Your nervous system is absolutely amazing because whilst you are lying on the floor (or in gravity conducting a walking assessment), there are two different types of sensory pathways which provide essential information to your brain. The information which is relayed includes muscle action, joint position and the objects the soma/body are in contact with.
Different areas of the brain are activated to create movement and increase sensory feedback, so we can consciously alter our movement and create more subtle, slow, mindful movements. There are books dedicated to breaking down the intricacy of our nervous system and how we move, sense, feel and live; which we can take for granted. We have the most amazing piece of machinery between our ears, the more we educate ourselves on how to harness it, we can live a healthier, more productive life.
So once we have identified what feels tight, tense or uncomfortable during our soma scan, we can start relaxing the central nervous system (CNS). Mindfulness with Total Somatics always starts each practise with techniques to slow the nervous system down and switch it into the parasympathetic nervous system. The reason for this is to allow the CNS to relax, settle, wind down and rest. This stage is called neurorelaxation. It is the time that the brain is conducive to receiving and storing new information. We are no longer in the ‘fight or flight’ stage and the CNS feels safe to absorb new information rather than go into survival mode. The brain is receptive to learning and applying new changes to what has been ‘normal.’ This receptiveness is also known in neuroscience as differentiation. Differentiation brings a whole new level of awareness to the CNS, that change and growth is possible and pleasurable. When differentiation occurs, the brain will collect this information and will either create or reawaken neural networks and consolidate the activities, sensory feedback and variations.
Somatics helps to increase your brain map. So often, people will comment to me either in person or via Skype consultations, that when following the online or in class Mindfulness with Total Somatics movements, that their brain could not communicate and get certain areas of their body moving. This is known as Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). In previous blogs I allude to SMA in detail. Basically the sensory motor portions of their brain which influence that body part has developed Amnesia. It has simply forgotten how to coordinate that area of the body due to habitual behaviour, stress, trauma or other triggers. This leads to a shrinkage in our brain map. The diagram below shows how certain areas of our sensory motor portion of the brain has areas dedicated to that specific body region.
Neuroscience really does prove that if we don’t use it, we lose it. That’s why Somatic education is so important. When we become mindful with our Somatics practise, we change the way the brain operates. We increase neural networks in areas which have been under the influence of Sensory Motor Amnesia and increase the communication between the brain and body. This helps us to move freely with reduced pain. When we learn through ‘cortical training’ that we can teach the muscles to switch on and off at the appropriate time, we no longer walk like a robot or live in a figurative corset. We can enjoy our life and return to the activities we love to do.
Mindfulness with Total Somatics is available online to perform in the comfort of your own home. This educational program teaches you basic neurophysiology, so you can understand why and how these amazing changes are happening through somatic movement. There are mindful movement sequences in the program to help with many health issues.
For more details, visit www.TotalSomatics.com