Do you want to take charge of your health?
Have you been feeling lousy, stressed, achy? On a body-mind roller coaster? The good news is that you can do a lot for yourself, and it doesn’t hurt.
To start, exercise and movement improve health and mood. For example, movement even beats ice for injuries. Secondly, mental rehearsal and mindfulness are the new wave in elite sports training as well as healing. The third factor, which is less known, is to increase your awareness of sensation. With mindful movement, you improve health, balance emotions, and reduce pain. The bonus? More confidence, better outlook.
Mental imagery in athletics–body-mind with purpose
When we mentally rehearse, it creates much of the same body training responses as physical training. The Huffington post writes, “Former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlon runner Bruce Jenner once said, ‘You have to train your mind like you train your body.’ He’s echoing an athletic maxim that’s practically a cliché: sports are 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”
The Russians first introduced mental rehearsal by sweeping the Olympic gold medals in gymnastics. Since then, it has been used successfully to win at tennis, alpine skiing, by sprinters, and many more sports.
How does imagined movement train your body when you don’t actually move? Visualization is an advanced training technique in sports psychology. The brain areas that coordinate how you imagine, move, and feel are all connected. They project the movement plans through the nerves to the muscles. They also receive feedback from your body about whether the movement matches the plan. So your brain and body, in a split second, can assess the accuracy of the movement and simultaneously correct it. Thus, the muscles and nerves get trained to match the planning.
From sports to healing–the kinesthetic advantage
Like us, athletes also get hurt. Can those same principles help us heal? The New York Times in Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training gives an example. Emily Cook, of US freestyle ski team states, “One of the most important components of imagery is kinesthetic imagery. Actually feeling your body go through the motions.”
The NYT article continues:
“The psychologist Detling, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, worked with the aerialists here after working with the short-track speedskating team in 2010. Detling has collaborated with Cook since 2002, when Cook was recovering after a crash that left her with broken bones in both feet.
“Imagery has long been one of their focal points, and when Cook was in the midst of an injury layoff that lasted more than two years, she and Detling first used imagery to see and feel her bones heal.”
Are researchers applying this to healing? Yes. More and more. Mirror training and imagined movement are two examples. Researcher Lorimer Moseley developed Graded Motor Imagery. It trains your brain with simple exercises for even the most severe pain.
Other research has used mental imagery to improve recovery after a wrist was in a cast. Their muscles had less atrophy, and regained strength more quickly. The results support what Emily Cook was saying about kinesthetic imagery: not just to imagine a picture of movement, but also feel it happening.
Mindfulness and Body-Mind Healing
However, when we are in pain, or ill, or have experienced trauma, we often find focus and concentration more difficult. So body-mind training might be useful ahead of time. Where can we find it?
Mind-body relaxation techniques are one way. For example, Tai Chi, yoga, breath work and mindfulness or meditation relax the body and calm the mind. They also help to improve focus, reduce anxiety, and relieve depression.
So does massage and bodywork. However, the advantage of mindful bodywork practices is that the practitioner’s touch also helps you focus on sensation. That kinesthetic focus is the key. It enhances the benefits of mental imagery, imagined movement, and body-mind training.
Healing with Integration Massage
My main bodywork technique is Ortho-Bionomy®. It works with your body in the direction of ease and comfort. As one client states, “It makes me feel more relaxed, and better emotionally.” Your body-mind are connected. As the body relaxes out of pain and tension, the mind follows. From that relaxed state, you can project alternatives to the “fight or flight” mode that feeds forward into your life.
As well, I use a variety of other mindfulness practices to help you heal. I encourage mental imagery for healing. I teach you to use your breath to release stress. From Alexander Technique, and Hanna’s Somatics I developed Movement Education. You learn how to improve your body map. You release pain in your head, neck, shoulders and back. At the same time, you learn the patterns of posture that hold old beliefs and painful emotions. And you can then release them. Thus, you gradually free your body from negative thoughts, depression, and anxiety.
More recently, I have had advanced training in Cynthia Price’s well-researched Mindful Awareness in Bodywork Therapies (MABT). With a gentle touch I encourage your awareness of sensation, movement and breath to wake up areas of your body that need attention. This has been effective for people in pain, emotional distress, and suffering from trauma.
Please feel free to leave comments here. Or schedule an appointment: Schedule Appointment or call 503-708-2911. Let’s get moving again!
Ortho-Bionomy® is a registered trademark of the Society of Ortho-Bionomy International, and is used with permission.