As a Yoga teacher and massage therapist I’m fascinated by the body and neuroscience, and how the whole of who we are integrates and works! Let’s begin with Fascia because this is where the story starts in our bodies, this tangible part of ourselves that we can feel and move.
The Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers, connects, and holds the muscles, organs, and skeletal structures in our body. Fascia envelopes every structure in the body, each nerve, bone, muscle, organ of the body is surrounded by fascia. When we move, we move fascia!
Embedded in that fascia are millions of different types of mechanoreceptors that respond to pressure and movement. They connect the body to the brain in a 2 way conversation. Some of them respond to slow movements, and some of them respond to fast movements.
We can get in touch with the slow ones by engaging in slow mindful practices like Yoga and massage where we can take our awareness inside our bodies – this is called interoceptive awareness. The fast ones are great for our proprioception – our awareness of the position and movement of the body in space.
Proprioception exercise – Stand on one leg and you will quickly understand how fast these receptors are as your body makes superfast adjustments to stop you falling over!
Now for the neuroscience bit! In the model below Dr Perry is showing that deeper, more primitive parts of the brain, develop first and are the basis for our thoughts, feelings and behaviors that we develop later in life. The brain builds from the bottom up. The older parts are laid down first and that means that they are harder to change – they are less plastic. When we are dealing body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, as well as pain and inflammation we have to get down to the deeper levels of the brain – and we get there through the body.
A Psychiatrist from Scotland named Frank Corrigan has done some amazing work to help us understand how we can rewire deep brain patterning. This is particularly helpful if you are dealing with everyday stress or dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and behaviour loops. He says if you don’t slow down, you won’t get there. You’ll pass right by.
If you want to connect the conscious front brain (cortex) to the deeper parts of the brain in order to make changes, you have to go slow and you have to pay attention to sensations in the body (interoceptive awareness) because these are what inform deeper brain patterning.
As a Yoga teacher this is fascinating work! I am able to help my students slow down and notice the sensations in their bodies. We can rewire the brain one simple pose at a time by paying close attention to body and breath and moving with rhythm and flow… Look at how cats stretch out! We can also place our hands on our bodies with feelings of kindness and compassion, bringing even more awareness to different areas that might feel stuck. The breath is the bridge to the nervous system, and when combined with slow mindful movement it helps down regulate the nervous system from “fight or flight” characterised by stress, anxiety and discomfort in the body to “rest and digest” characterised by calm and ease in body and mind. Remember the advice to “take a deep breath” when we are feeling agitated and stressed out?
The same rules apply in massage therapy too, as the skin is covered in these same receptors that respond to different touch stimuli .
By going slow in our massage session we down regulate the nervous system. We can offer gentle soothing touch taking us back to patterns laid down in childhood.
Gentle rocking of the body reminds our deep brain of that safe time in the womb and being rocked as a child.
Gently stretching the body, and the sustained mindful touch of Thai Yoga Massage help the body/mind gently release stress and tensions held in the fascia – helping us to relax more deeply, triggering the “rest and digest” response that our body/mind thrives on.
A particularly innervated and important area is the back of the neck, helping us to connect to the deeper brain with soothing touch. Try my Heavenly Head Massage if you are super stressed!
The implications are endless and very helpful to manage the everyday stresses and strains that are a part of modern living. Chronic disease and auto immune conditions are on the rise and are strongly linked to a nervous system on high alert.
There has never been more need for slow mindful movement and body awareness. Add in a massage session for more benefits, and a tailor made Yoga plan to help you with your specific needs. Invest some time in your well-being to live a healthier happier life!
I hope to see you soon!