No one truly understands the full connection between your brain and body.
We discover new aspects and connections within the human body every day.
This is especially true with neuroscience, where it is constantly disproving itself, and fast...to the point where some information from only a few years ago we now know as completely false!
One thing we DO know, in both practice and theory: Your brain regulates what you can do based on the inputs it receives...to keep you safe from harm.
Your brain senses the situation based on input from several systems and decides YES, or NO.
A dire situation can override this normal neurological safety mechanism-- this is what allows a mother to access superhuman strength to lift a bus off her trapped child.
To be clear, your brain is holding you back as a safety mechanism that only restricts your power or range of motion because it believes the movement will cause damage.
This is why you feel pain in your hand when you touch something hot, before the skin is actually damaged. Thanks for that warning pain, brain!
To understand how your brain decides whether to give you maximum strength, or a pain in the shoulder, let’s look at the Neural Hierarchy of movement:
This is the ORDER of priority given to inputs from each system that your brain uses to determine:
Your nervous system isn’t going to give you more leg strength when it doesn’t even trust your balance according to the vestibular inputs.
In fact, if your vestibular system perceives threat/fear, it can respond by:
That’s actually true for any of the 3 systems (and more), but what’s important to know for now is that the vestibular system outranks your proprioceptive system (body sensations).
This is how a person can do everything right in training the muscles, but still have problems if they never stimulate the vestibular system appropriately.
This is also how you can unlock strength and mobility INSTANTLY if you give it the stimulus it needs.
Today I’m going to specifically discuss the Vestibular System, and how to give it what it needs to unlock strength and mobility.
If you want to learn how to optimize the full integration of all systems, I recommend you go through the full progressions in the Primal Athleticism program.
Your vestibular system is your 3-axis accelerometer and gravity detector. It’s often called your balance organ.
The way it works is stranger than fiction.
Your inner ear has a bony labyrinth with different chambers full of fluid.
The movement of this fluid stimulates tiny hairs that turn the movement into a nerve signal relative to the motion.
When you look at an image of the vestibular system, you’ll immediately notice the 3 semicircular canals.
You have 3 semicircular canals, each on a different axis (x,y,z) and determine your acceleration and orientation relative to gravity.
Surprisingly, this design has only slightly changed from fish to humans. Apparently balance is pretty important no matter what kind of 3-dimensional animal you are.
This is also the PRIMARY DEFICIT IN HUMANS!
Because we are often stationary and vertical, these canals lose their sensitivity, and the connection between the vestibular system, and the proprioceptive system deteriorates.
But, because we now understand that the brain is very plastic (changeable), we also know that we can restore and create new neural pathways for athletic movement.
It’s important to provide your vestibular system with the optimal stimulus every day.
This means we want:
Full, 3-axis range of motion, integrated with body control, through athletic positions.
Here’s how you do it:
Close eyes for supercharge
When you remove vision from the equation, the vestibular system and proprioceptive system are going to have larger shares of the “where am I and what’s happening” sense. You’ll also enhance the connection from the ground to your feet, and your feet to your brain.
Speed Kills (Or Cures)
Pro-Tip: Use a metronome and own the movements at both superslow and superfast speed. You will also have an easier time noticing any imbalance between left and right side, and have the opportunity to improve your connection in that position.
What’s next? Let’s progress!
The VOR: Head movement with Eye Fixation
A key integration of the visual and vestibular system is the VOR (Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex).
The best way to stimulate this is to simply fixate on a point (I like to use a word written on the wall) and move your head in the 3 planes.
You can increase the difficulty by progressing to full body-movements while keeping the detail of the visual fixation point/word.
The VOR is just one of drills I discuss in detail in Primal Athleticism.
It is challenging to capture the miraculous complexity of your vestibular system, and how it contributes to the even more magical symphony called BALANCE.
Yet, even this very basic overview is enough to change your body from fearful imbalance mode, to a relaxed and balanced athletic mode.
Even after 15 years of coaching, I am captivated by the magic of the nervous system, and how quickly it can change.
That is your greatest power, and the reason for all these systems in the first place:
To help you ADAPT.
To adapt and adjust based on a series of emerging situations.
If you cultivate these senses and systems, your body will adapt accordingly...into a superhuman version of yourself.
This way, all doors of physical activity and joyful movement are open to you.
Better every day,