Wheel of Dis-Ease flow binding, beginning with residual muscular tension and progressing to myofascial density, then to sensory motor amnesia and, finally, to fear-reactivity. Each stage progresses from the prior in a chronic loop of increasingly more bound flow.
Bound flow begins when we resist the natural course of events. This resistance is due to tension being stored in the muscles when not needed for activity.
Residual muscular tension relates to the presence of an unconsciously held partial contraction of muscles following prolonged periods of stress or activity. Residual muscular tension is the bane of every athletic training program because it interferes with rest, recovery, relaxation, and subsequent performance by disintegrating proper performance-related neurological coordination and function. It aches, limits movement capability, and eventually progresses to myofascial density. Myofascial density represents the inelastic, leathery straps of “fascial” connective tissue surrounding our muscles caused by dehydration, excess strain, trauma, and/or insufficient movement. The body is composed of an interconnected myofascial web: a “double bag system.” (Thomas Myers, Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, 2001.)
The “inner bag” contains bone and cartilage, and where it “cling wraps” the bone it’s called “periosteum.” Over the joints it’s called “joint capsule.” The “outer bag” contains an electric jelly we refer to as muscle and covering it is what we call “fascia” (and other names, but let’s keep this simple). Where that outer bag is tacked down to the inner bag is what we call “muscle attachments,” or “insertion points.” Our bones and joints “float” in a sea of continuous tension, and our bones act as compressive struts pushing outwards while this web pulls inward in a unique balance that Buckminster Fuller named tensegrity (or “integrity of tension”).
Thus when we condition the tissues to hold in a particular way that is not antigravitationally efficient, the fascia lays down thick, leathery straps to hold itself in place. This then accounts for the immobility of most people who repeat any form of stress – work, family, or even training – and can result in sensory motor amnesia, and reinforce fear reactivity. Through mobility we can reopen the density and restore fluid flow, function, and connections with the sensory motor system.
Sensory motor amnesia is a phrase coined by renowned therapist Thomas Hanna in the book Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health: “This is a condition in which the sensory motor neurons of the voluntary cortex have lost some portion of their ability to control all or some of the muscles of the body. Sensory motor amnesia occurs neither as an organic lesion of the brain nor of the musculoskeletal system; it occurs as a functional deficit whereby the ability to contract a muscle group has been surrendered to sub cortical reflexes. These reflexes will chronically contract muscles at a programmed rate – ten percent, thirty percent, sixty percent, or whatever – and the voluntary cortex is powerless to relax these muscles below that programmed rate. It has lost and forgotten the ability to do so.” In essence, SMA is a “forgotten” and “ignored” habitual pattern of muscular contraction somewhere in the body. It can have a tremendous effect on all aspects of our health, strength, fitness, and performance. For most people, this will make no “sense” until we can sense what we have lost. Basically, we don’t miss what we can’t remember. As we will see, there is hope. There are tools, methods, processes, and programs that will help dust off the cobwebs covering our natural grace, poise, and energy.
Sensory motor amnesia (as well as RMT and MD) can progress to feaNeactivity through the avoidance syndrome. If it hurts to move in a certain way, then we consciously or unconsciously tend to avert from the pain. However, like any form of conditioning, the more we do something, the more we make that activity repeatable. And once we make that activity repeatable, we “progress.”
Fear-reactivity means a trauma-created and/or -reinforced disintegration of our breathing, movement, and structural alignment. Kinetic chains of tension refers to a muscle-to-muscle linkage of tension, which forms from any action. Imagine when we walk, as the left leg heel impacts, a chain of tension forms up our left leg, across our pelvis, and up our right side to our right arm.
Often the original source of the issue (where the impact originally embedded) creates an irradiation of tension, producing a site of injury, pain, or limited range of motion in another area. The muscles between the source and the site are a kinetic chain of tension. They are kinetic and not “potential” because although we may not be structurally moving, the muscle remains contracting (residual muscular tension).
Often health professionals treat only the various sites and never get to the source of the issue. In general, sports medicine doctors and musculoskeletal therapists are the best choices to consult when we have these issues because they look at the body as an inextricably intertwined organism.
Through movement exploration we can locate and release these chains of tension. When we address only the site, we may resolve the issue there, but it can recede to a more prior point along the chain (not always all the way back to the source). And if it is left unaddressed, a later dramatic or sudden loading may cause a new site to manifest. This is where people start to condition themselves to believe that they are injury prone.
In the deepening of our daily personal practice, we will find that we can chase the tension from site to site to source and resolve the kinetic chain of tension that way. Sometimes if we listen to our intuition, we can use the images and feelings as “satellites” to detect the source issue and go directly to it – resolving it at the beginning.
But once on the path and understanding the tools, we can do this on our own. We just cannot be attached to our expectations. We must go on our “hunches” and try not to think it out but rather draw hypotheses from inductive conclusions. This is the subtle evolution of vinyasa to prasara through daily deepening of one’s personal practice.
Using incrementally sophisticated joint mobility exercises we can observe and experience restrictions in certain planes that aren’t necessarily observed or experienced in conventional planes of movement. Examine the “quadrants,” approaching the end range of the quadrants to determine the degrees of freedom.
“For example, we can reach the terminal combined motion of right side bending and flexion by either side bending first or flexing first. This allows a quick scan to see which side lumbar joints are the restricting limiters of motion. That is, if we cannot right side bend and flex but we can left side bend and flex, then it appears that lumbar facet on the left cannot ‘open.’ If we reach an end range in one way but not the other, then we’ve identified an ‘issue.’ Some type of intra joint dysfunction inhibits that degree of freedom because in a healthy joint it should not matter in which direction we approach end range.” (Coach Jarlo llano, PT, CST, RMAX International, June 2004.) When we do find a site or a source, just remember that it is our nervous system’s defensive mechanism. It is a genetic gift to have this ability to protect us when things go awry, or when movements deviate from the expected. We need to be patient and compassionate with ourselves. We need to tell the area that we appreciate the work that it did, that it fulfilled its job description and doesn’t need to do anymore, and that it’s now time to heal. Then we need to exhale into the area, and smile. Movement heals from that point forward. Compensatory exercise is the concept of counter-conditioning adaptations that have led to imbalance and is determined through the six degrees of freedom. Stored emotional insulation refers to what happens when areas remain unmoved and fearreactivity, density, and motor amnesia creep in. Muscle atrophies, adipose accumulates, fascia thickens, synovial fluid decreaseslcartilage dehydrates, and nerves/sensory organs diminish in strength. It becomes progressively more difficult to move that area – hence the emotional releases that often result from reopening it.
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