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Workshop #1334

Neuroscience and Exercise

3 hr 10 min - Workshop


Mind the Movement – Improving Neurological Conditions and Enhancing Performance

Pilates is considered mind-body exercise. But what does that really mean? In this enlightening workshop, Pilates teacher (and MS patient) Mariska Breland will take you through a basic understanding of the central nervous system, the role of sensory and motor systems to control and refine movement, the fascinating phenomenon of mirror neurons, brain maps, and the homunculus, and how our growing understanding of neuroplasticity is a game-changer for movement professionals and exercisers alike. Specific applications and exercises will be included for working with neurological conditions and brain injury, but the understanding of how to truly harness the power of the mind-body connection can improve the performance of any student or athlete.


- To think beyond the muscles, joints, and ligaments to what is happening in the central nervous system to actually initiate and control movement

- Learn exercises that demonstrate the mind-body connection

- Learn about different neurological conditions and the shortcomings in healthy individuals

- Learn ways to improve the function of the central nervous system through exercise

What You'll Need: No props needed

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Jan 31, 2014
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As Pilates teachers, we know a lot about anatomy, but we don't really learn how the brain plays a role in movement. This workshop talks a lot about neuroscience. It's a workshop that's designed to help people learn ways to connect their brain and their body for greater neurological function and also exercise performance. If you have the ability to really harness the power of your mind in movement, then you can reach past limits that you didn't think you could reach past. The power of the central nervous system is immense.

It's extremely complicated and it can't be undervalued. Every one of us is not living up to our full potential. I teach this workshop because it's very personal to me. I have MS, and I've seen a lot of neurological clients and I've seen how far they can come once they really figure out how to exercise for them and for their bodies. And that that work isn't something that's just limited to people with neurological conditions.

That's something that anyone can do. We do have a lot of exercises incorporated in this workshop. There's nothing that you can't take and modify for using at home, whether or not you have any Pilates equipment. It's not very technical. It's not something that's going to be above your abilities.

It's practical uses for the mind body connection.

Chapter 1


So welcome everyone, I'm so glad you're here. This is my workshop, Mind the Movement. I actually designed this workshop for Pilates Anytime, the subtitle is improving neurological function and exercise performance. I think that they really go hand in hand, and a lot of times people think that if you're going to have a neuroscience workshop, that you're going to be talking a lot about neurological injuries, which obviously we will, but I think that this information is valuable for all of you and all of your clients and I hope that when you leave this and know a little bit more about the anatomy of the brain and the nervous system, which I think is overlooked in most of our anatomy trainings, I hope that it will give you some pause or something to think about.

So first, when we look at these pictures, we think of this is mind-body exercise. We think of yoga and we think of Tai Chi and we think of Pilates as well. And the reason that we think that is because this always been told, like this is mind-body exercise, but have we really taken a moment to pause and think about what does that actually mean? Is it a spiritual experience? Is it something that maybe we feel more connected to the movement and in other movement practices, are we more concerned about like being in the moment than we are with the outcome of the exercise?

So it's less about getting tight abs and more about having like some sort of emotional connection to the movement, but what about this kind of movement? So it's like boxing and just regular pushups and running, this is not what we think about when we think about mind-body exercise. It's not usually linked to it, but I'm pretty sure that if someone was punching me in the face, I would be having a mind body experience at that moment. I know that people have a runner's high and that would definitely be a mind body type experience. And I would say that absolutely any kind of exercise that you do could be mind-body exercise, because any movement is a very complex dance from the brains through axons down the spinal cord and back up again, every single time you move every movement that you make.

It's so complicated there we're still just figuring it out. And a lot of the science that I'm talking about today is from the '90s or it's from the 2000s. It's like, that's how new it is because we're just figuring out how the brain and the body really are communicating and how we can harness that for greater changes with our clients. So Keida, what did you have for breakfast this morning? I had vegan French toast.

She had vegan French toast, that's very interesting. So how do you know that you had vegan French toast for breakfast? I guess I had to recall the event and the actions that I went through to have her vegan French toast. So she said that she has to recall the event and the actions that she went through to have her vegan French toast this morning. But what's interesting about any kind of a memory that we have is I can't go into Keida's brain dissected and find vegan French toast in there.

Maybe some of the cells have like transported there, but there's really no vegan French toast memory that I can pull out of her brain. And that memory is not stored in just like the memory section, it's like it's being pulled together. It was brought back up by the question that I asked and we don't understand that much about it. And I think that's very fascinating thing that we can ask a simple question, like what was your breakfast? And we don't know.

But there's so much power in trying to find a little bit more out about that. So what I ask you to think about today is that this is mind-body exercise. So the highlighted portion on the brain to your left is the motor cortex. So if you were a monkey with electrodes in your brain, and I stimulated one of those electrodes, I could make your hand move for instance. That is not mind body movement that is just movement.

If I said, for instance to everyone, just lift up your arm. So just lift up your arm. So that was probably not really a big mind body experiential moment. But if I say lift up your arm and draw down your shoulder blade and rotate your thumb up towards the ceiling, feeling your lap, pulling your arm down slightly, and now focus on how the sensation from the left side of your shirt feels on your rib cage while you're doing that movement. That's more of a mind, body kind of experience.

So if you're moving and you're getting a mind-body experience out of that movement, you're not using just the motor cortex. Yes, you're using the motor cortex, but you're also using all of these other areas like the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that's responsible for volition. So the choice that you made to listen to me and move your arm, which might I say took you to the second time. So all of you made the choice not to listen to me on the first one, but then you did it on the second one. So there's the choice that you have to make the movement or to not make the movement.

You also have the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, and that's where attention is. So if you're paying attention to me, maybe you're moving that way or maybe you're moving better. Or if you have a student, maybe they're moving better because they're paying better attention to what you're saying. There's also the anterior cingulate, which is that part sort of in the midbrain is actually really deep in the brain. And that's an interesting part of the brain because it has a role in reward, anticipation and emotion.

