Move from the spine not with the head

April 7, 2016


Deep breathing is an excellent way of neutralising your Fight and Flight response.  Firstly, focusing on the breath will make you less likely to unleash your reptilian brain (R-Brain).  In addition, deep breathing will facilitates brain body synchrony, speed up your reaction time and improve your mental performance.  


Part of the reason for this is that the heart follows the breath.


An even more powerful way of neutralising the R-brain Fight and Flight response is by synchronizing your breathing with slow natural movement sequences.  This is so because the heart follows the breath follows the movement. 


Anatomy and physiology gives us additional insights.


The famous 19th century French neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot, concluded that the execution of movement involves 2 centers, one located in the cerebral cortex and the other in the spinal cord


Charcot came to this conclusion based on his meticulous physical examinations of patients and subsequently performing autopsies. 


This enabled him to pinpoint the exact location of the nervous system damage that related to the neurological symptoms his patients had presented with.


The question we may ask ourselves is which of these two centers - cerebral cortex or spinal cord - is the most important for movement? Under normal circumstances the two centers works best in tandem, but what if the chips are down and Fight and Flight takes full control. 


This is when the movement center seated in the spinal cord – coordinated by the R-brain - seemingly takes full control. While this is productive and has good survival value when the threat is real, the Fight and Flight mode is actually extremely wasteful - both from a bodily resources perspective AND from a health perspective - when dealing with situations that are not imminently life threatening.


Our Fight and Flight defensive behaviour (our preeminent motivated behaviour) is coordinated by the R-brain via the reticulo-spinal nerves that activates the spinal cord central pattern generators (CPGs). The CPGs effect locomotion, i.e. rhythmic repetitive movements like walking, running and swimming.


These same reticulo-spinal nerves also drive things like breathing rate, blood pressure and the heart rate to match our cardiovascular system's output to our locomotor needs. Essentials for muscle contraction like fuel, oxygen and blood. 


Crucially, if the R-brain is in Fight or Flight mode, the respective feed-backs from the breathing rate and blood pressure rhythms into the heart are completely ignored. 


Rather than listening to feedback from other bodily systems, the heart is driven exclusively by the Thinking brain's commands to the R-brain.


In this scenario the only information impacting the heart is the monotonous, single-minded command from the Thinking brain, urging the R-brain and body to go harder! 


Throwing more bodily resources than necessary at a demanding situation, via indiscriminate use of adrenaline and cortisol, leads to remodeling of the heart, the chemical receptors in the brain and other vital organs like the liver, kidney & blood vessels, which eventually ends up damaged and diseased.


The simplest solution is not to set the R-brain off in the first place. This comes down to focusing your thought patterns,a  constant awareness of correct body posture and practicing deep relaxation via natural movement sequences that incorporate ancient Martial Art teachings like Qigong and Tai Chi.


The overall effect of executing posturally correct movement sequences via the spine, is that there is a transfer of excessive stressor mediated nervous energy in the heart into the spinal CPGs for execution of movement instead.


This is so because the reticulo-spinal nerves will be engaged in movement execution rather than unnecessarily activating the R-brain Fight and Flight system. In addition the movement will facilitate the release of appropriate feel-good chemicals into the circulation.


Most importantly, by focusing on the posturally correct movement sequence, both the Thinking brain and the R-brain have a common goal and become synchronised, thereby preventing mental interference.  This synchronised action will make you feel safe in your body, it will transfer the nervous energy out of your heart and viscera and improve your immune function.




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