Elisabeth and I have had a busy fall. We were privileged to speak at the annual Club Industry conference again this year, were honored to teach at the Pilates Method Alliance conference, and recently returned from an intensive four-day brain-based training with Z-Health Performance Solutions. Z-Health is a brain-based and scientific approach to the rehabilitation of injury and the development of movement excellence. It is a unique system that teaches intentionally designed movement -based exercises specifically targeted to what matters most in human performance -the human brain. This system is a powerful blend of neuroscience, kinesiology, applied anatomy and physiology, biomechanical diagnostic training, eastern and western sports science, respiratory re-training and motor learning theory.
We began our essentials course work with Z-Health in April of 2016. That first training literally changed our lives. In addition to challenging every concept we taught in movement education, with ongoing, daily practice of our own brain drills, Elisabeth and I both experienced an extensive reduction in pain and significant increase in physical performance to degrees that as athletes, we had never before experienced. This latest training, called R-Phase – which stands for rehabilitation, re-education and restoration- delivers life-changing, high-speed results in physical rehabilitation, stress reduction, pain relief and performance enhancement. The dynamic joint mobility drills that are taught in this certification are designed to re-introduce the brain to the body to dramatically yet simply improve coordination, agility and movement efficiency in the areas of perfect form, dynamic postural alignment, synchronized breathing and the balance of tension and relaxation in relation to any specific movement. These simple yet specific drills could be referred to as ”new software” for the nervous system to make it “smarter” about movement as they are specifically designed to challenge and enhance the body’s proprioceptive system. Remember, the proprioceptive system is composed of the brain, the spinal cord and peripheral nerve endings and is defined as the 3-D awareness map of our own body in space and time. Basically, what this means is that at every moment of every day your brain is receiving signals from your body and forming a “virtual image” of you from those signals. Your nerve endings gather information and send it to your brain for processing. Your brain interprets this information and develops a proprioceptive map, which dictates how you move in space – the clearer the signals, the clearer the map. If these electrical and chemical signals produced by the peripheral nervous system and sent to the brain for processing are impeded with misaligned posture or compensatory movement or poor motor control, our brain develops a fuzzy proprioceptive “map” and our proprioceptive abilities–for example, to balance, move away from danger, move quickly, or just continue to move well, deteriorate, regardless of the amount of physical training or exercise we do.
In previous blogs we’ve discussed the SAID Principle, which stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. In simpler terms, this means that the body is designed to get better at EXACTLY what it does. If you stand and sit with beautiful posture all the time, you will get better and better at standing and sitting with beautiful posture. If however, you sit with your head jutted forward and your shoulders rounded over a computer for several hours a day, your body gets better at maintaining that position sitting and standing. Not a desirable or healthy position for the body, nor attractive. Going hand in hand with this is a concept called Sensory-Motor Amnesia (SMA): when we fail to move any area of the body, the nervous system gradually removes conscious control of that motion from our awareness. So not only do we get better at poor movement that we repetitively replicate, but also our brain gradually REMOVES conscious control of the motor patterns that would alleviate that very poor movement or posture. The good news – if we are practicing motor movements that enhance our posture and movement quality we get better at doing so, and our nervous system creates sensory amnesia for poor movement and posture. The bad news – through lifestyle habits, injury and sedentary behaviors, all of us develop poor quality movement and postural dysfunction of some sort. This has extremely negative consequences for our health, and compounding this, on a neural level our brain and nervous system begins to remove our conscious ability to change these deleterious behaviors. In other words, we don’t have muscle memory to correct our bad habits. The neural pathways have deteriorated. Making things more complicated is that these concepts operate at the pre-cognitive or unconscious level. To improve and lay down new neural pathways, we have to stimulate the brain and nervous system directly.
You’ve may have heard us say – the body you have is the one you’ve earned by the way you move. If you haven’t, you will, because RedBird is making a big commitment to integrate neural/brain-based training into every facet of our programming. Our senior teaching staff will join Elisabeth and me next year for their first intensive Z-Health training. In the New Year we will be offering brain-based series classes taught by Elisabeth and myself. Over the course of 2018, our clients will experience more brain-based drills included in all classes at both RedBird facilities, as well as in our RedBird Teacher Training curriculum. The science and evolving research in brain-based movement and neural plasticity is still in its early stages. However, we now know that everything we do is brain derived. At RedBird we are excited and exhilarated to know that with the right neural stimulus we can change our brains. Combining this with the correct amount of precision-based work in Pilates, Body Engineering, HIIT, dance cardio and strength training, we can affect an even better, healthier future, reduce pain and improve ALL movement performance for our clients and ourselves. It’s on. Let’s go.