So if you feel like you're gonna get something out of moving your arm, the way I told you to move your arm, you're gonna be more likely to have a mind body experience in that movement. Then we also have the basal ganglia, which is also in the center and that's involved in both motor aspects and also in reward and motivation and something that's really fascinating about that part of the brain is that if we were, for instance, to have you do a movement where you're overcoming a fear, that part of your brain is going to light up like a Christmas tree and that movement that you have would be something that you would have more wired into your brain because you got a huge shot of dopamine, which we'll talk about a little bit more and then you'll have the cerebellum, which coordinates movement. So you're not just lifting your arm and it's not just your arms not just lifting up, it's being coordinated with other things. So why is it that I care about neuroscience, most people ski or do something like that's a hobby, that's a little bit more entertaining. I find this very entertaining, but I found Pilates through chronic illness in a hot guy.

And so it sort of takes, it's a two part story. And I would love to say that the hot guy was doing Pilates and therefore inspired me to do Pilates, but that would not be true. So sort of starts back in 2002. And I had numb feet for about six months and didn't think much of it. I thought maybe I had like a pinched nerve or something.

And then all of a sudden, I couldn't really grip with my left hand and I was just dropping things all the time. Then I got double vision, then I couldn't walk. And so all these things were just sort of piling onto each other. And I ended up in an ophthalmologist office, a neuro ophthalmologist office and a neurologist's office, and ultimately was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and that was 2002. So at the time I couldn't run, which was sort of my exercise of choice.

And when I asked my doctor what physical activity he recommended, he said, mind-body exercise. And so he was like, well, you could do Pilates, or you could do yoga. And I actually gravitated a little more to yoga before I, its not I didn't do Pilates at the same time, but yoga was something that sort of inspired me probably a little bit more. And I started doing a little more Pilates to get better at yoga. So I wanted to have better arm balances, I wanted to have better inversions and Pilates is obviously really beneficial to that in this time frame, probably around 2003, I was dating a guy who is younger and very, very attractive.

And we broke up and we worked together. So I still had to see him, we worked in television and he was my photographer. And so he went on this one shoot where I was interviewing someone I don't even remember who. And you know when you sit down I don't care how thin you are. There's a little something and he pointed that out and there was a little more something than than there is today, but he pointed that out.

And I remember being so mortified. I thought, oh God, I really need to do more Pilates. So I started doing more Pilates then. So thank you to that guy, who's no longer in my life, but I ended up getting a little bit more involved in Pilates. And I started thinking a little bit more about what's happening to me and how is my brain being messed up to where I can't do things that I used to be able to do.

In 2004, my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. See if I can get through this one. So she actually passed away from a brain tumor in her left temporal lobe, which is the part of your brain that controls language. So for her she lost the ability to communicate. So it was very fascinating and horrible at the same time, because you have a part of the brain that controls something as simple as understanding that this is a phone or this is a book or whatever and she knew still the concept of it, but she didn't know, she couldn't find the word for it.

So it was actually a very sad way to go that you have somebody who's, you have such a vibrant person and then like something like a brain tumor, takes all of that away. So got more interested in sort of how the brain and the body were connecting at that time. And then just sort of casually I was studying it. And then as Christie said, when she was introducing me, I wrote a blog post that ended up on Pilates Anytime about doing Pilates for MS. And then that blog post was read by Carolyn Anthony, who was one of my teachers.

And she asked me if I had considered designing a Pilates for MS training program, which ultimately I ended up doing and it's 300 pages long. So it was not a small endeavor. And so I did that. And then in doing the research for that book, I found my way looking into stroke and looking into Parkinson's and looking into all these other different neurological conditions and saw sort of a uniform lack of information for people who are exercise, either exercisers or people who teach exercise, because the link tended to be that if you had a neurological condition, you would get exercises for weak people. So you wouldn't get exercises that were necessarily specific for, well, this is the neurological problem, and this is the neurological potential solution.

It was, well, these people can barely move, so let's barely move them. And there was a lot of very low expectations. And I think that that is really unfortunate. And the that's sort of something that happens with doctors as well. I was telling Francine earlier this morning, the story that happened probably two months ago, that I went to a podiatrist for plantar fasciitis, who said, well, we probably don't want to do anything about it because you have MS and it's probably just going to get worse.

So I'm like, okay, so you're not going to have any treatment because there's like a reason that possibly things might get worse. And then he also threw out that he's like, well, it's kind of ironic that you're a Pilates teacher who got MS. And I'm like, well, but actually I had MS first, but it's not like one is causative of the other. So there's just a lot of really bad medical advice out there for people who have neurological conditions. And I think that the beauty of you as instructors is that you can sort of bridge the gap in what's missing, because what people are often told is really don't do much take it easy.

And that's exactly the opposite thing of what you should actually be doing if you want to have changes not only happening in your body, but changes also happen in your brain. So our objective today is to think past what we usually think of as movement teachers, which are muscles, joints, and ligaments, and think about what's happening in the central nervous system to actually initiate that movement and control that movement. So the power of the central nervous system is immense. It's extremely complicated and it can't be undervalued. So I would say that every one of us is not living up to our full potential.

And if you have the ability to really harness the power of your mind in movement, then you can reach past limits that you didn't think you could reach past. And that's not only for people who have chronic neurological conditions or acute neurological conditions, that's for any one of us who's moving. So today we're going to discuss first a little bit about the central nervous system sort of CNS 101. We'll talk about sensory input and motor output. We will talk about some neurological conditions.

I won't get super specific into any of them. I'll probably talk a little bit more about MS just because I can talk about it from a personal point of view. And I'll talk about some things that I've had clients have had certain problems. We'll talk about neurological shortcomings in healthy individuals, because they're actually more common than you might think or recognize. And then we'll talk about ways to improve the function of the central nervous system through exercise.

And then we'll practice exercises that demonstrate how the mind and body are connected. We'll also talk about methods that you can build connections through the brain and the body, how to work with single side weakness, which is not always neurological. That could be someone had sprained ankle that they're recovering from, or knee surgery that they're recovering from, and like neurologically what tends to work best. Ways that you can teach the brain and then my personal favorite ways that you can trick the brain, because I think tricking the brain is really cool. And I think it's interesting that you can do it.

