The body is an amazing machine that is highly adaptable to the circumstances in which you place it. If you prevent it from doing something with the muscles it wants to engage, it finds a way to get the job done some other way.
If you block one path for long enough, the body will condition another path.
It grooves a new pattern and learns a new way of doing the task. Even if you eventually unblock that original ideal road, the body will continue to follow the new pattern.
This is called habit.
We create habits with ease. It’s how the body adapts.
Locked in the Fear Response
I recently learned that I’ve been using all the wrong muscles in my physical activities.
So, for example, when I fly on the trapeze, I’ve been stabilizing my shoulders with my pecs and with my bones and ligaments, rather than with my lats. My lats don’t even fire up.
Essentially, my body has been using the sympathetic muscles instead of the parasympathetic muscles.
The sympathetic muscles are the muscles that kick in when our brain senses we’re in danger. Otherwise known as the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic muscles are those associated with rest-and-digest response.
My body has grooved the pattern of operating and moving as if it’s continually in fight-or-flight mode.
The effect of this is that it has essentially kept me in a “fear feedback loop”.
Even as I’ve done all the personal development work of identifying fears and limiting beliefs, transmuting them and befriending then, and the spiritual and energetic work to release fear and deepen in trust, my physical body has been operating in habitual patterns that continue to use the fight-or-flight muscles.
So every time I do activities with my body using these habitual patterns, it sends messages to the brain that I’m in fear. Even though there’s no mental/emotional fear.
Finding the Cause
I’ve suspected that my body wasn’t using the right muscles. I know the effects of overcompensation. And I’ve been stagnant in my progress in my activities because of limits on my flexibility, range of motion, and strength.
Other people chalked it up to how I’m built.
(How I ended up there is another story about synchronicity and listening to my inner wisdom. Also: always read the bulletin boards in the local gym/yoga studio!)
Five minutes into his presentation I knew I had to book an evaluation with him. Before we left the La Jolla library that night, I scheduled an appointment with him and extended my hotel stay.
We started with my Post-Concussion-Syndrome symptoms. As Carlos put me through some exercises to test what might be causing the vision problems that flare up for me, he noticed things about the way I move. It took us 3 sessions to unpack everything.
I have had various injuries over the years, from knee problems as a teenager to chronic back pain, to hip flexors that are alway tight, to a torn shoulder labrum ten years ago. No professional ever took the time to listen thoroughly and investigate to find the cause. Everyone just focused on solving the problem in front of them. They targeted the effects.
Carlos took the time to put it all together. He focused on finding the cause.
The cause is not how I’m built. It’s how my body was trained.
It was trained, over time, to react in the fear response. That’s all it knows. Whether because of injuries or actual physical limitations that I had at one point, or a stress lifestyle, my body found ways to compensate. It lives in the stress response.
Now I’m working with Carlos to retrain my body.
For the first time in my life, I’m learning how to move functionally.
It’s like I’m finally getting the user manual to my body that I never received.
Including BREATHING. In our first session, Carlos gave me an exercise to do with a balloon. I couldn’t blow up the balloon.
It took me 3 sessions to blow up the balloon.
As you might imagine, this is frustrating at times. Basically my body is in a constant state of “freaking out” (that’s the technical term) because I’m introducing muscles to their proper roles. I’m waking up muscles that have been dormant for years. I’m not allowing my pecs, hip flexors, and neck to take over.
I’m breaking habits.
It’s a process of training the muscles how to do their job and simultaneously training the nervous system that “we’re ok.”
This forces me to bring together all the disciplines I’ve studied. It’s a combination of physical + spiritual + mental + emotional + energetic work. All at once.
This is the first in what will be a recurring series in which I’ll be sharing what I’m learning as I retrain my body. I’m already learning so much, which I plan to share in future articles as I go through this journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts, responses, and questions in the comments section.