The basics of neurophysiology to help trainers and riders
The central nervous system is responsible for the movements and posture of a person. This is an indisputable fact in neurophysiology. But the usual misconception, riders and sports trainers, is the belief that muscles are responsible for all movements. It is important to understand that muscles do nothing without brain commands: they do not strain, they do not relax.
Muscle control goes in two ways: the first, the ancient – unconscious or automatic, the second – conscious or strong-willed. The first is the ancient structures of the brain – the subcortex, it stores innate and acquired reflexes, the second – the cortex, the young part of the brain, it contains intelligence, learning, will. Most actions in life are performed without hesitation, that is, automatically. The power of automatism is great, it always helps a person to survive in extreme conditions: to avoid danger, to find food … Even when you brush off a mosquito, that automatism turns on without requiring your attention, will and awareness. But when it is necessary to hunt for a mosquito, to catch it, the cerebral cortex is turned on and helps to find the optimal solution.
The central nervous system carries out the genetic program of human uprightness, maintaining balance and balance, forming posture. This is the functioning of the automatic structures of the brain. What will be the posture depends on many circumstances: living conditions, profession, sports, diseases, breathing patterns, etc. Due to the current lifestyle, which is dominated by offices, cars, computers and stresses, the pathological elements of posture prevail: stoop, shoulder blades- wings, vulture’s neck, tightened sacrum, curved lower back, sedentary pelvis, constrained hip joints, deformed feet, etc. Now even teenagers do not have freedom of movement and already have complaints of pain.
Now imagine that such a person mounts a horse.
To a greater or lesser extent, a natural reaction in anyone is alertness and tension. The feeling of insecurity does not allow you to relax, no matter how the coach advises, and all the disadvantages of posture are multiplied. Therefore, the beginner’s hands jump, the heel creeps up, the head goes to the shoulders. He doesn’t get into the horse’s rhythm, pulls her mouth, clings to his knees and kicks with dangling legs. The rider shakes, causing pain. This is the “face of fear.” The automatism of the nervous system works, trying to protect a person from danger.
When the desire to learn to ride a horse is stronger than discomfort, then the student, of course, tries in every possible way to fulfill the trainer’s commands. For example, if he is slouching, he will try to straighten his shoulders by force. But, unfortunately, the more diligently the rider pulls his shoulders back, the more violently the muscles that twist them forward resist. In conditions of danger, instability, automatism is stronger than will. Conscious impulses from the cortex come into severe conflict with impulses from the subcortical structures, and the shoulder blade and shoulders are stuck with a stake. The horseman becomes numb and no longer able to follow the instructions of the coach. The situation is similar to the one as if locomotives were attached to the car from different sides and at the same time began to drag it in different directions. But this will never be allowed on the railway? And in sports, they often struggle with their own bodies. Apparently we are very accustomed to work through force. Only in horseback riding is there a reverent and sensitive observer – a horse to which tension and restriction of movement are transmitted. This riding is unique as a sport.
So, if you want to correct the horseman’s stoop, it is wiser to first “detach the locomotive” of the pectoral and trapezius muscles. But it’s easy to say, but how to do it? The solution was proposed by Moshe Feldenkrais many years ago. A mathematician, physicist, martial artist, at first intuitively understood the pointlessness of compelling him to correct posture, and later neurophysiologists confirmed a brilliant find.
Feldenkrais developed Lessons for independent implementation and the methodology of Functional Integration of the motor system, performed by a specialist of the Feldenkrais method. Both options are very different from regular massage and gymnastics. This is a special, clever practice. In the Movement Lessons, they are performed lying, with a small amplitude and speed, exploring all the details and looking for the capabilities of the body. They are very effective, but the impact of Functional Integration on the order of magnitude is more powerful. At the Functional Integration session, the feldenkrais practitioner / trainer determines the operating “locomotives”, “unhooks” them with delicate techniques and then expands the range of movements. The session is carried out in comfortable conditions to the smallest detail: without undressing a person, warm, lying on a spacious couch or floor. This minimizes the automatic habitual reflexes, and the nervous system is included in the perception. The student’s condition at this moment is outwardly passive, but the cortex of his brain is actively learning to switch “locomotives”, remembers a new picture and transfers information to the subcortex. Experience shows that many adults discover body relaxation and previously unknown freedom of movement only in such a session. These are childhood memories.