Chapter 2

The Communication Network

So we're gonna start talking about the communication network. So we're going to go from the simplest unit of energy transfer in the brain and also through the nerves, and that's the neuron, which is a nerve cell. So what you see there as you'll see an, a nerve cell and then another nerve cell, and they usually describe them as a pre-synaptic neuron and a post-synaptic neuron. And it just means that the pre-synaptic neuron is before synapse and the postsynaptic neuron is after the synapse. And then the post-synaptic neuron will be a pre-synaptic neuron for the next neuron in the chain.

So in this, we have that the synapse connects to the dendrites, which are that little, this looks a little bit like a tree branch that comes off. So the dendrite is how the information or the energy gets into the cell, and then you have the cell body, and then the information or energy gets out of the cell by traveling along an axon, which is a myelinated fiber, and myelin is for people with MS, it's what's damaged. So it's sort of an insulation that makes the signal travels smoothly. It's not an MS only thing that has a myelination problem, there's a lot of peripheral nerve diseases where you have problems with myelin. And you can think of it as the input zone for that energy is the dendrite and the cell body.

And then you have the conducting zone where the energy is transferred, is the axon and the myelin. And then the output zone for that energy is the synapse. And then the axon terminals or where the axon ends. So axons are sometimes super, super, super tiny, like one millionth of millimeters like super small, but they can also be incredibly long. So you can have an axon that starts in the motor cortex of your brain, like right at that top part of your brain that travels all the way down your spinal cord to your leg.

So there's some fibers that are, I don't know, it's a couple of feet long in your body. So some of them are really huge and some of them are really tiny. Now, the way that energy is transferred from one nerve cell to another nerve cell is going to be either through an electrical signal or a neurotransmitter. Most of the energy that's transferred through your body happens through neuro-transmitters. So we talk a lot about dopamine.

We'll talk a lot about that specific neurotransmitter today, but there's GABAA is another one. There are several others, but the neurotransmitter that's chemical neurotransmitter they're the most common, but the most precise are the electrical signals. So when it's just actually like an electrical zap from one cell to the other, that's going to be the the most precise. And so for things like hormones, they tend to be electrical signals because you want your dose, that your body gives you to be a very precise dose. And what you need to understand is that when neurons fire, a lot of times, they don't work.

So you have thousands and thousands and thousands of neurons firing, and a lot of them are failing. So it's not like every single time a neuron sends something through to another neuron it doesn't work all the time. In fact, it doesn't work quite a lot of the time. So you need a lot of neurons working together for things to actually be happening. I'm sure you've heard white matter and gray matter.

So white matter in the brain is the myelin that is that protective coating around axons. And then also you have cells that are called glial cells, which are also in the gray matter. So the glial cell is the cell that does all the other stuff. So you'll have vascular cells of blood cells, but then you also have the glial cells, which do things like make myelin. So you'll have glial cells, we'll talk about them a little bit more because there's an interesting little tidbit of information about Einstein that talks about his glial cells.

And then in the gray matter, you have the cell body. So it's basically the cells and all of that is lined up in parallel pieces. So you'll have cell bodies, myelin, cell body myelin, and then will all be parallel. So it looks something like this. So if you have information traveling along the axon, so to see the light sort of traveling along the axons to the other cell body, where it shoots out and travels along the axons to another cell body, and that's how information is traveling from one place to another.

And then this is the brain, obviously, I think that's what we all think about when we think about the central nervous system. It is the most complex thing in our body, and it's quite possibly the most complex thing in the entire universe. It can see and feel it can sense pain and mediate. It can contemplate your existence, it can think about God. It can think about what you're going to have for breakfast tomorrow.

It has a huge amount of capacity to keep getting more information and keep learning more information, and it can also be injured. It can be damaged in other ways, it can fail to live up to its full potential. And like I said, I think we all are failing to live up to our full potential, probably not intentionally, but there's always more that we can do to connect how our brain and our body are talking to each other. So the brain weighs about three pounds, I have not personally felt a brain, but I'm told they feel a little bit like a jello shot. So it's not a very heavy thing for as important as it is in the body.

It's only two to 3% of the entire mass of the body, but it uses 25% of the body's energy, which has a lot of energy to be using for something so small, but as important as it is, I guess it makes sense. It contains a hundred billion neurons give or take, I don't think they've tried to dissect it and count them out exactly 'cause that's a really high number, but just for a point of reference, a hundred billion would be about equal to the amount of people that have lived ever. So all the people that have ever been on the planet is bout a hundred billion. The number of permutations of possible neuronal connections, and by that, I mean that this neuron could form a synapse with this neuron and this neuron performance synapse with this neuron, the number of possible permutations of that exceeds the number of particles in the universe and their guesstimate is that it's about a hundred trillion, which I had to actually look up on the internet to make sure I got that right. And had the right number of zeros because that is a lot of numbers, a lot of zeros after a hundred trillion.

So one thing that I've always been curious about the brain is why is it so wrinkled? I've always thought it looked a little bit like a piece of chewed up gum that somebody just took out and put to the side, but the wrinkles are actually very important. You have a limited amount of space in your skull and you have a very complicated machine in that very limited amount of space. As we have evolved over millennia, we have gotten more wrinkles in our brain because our brains have grown, but somehow our skulls didn't keep up with them. So I guess this package, somebody liked that package, but the brain needed to keep getting bigger.

So as it got bigger, it got more wrinkled. So the lumpy parts are called the gyrus. And so if you're learning like neuroanatomy, you learn what each of the lumpy parts in the brain is. And then the little, I guess the wrinkles or the dents in the brain are called, it's a sulcus. So wait, if you're learning neuroanatomy, it'll be like, this is the central sulcus and this is the frontal whatever gyrus and there'll be very complicated names.

But that's basically what it is and the wrinkles actually allow there to be a lot more surface area of the brain and more surface area means there can be more neurons. So if we took the brain out and we smashed it out and we tried to flatten it, it would clearly be much bigger than what it is when it's all kind of wrinkled up the way it is. And it can always be fed with more information, which I'm sure you know, since you have all paid continuing education credits to learn this information. So I think we're all probably feeding it a lot. So the functions of the brain are mostly fixed sort of, but that's a lot of that's up for debate because things can move around, they used to think it couldn't move around, but in general, this is where stuff happens in the brain.

