How Movement Heals The Nervous System

September 26, 2018

Movement is a primary characteristic of the Animal Kingdom, and a powerful asset in life. Humans are the only species that exclusively walks on two legs. This upright posture offers us unique gifts and challenges. On one hand, we have an incredible capacity to adapt. No other animal on the planet comes close to humans in our ability to perform a broad range complex movement patterns. While, on the other, the vertical arrangement of our ankles, hips, spine, shoulders and head makes the human body more susceptible to muscle imbalances and postural breakdowns. Learning to move skillfully prevents these imbalances from developing and, most importantly, keeps our nervous system communicating clearly.

Until recently movement/exercise has been considered a pastime, “a nice thing to do if you can fit it in.” Even now, many people know they “should” exercise; But, “who has the time?”

In his book “Eat, Move, and Be Healthy” Paul Chek describes seven primal movement patterns that make up all of our sports, dance, and labor. The seven patterns are:

  • Press
  • Pull
  • Lunge
  • Squat
  • Bend
  • Twist
  • Gait/walking

When we think of breakdancing and acrobatics, it’s easy to see how these patterns can be put together in as many ways a person can imagine. As impressive as breakdancing and acrobatics are, they demonstrate the extremity of the movement spectrum. In a practical way, these basic patterns are used all day everyday by every human on the planet, or in space for that matter. When we lose the ability to move, or our movements become restricted over time, the negative impact cascades through every system in our body. Due to our growing understanding of anatomy and physiology we are becoming to realize how deeply interconnected the whole body is, and what a vital role movement plays in maintaining healthy organ function.

Through the work of Tom Myers (see Anatomy Trains) and the growing understanding of the fascia, we are discovering that every cell in our body is connected to every other cell through an integrated matrix. Now known as the Neuro-myofascial web, this super organ includes all the tissues of the body (bone, blood, muscle, blood vessels, nervous system, organs). The fascial matrix has ten times more neural connections than muscle, and most of the connection are sending signals towards the brain. This is where we begin to recognize the entire body as a sensing organ, and how movement plays a strong role in how our bodies maintain internal communication. If you really want to nerd out, check out this article.

As with most systems and organs of the body, movement serves multiple purposes. Beyond locomotion, movement plays a crucial role in digestion, circulation, respiration, metabolism, and sensory awareness. One of the most powerful tools in maintaining good health is a consistent movement practice. If you are considering an exercise program, look for one that focuses on the quality and skill of movement patterns. If you go it alone, take it slow and listen to your body.

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