All brains are gonna be different and it's really based on the experiences of the user. So if I borrowed your brain and swapped out brains and it was in my body for a while and I gave it back to you, it would be a different brain than if you just kept your brain because it's what the experiences you've taken it through will change it. But in general, we have areas that control vision and language and sensation and movement. And we're going to really focus mostly today on sensation and movement. How do we know the brains are so unique?

My favorite story in all of neuroscience is the story of Albert Einstein and Thomas Stoltz Harvey. Does anyone know this story at all? I feel like it's strange that somehow in history, it's not been discussed more because it's so fascinating to me. In 1955 Einstein died and Thomas Stoltz Harvey was the pathologist that did the autopsy on Einstein. So the same day per his request, that Einstein died and had his autopsy done, his body was cremated and his ashes were scattered somewhere that his family knows about and we don't know about, but for some reason, which doesn't seem to be they had permission, Thomas Stoltz, Harvey took Einstein's brain and kept it.

So the body went to the crematorium and Einstein's brain went on a multi-decade world tour with Thomas Stoltz Harvey. What he did first was he took about several hundred pictures, I think the number was about 600 photos of Einstein's brain and then he dissected it. So this was all still right after Einstein had died. And he had it carried around in a jar from aldehyde when he left Princeton Hospital where he was working for the next several decades. And if you were a neuroscientist that he thought had something really interesting to offer, he might send you a piece of Einstein's brain to study.

So some people had the ability to study some of Einstein's brain. So because Thomas Harvey stole it, we have a lot of information about how it was different. And we can all imagine that probably it would be different because Einstein was Einstein and surely he must have a different brain than the rest of us and in fact, he does. So when I was talking about that you have in your brain, in addition to the regular neurons, that you also have glial cells and glial cells are sort of the energy producers and they sort of handle all the cleanup and all the metabolic functions that they need to, to keep those neurons happy. He had more glial cells than the average person.

So it seems like his brain maybe took a little bit more computing power than yours, or my brain would take. He also had some differences in some of the gyruses, which are those again, those bumps that come out in the brain, the parts that stick up. So he had one part that there was like a sharp turn. And I can't remember if it was in the right or left hemisphere, but that sharp turn in this one gyrus is seen in people who learned to play violin at a young age. And so Einstein was a violin player and he learned when he was really young.

And if I took someone else who was a violin player and I dissected their brain or did an MRI of their brain, I would find that same curve that I don't have because I didn't play the violin. But if I played the piano, which I did, but I don't know if I played it enough to make a brain change, I would have a similar different curve on the other side of my brain. So they could find out things that were sort of carried out in Einstein's brain that they would see in other people's brains. He was missing one of the sulcuses. So there's a groove that he doesn't have.

And so it seemed that maybe he had faster processing because the information nor the energy didn't have to go down and up. It could go kind of straight through. So maybe his brain worked a little bit faster than the rest of ours. And then additionally, it was 15% wider. So it was in fact, a bigger brain and the areas that were more developed in Einstein's brain were the parietal lobes, and that is where math and visual information is carried out.

Now not everybody's brain is as unique as Einstein's brain, but everybody's brain is unique. So the brain that you have now is not the brain

Chapter 3

The Changing Brain

that you were born with, I'm sure that's not a big surprise to you, but genetically everybody's brains differ and they're all shaped by our life experiences. So when you're born, I think the best way to describe you is you're a hot mess. Like if you've ever held a newborn baby, I think hot mess is a really good descriptor. And one of the reasons that they are such a hot mess is that they can't tell where you're touching them.

Like they can tell that they're being touched, but they have yet to develop that part of their brain map that says I'm being touched on my arm, I'm being touched on my hand, I'm being touched on my face. So they have a very limited amount of knowledge in that and all of that has to be mapped. So as you touch a baby repeatedly on a certain part, their brain will start to know arm, face. So that's how the brain develops. In addition they don't know the meaning behind sensations.

So if a baby has pain, they don't know, Oh, well this will be so much better once I eat, they just no pain. So they don't have the ability yet to make the connections that make them less of a hot mess. And then of course they can't walk, they can't talk and they hardly ever ask you how your day went, they're very selfish, but over time they get a little bit better because they learn to record information, store it, and then start to make connections with that information that they get. So in the developing brain, we talked about how, if a baby is touched, that's how they learn. So it's called the somatosensory cortex, basically you have the motor cortex and the somato sensory cortex, the second is basically touch and that's how it learns, it learns through touch experiences.

Eventually every section of your skin in a healthy brain will be represented in the cortical maps. So on the top of your head where your sensory or somato sensory cortex is it will all be mapped out eventually the brain also has to learn to be selective though. So it's not overwhelmed 'cause when you're born, you have neurons firing, but all these cortical areas are all overlapping. So it's an important thing to learn, to not pay attention to something, because you're getting all of this information being plugged into your body and could you imagine if every time you were going through life, you were feeling your clothes on your skin. Like that would be really annoying if that was the constant, you also have after touch other brain regions become more functional, touch happens first, and then you get other brain regions, including the motor cortex.

And then you can reach a point in development where action requires no thought, which sounds like a really great idea. And most of the time, it is a really great idea, but no, that bad behavior is as easy to have become unconscious behavior as good behavior. So it all kind of comes down to learning. And if you're gonna compare learning movement to learning a language, it's actually a very similar process. If you're learning a language, you're gonna change the structure and function of your brain itself and learning movement does that.

If you're learning a language, there are gonna be repeated attempts. So you'll try to pronounce something, it's not gonna quite work. And then you try again and it starts getting better. And that's the same thing with learning movement. The first time you do it, you're probably not gonna be great at it, you're gonna be a little clumsy.

And then the more you practice it, the better it will be. Learning a language also can build from simple to complex. So you'll start to learn your first words, and then you start to learn more complicated words. And it's the same with movement you can't really learn to do a double flip before you learn to walk. And learning is the same in the brain no matter what you're learning.

So if you're learning movement, it's not different, it's not like the energy is transferred differently, depending on what you're doing. It's always just energy being transferred from one neuron to another. Sometimes when you are working, especially with people with neurological conditions, learning that's too complicated, actually results in worse recovery. So you wanna keep it simple and then build up in the same way, you don't wanna start people and try to do super complicated things. Initially, you want to start with pretty simple things and then move on with complexity.

So it takes if I was going to give you information and whether that's me speaking, and you're picking up the auditory information of what I'm telling you, it will take about a half a millisecond for it to get to your brain. And then about a half a millisecond for your brain to send out some sort of plan of action of how you're going to deal with it. But recent studies have also found out that the motor cortex, the part of your brain, that controls movement will light up a full three seconds prior to you actually taking an action to move or rather thinking that you're going to move. So three seconds is about this, which is a really long time if you think about that you've already started taking in some sort of visual cue, some sort of sensory cue, that's making you think that at some point, you're gonna do this movement, you've already started gathering information before you even realize you were going to gather information to actually make that movement. And that happens mostly when you have a learned action that has become something that's unconscious, that you don't have to think about that you know for instance, if you are a Pilates teacher and you know you're going to do a pelvic curl, that you're going to draw your abs in and then slight posterior tilt of your pelvis.

Like, you know that that's going to happen, you don't really need to think about it, It becomes sort of an unconscious action. So we learn things, but we also have to unlearn things. So the process of unlearning things is called apoptosis, some people call it apoptosis, but I've heard both are correct. In the utero you have about 200 billion neurons and we've talked about walking around right now we have roughly a hundred billion. So a full half of the neurons that you have in utero die because they don't make meaningful connections, they fail to form a synapse.

So it's sort of like if you were going to have a class at your studio and you were gonna have a 10:30 class on Wednesdays, nobody shows up to that class, you're gonna cancel the class. So program cell death is called apoptosis and it's essential part of brain development because if you're not using it, you're not going to hold onto it. So when you're in utero, you have, when you're born, you lost a lot of these neurons. T neurons you go through another pruning because the thought is that you're trying to get things a little bit more efficient. So you're getting rid of ones that you don't need.

And then kind of into your early twenties, you'll have another pruning that is going to make things a little bit more efficient still, and you'll get a little bit more impulse control. So teens don't have a lot of impulse control. They get a little bit more, 'cause they'll a little bit more of these networks kind of get more established as you get a little older. And those are the times where you have the most brain changes. Unless for instance, you have a brain injury.

In which case, then you're going to have some massive brain changes similar to what you would have way back to when you were a baby, you'll have massive changes in your brain. But other than that, things are always moving, but a little bit more stable. So the picture on the left, isn't the actual picture 'cause I threw the notebook away, but I was at my parents house probably about 10 years ago. And for some reason they had some of my old school notebooks and I found my calculus notebook and I looked at it and the only thing in it that I recognized was my handwriting. And I looked at it and I was like, I see numbers, I see the letters n a lot, I see ease, I see all sorts of weird drawings, have no earthly clue at all what I was looking at because apparently I decided that I was going to have a systematic elimination of that information.

And I can tell you, it probably happened within weeks of high school graduation because I knew that I would never be using that again. On the other hand, in high school, I took Spanish for three years and I remembered enough of it that I can get by because I realized that it was important enough for me, for my life to know a little bit of Spanish, but it was not important enough for me to know any calculus and kind of side story, I dropped out of calculus when I was a senior in high school, because it was my sixth period class and I wanted to leave early so that I could go to Taco Bell before I went to tennis practice, totally true story. And I was called to the principal's office because there are only five students in Calculus and he was like, well, if you drop out of Calculus, there will be, other people might wanna drop out. And you don't know that you're not gonna need calculus and I assured him that I was not going to need calculus. And he asked me what I wanted to be.

I was like, well, I'm going to be a journalist. And he said, well, then you need to know a little bit about everything. And I said, well, I took pre-calculus so I know a little bit about calculus and true enough, calculus has never been necessary at all in my life. So when it was pruned is another word for apotosis, like you have a pruning, it turned out to be a totally fine thing. So this drawing is actually a little bit confusing because it's not exactly pointing to the right spot.

So this is the primary somatosensory cortex, that black area that you see on the brain, not the pullout, the black area is actually the motor cortex, the area right next to it, to the right, that's the somatosensory cortex. A lot of times people talk about the brain as being somatotopical which is the same thing as topographical. So it's sort of forms a map and things that are next to each other on the brain tend to be next to each other on the body. So if you look, you'll see the trunk, neck, head, shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm are next to each other, the hands, the eyes, the nose, the face, the lower lip, and the chin are all next to each other. And there'll be a slight variation based on different people.

So yours might be a little bit different than mine, yours might be a little bit shifted. There are two things on here that are a little bit weird though. If you look at the top portion where it says right under the word medial, you see if you look to the left, you'll see that you have the trunk, neck, head shoulder, on the right it says leg foot, toes, genitalia, which doesn't seem like that really is topographical, it's not like the genitalia and the feet are next to each other. And then if you look at the bottom, it says that you have, if you look across, you have the hand on the left and then you have like, sort of in the lower side, you'll have like the face sort of wraps around the bottom and you have the tongue, the teeth and the throat. Does anyone have a guess of why it would be arranged that way?

That's okay, 'cause I have the answer. The key to sensory typography or somatotopy of the somatosensory cortex, which is a mouthful, is the fetal position because when the brain is developing those body parts that seemed a little strange. Like it seemed a little strange to have the feet and the genitalia next to each other are next to each other. And when you're born, we talked about, you have places that are being touched and you're learning to really map that area. You kind of stay in this position for a little bit of time.

So and people have asked me before about whether there is a connection and I'll just answer it because I do think it's interesting about whether there's a connection between people being sexually turned on by the feet and how it's laid next to the genitalia in terms of the map of the brain. And they do believe that that's true, that they think that in some ways that there's neurons that have sort of migrated over from the area that's closest to it. So that those areas become something that you would touch somewhere would have a sensation somewhere else. And then we were also talking a little bit about in reflexology like there's probably a lot of things with the somatosensory cortex and reflexology, and what you were saying about the stomach and where you're pushing on the feet and whether you're going to like go into early childbirth and they don't want to do a foot massage when you're pregnant. So I don't know that that's true, but I think that that's an interesting thing to contemplate.

Somebody out there knows that that's true. So this is a very ugly drawing and it's called a homunculus and a homunculus is another way to look at a visual representation of something. And so this would be a homunculus of the somatosensory cortex. And so the amount of cortical territory in the brain doesn't reflect the size of the body part, but rather its sensitivity. So how much sensitivity do you have when you touch, for instance, your lips or when you touch your fingers, as opposed to when you touch your forearm?

So the most touch sensitive parts of the body are the places where they have the most dense populations of neurons are going to be in the homunculus the biggest. So we're gonna do a little test of some things. So I have with me paperclips, I'm going to give you these first. So what they are is paperclips that I've kind of unbended. So if you want to grab one and pass them on.

And we'll save these, we'll actually do these last. We'll do a couple of other little things first. So I want you to take, so if you look at the homunculus and look at what's really big on the homunculus and you'll see, well the tongue is huge on the homunculus in terms of sensation. So your tongue if you've ever bit your tongue, you probably know that your tongue is very sensitive part of your body. If you take your tongue and run it along your teeth, you should be able to feel like the little ridges, where one tooth ends and the other tooth starts.

Or if you still have the little ridges from when your adult teeth came in, you should be able to feel that because that is a very touch sensitive part of the body. Also, if you look at how big the fingers are, you should be able to do the same thing that you could take your fingers and run them along your teeth, and you should be able to feel that. And it's not going to be the most beautiful thing for camera, but if you take your teeth to your forearm, you probably won't be able to feel the ridges. So you don't feel the ridges anymore because this is not a super touch sensitive part of your body. And another way that you can sort of test this out is if you have this paperclip and you have the two sort of sharp edges of the paperclip, and right now it's pretty far apart.

So if I was going to touch on my forearm here, I can feel that there is two 'cause it's really wide. I can feel that there's two points where it's touching and then you'll get it a little bit closer together and touch. And you'll get to a point where it will feel like it's one thing touching you. So you'll just feel like if you're hitting it at the same time, you're like, okay, that's touching me. And I'm at about, it's probably about a centimeter or so where I feel it as one not two, but if you take the same paperclip and you keep it at that level where it feels like one and you take it to your fingertip, you're gonna feel two.

'Cause there's more touch sensitive areas in your fingertips and then you can start to take that even narrower. And I still feel two and go even narrower than that. So how narrow are you getting where you're still feeling two points and not one point. Pretty close. Pretty close, it's like you almost get them practically touching and you could still feel that there's two, because you have so many sensory nerves in your fingertips, but if you take that same measurement and you take it back to your arm, that's one point.

You don't feel that, and you have to go really pretty wide to be able to feel that same sensation. So bigger or less than here as like a movement person or a teacher is some areas are going to be much more touch sensitive and receptive to giving like a touch cue than others, just based on how touch sensitive they are. And you can sort of use that to your advantage. Like if you know that information that you're like, okay, I want this person to really connect with me. Maybe I'm going to touch their hands.

(train rumbling) There's the train. Which turned on my auditory cortex in my brain, in case you're wondering.

Chapter 4

Movement from the Body Up

So we're gonna start talking about movement from the body up. So it's movement, that's coming in through our senses and going to our brain as opposed to things that are coming from our brain and going down. So it's how does the sensory information get into our brain?

And then what are we gonna do with it? So we're gonna talk about sensory inputs. And the ones we know most commonly are touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Those are probably what you think about when you think of our senses. The ones you might not think about are thermoception, which is our ability to sense temperature, proprioception, which probably is exercisers or movement people you might know about, which is sort of your sense of where you are in space and your kinesthetic sense.

Nociception is pain, so we have pain as a separate sense then touch. And equilibrioception, which is balance. Those are additional senses that come in and we're gonna talk a lot about reflexes because I think reflux is really fascinating because a lot of them don't need to involve the brain at all, but all of them can involve the brain. Let's talk a little bit more about touch and we already felt it a little bit with the paperclip that there's certain areas of the body, where the touch receptors are gonna be a little bit more densely populated. So you're gonna be more touch sensitive there.

But if I was to take your finger and look at it and try to figure out like what are all the different receptors that are there. On the top we have light touch. So there's receptors that they only sense light touch, that's their job, they're the light touch receptors. Then you'll have other ones that are gonna be deeper in the skin. So if you push harder, then you'll feel actually what you feel as a stretch on the skin.

If you push really hard, you might feel pain receptors that are also in that same chunk of skin. And then vibration is a different receptor still. And temperature is a receptor because it needs to give you a warning, like that's hot, that's going to damage you, step away from the stove or a dangerous chemical like that burns, that's going to hurt you step away from it. And and then of course we have proprioception. So all of these different sensory nerves have parallel channels heading up to the brain and whether or not you know this information beyond me telling it to you right now, I guarantee you've acted on this information reflexively.

If you stub your toe, what do you do? What is the first thing you do when you stub your toe? What'd you said? (speaks faintly) First grab your toe. You grab your toe.

So yeah, it's like, I would say you either curse or you grab your toe and the grabbing is probably going to happen. You're going to go for the grab maybe at the same time as you say, the out but the go for the grab is going to happen really quickly. Do you have any idea why you're doing that? So if you have parallel channels where all of this information is traveling up to the brain from the skin through parallel channels that are going up to the brain, if something hurts and you grab it, you've sent a second signal up to the brain, parallel to the pain signal. So most of the time, if you squeeze something, it hurts less, right?

So you're like, oh, that hurts and you're gonna grab it, and you're gonna squeeze it because you're trying to override that perception of pain that's coming in through the pain receptors, because you have this other receptors that you can take advantage of. So you just kind of naturally do it. You're like, oh, that hurts, I'm gonna just hold on to it. So a lot of times that's for people who have pain, that's sometimes the only way that they have relief is that they're actually overriding their own pain receptors by sending another signal up to their brain to compete with it essentially. So I think Joseph Pilates had this down, even though he probably didn't know scientifically what he was doing.

But when Joseph Pilates you see all these pictures and he's always wearing the little tiny shorts. I got the little, teeny, tiny little short on. He's exposing a lot of his skin, like the surface area to get a lot of feedback when he's working out. So now when we come in and we work out and sometimes we're wearing sweatpants and hoodies and socks you're giving a lot of your, rather you're taking away a lot of information that could be enhancing the mind body connection, because you've taken out all of those skin sensors that you might have been able to access more so that you have more ability to connect. Importantly, in terms of temperature and chemicals.

It's not like you have a temperature receptor in your skin that says 75 and perfect, or 97 and awful or 32 and freezing, you don't have that. What you have are sensors that have the ability to tell that there's been a change and how big has that changed been? So if for instance, you walk outside and you're in an air conditioned building, and all of a sudden you just get hit with like that hot, hot temperature, you're feeling the change. So it's a little bit more noticeable than if for instance, you are in an air conditioned building and then you're walking outside and the temperature's really not that different and maybe you'll feel a breeze. So what you're feeling is that light touch that sensation on the top of your skin, but it's not like you're going to notice the temperature because the temperature really didn't change that much from the inside or the outside.

And so those changes are designed to warn us that there's a change in the environment that might be dangerous. So I don't know how old most of you are, but does anyone remember, Bactine like when you used to fall and skin your knee and your mom had the jar of Bactine and you'd kind of be running away from her, 'cause. I still have it. You still have Bactine? They just shake it up and it just burned like crazy.

And you're like, oh, and now I think kids are luckier because I think they have Neosporin and then they can eliminate the whole Bactine experience where you had to suck it up and put on a brave face and tears streaming down your face and your skin knees when your mom's took out Bactine out. So I think that the Bactine is actually a perfect example of this your body senses change in temperature. Because alcohol does not actually burn, if you touched alcohol right now, it's probably gonna feel what? Wet, maybe cold, it's like alcohol has a sort of a cold feeling. So it doesn't really make sense then that something that feels cold burns.

But what happens is that once you put the alcohol on like a cut and it goes into your body, it actually cools you down so much so quickly that your body now recognizes your own body temperature as hot. So the burning is you, it's not the alcohol it's that you've had a change in the temperature. That's so significant that you'll actually start to recognize that sensation as a burning sensation. When actually- Why would it burn on a cut versus just putting it on your skin? Because on the cut it's going to go in through the skin.

You know what I mean? So it's not like it, it goes through and it gets to those receptors differently than if you just put it on your skin. But that's a good question. So I want you to take a moment right now and just find a comfortable seat. We're going to try to get in touch a little bit more with our touch receptors.

So sometimes I find it's helpful to close your eyes, which we will talk about later, why it's helpful to close your eyes, but it's sometimes helpful to close your eyes. And I want you to feel the weight of your shirts on the right side of your body. And I want you to side bend slightly to the right, and I want you to see how maybe the clothing when it wrinkles, does it put more pressure on your rib cage or do you feel that slightly differently than if you were just sitting there, obviously not paying attention to it as we normally wouldn't. And then come back up to seated tall and stretch your spine really long and see if you can feel your fabric, maybe move a little bit away from you as you stretch the fabric outs, there's less wrinkles and more space between you and your fabric. And then now the really mean one.

See if you can feel the tag on any of your clothes, because we have most likely selectively chosen to ignore that. And then go ahead and open your eyes. So does anyone have any scratchy tags left in their clothes? I tried to rip them all out at this point. (speaks faintly) It feels like I've removed them all.

But what does that feel like? It's obviously not something you would normally pay attention to. Maybe you could feel it all over so it wasn't just the right side. You can see how that could affect on the left side as well, so it wasn't just on. Because you've drawn your attention to it.

So obviously it's- What did she say? She said that she could feel it not only on the right side, but that she would feel the change on the left side. Because once you're paying attention, obviously on one side, it's not like you're going to say, well, let's not pay attention to what we feel in other places. If we were for instance, teaching a client and we wanted them to have more of a mind body connection, because we felt like they weren't really present in their body. And I think we've all worked with those people that you sense that their body and their soul are not having a communication at all, that they really are very separate.

I would maybe do things like that. I would maybe say like, if you're doing a pelvic curl can I actually get someone up here who wants to do a pelvic curl. I think it would actually feel really nice right now. So if somebody wants to, go ahead and come on. So we're going to do a touch focused pelvic curl, and I'm not necessarily going to touch her.

I want her to pay attention to things. So I'm just going to cue her to pay attention to things. So go ahead and close your eyes. I want you to inhale to prepare, exhale draw your abdominals in towards your spine. Find a slight tuck of your pelvis, bringing your hip bones towards your ribs.

Feel the pressure of your lower back into the mat and the squishiness of the mat. Inhale to extend your spine back towards me, tilting your tailbone towards the opposite direction. Feel your tailbone heavy into the mat. Feel the pressure of your hands into the mat. Push down a little bit more so that you can almost have a little bit of a squish down into the mat and engage the back of your arms.

I want you to feel your triceps connecting to the mat, inhale there, exhale, draw your abdominals in first, without tucking your pelvis, I want you to feel your abs pull away from your clothing, exhale to tuck your pelvis more, press into your feet, begin to peel your back away from the mat, feel each vertebra coming off the mat, one at a time. At the top, feel the heaviness of your shoulder blades into the mat. The back of your head, all four corners of your feet, your fingertips triceps inhale there. Exhale slowly, articulate your spine back down, one vertebrae at a time, have a pause at each vertebra. So you're feeling it imprint into the mat, slowly lowering it down.

And then at the very bottom, once your low back touches the mat lengthen your spine so that your tailbone comes forward and feels pressure into the mat. Go ahead, how'd that feel? Feels great, very intentionally a little bit more involved. What did she say? She said, it feels more intentional, like it feels a little bit more involved.

And I actually really think that like a mat, like this is very nice because it has a squish to it. So squishes and interesting textural kind of feedback that you might not get. But if you had a floor for instance, I would focus on feeling the firmness of the floor. Like you take what you've got to work with obviously, and then you want people to pay attention. You can go ahead and come up.

Has anyone other than me ever been to a neurologist? so you've been to a neurologist. So you've had there's a test that you get done at a neurologist office, it's called the Romberg test or Romberg sign. And essentially anytime you get a neurological test done, it's really remarkably like having a sobriety test. I've never had a sobriety test, I've never been pulled over for anything like that.

But I imagine it's very similar. Like you walk a straight line, you try to walk on your toes, you have your eyes closed, you do fingertips to nose, fingertips to hand. So lots of things that are sort of testing different parts of your neurological function, the way they test proprioception is called, they're doing a Romberg sign and Romberg sign would be if you had bad proprioception and you're standing on your feet and they usually have you stand with your feet together, which gives you a narrower base and was a little bit more difficult and you reach your arms forward and you shut your eyes. They measure the amount of sway that you have. And people who sway a lot tend to have bad proprioception, Christie.

What are they looking at? Are they looking at you from the stuff that they measure or (speaks faintly). They usually just look at you. What is then question? So Christie asks where they look at you if you're having like a Romberg sign done.

Keida will you come up here? Will you be my person? So they want you not to fall. So they're going to obviously stand pretty close to you. So most of the time when I've had it done if you turn to face me and just reach your arms forward, bring your legs together and then just reach your arms forward.

And I would be just right here because I would want to be able to just grab you if you start getting wobbly, but go ahead and close your eyes. And then most everyone will have a little bit of a sway and there's like a healthy little bit of a sway. So you see how the longer her eyes are closed she starts moving a little bit, go ahead and open your eyes. So remember how we were talking about proprioceptors that's like one of the things that measure stretch. So your proprioceptive system turns on is like you lean to one side, it knows that you're leaning a little bit to one side and it'll start to auto correct.

So everywhere in your body, you have these proprioceptors and they respond to stretch. So it's really responding to stretch, but if you have poor proprioception, which I've seen countless times in neurologically healthy people that sway like all over the place they just really don't have that they can't connect to their proprioceptive system. That's like the quickie test to see how somebody's proprioception. I had a student, perfectly able bodied student who we were doing an exercise where we had a small ball in between her ankles while we were doing some supine abs on the reformer. And she just, I mean, like it was all over the place.

And she was like, I don't understand why that is. I mean, this girl is like an athlete and she's really strong. And then I was like, well let's try this out. And we had her stand there and she did the similar tests where she had her eyes closed and we were seeing how much she was swaying. And I mean, she was like she was on a boat in the middle of a choppy ocean.

She was all over the place and she was like, well, how do I work with that, Christie. Well, I'm just curious, like, how do you feel when it's all over the place and what's normal? So it's normal to have like what she had, where you have a little bit of movement. So it's not normal to have like something, well, do it with my eyes open. But like, if you're really just all over the place you're searching, like you can tell that maybe you're not kind of in tune with that.

And so somebody who had like poor proprioception. Go ahead and sit down, thank you. Somebody who has poor propioception, I would really want to work on their proprioception. And the way you would work on somebody's proprioception is you would need to have access to some of their skin. It would need to be touching things while they're working out so that you can train that system.

And then also you have this ability as a Pilates instructor, as Pilates student, if you have access to a reformer, I think the reformer is really good at training proprioception because not only are you doing exercise, but you're also doing exercise where you're moving. Your area that you're seated on or standing on or laying on is moving. So it's giving you that additional proprioceptive feedback, because once you're moving, you start getting more stimulus than maybe if you were just laying down on a mat.

Chapter 5

Reflexes ~ Signals from the Body Up

So when people think of reflexes, they usually think of the tendon hammer. So you go to a regular doctor and they're going to hit you with a tendon hammer.

So has anyone ever wondered why they're hitting you with a tendon hammer? You know obviously they're checking your reflexes, but do you wonder what they're checking. You're like, why do you find it necessary to punch me with a hammer when I come and see you every time? So they're testing the stretch reflex. I have very interesting stretch reflex, and we'll talk a little bit more about why mine is different than somebody who doesn't have a neurological condition.

But when I go into get my doctor, any kind of doctor's appointment they test all your reflexes and they'll hit this leg and it'll like, have a normal reflex like this, and then they'll hit this leg and they better not be standing near me because it will kick out so fast and so hard because the reflux that they're testing, like will show up as an abnormal reflex in me and my left leg. So I don't know if Keith had you. Okay, it's a test for a reflex and what reflexes are, are there a way to protect the body by making things not have to go all the way up to the brain. Like sometimes we just don't have time for that. So we'll have reflexes, so that it's sort of a protective thing.

And it's something that doesn't have to involve the brain. So it's like information comes in, goes up to the spinal cord, spinal cord shoots basically directions out and says do this. So the brain STEM is what mediates reflexes and most reflexes are super simple. So it's two neuronal circuits, so a neuronal circuit would be a neuron, a synopsis, a neuron, a synopsis, a neuron, a synopsis, but not like complicated where there's, and then it branches off here and then it branches off here. It's literally so one straight up and one straight down.

And every single reflex can be overcome or changed in some way by the brain. For instance, if you've ever had the tendon hammer, you might have also had the doctor tell you to relax, because you were clearly not going to get a proper test because you were already tensing a muscle or you weren't relaxed enough to like actually test how the reflex is. All reflexes can be brought under voluntary control. So some of the types of them, we're gonna talk about the ones that are underlined. So we have the myotatic stretch reflex.

I prefer to just call it the stretch reflex, because it's easier to say. The crossed extensor reflex, which is personally I think one of my favorite reflexes, if I'm going to put reflexes into a category, because I think it's really cool. Central pattern generation, which there's multiple different things that fall under that category and we'll talk about that. And then some other ones, I just threw down a little quickie conversation. One is the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and that makes your eyes maintain focus as your head moves.

So if every time your head moved, your eyes moved with it. It would be really hard to get from point A to point B without falling over something or tripping on something. So if you take a moment and just look around, you'll notice that if you fixate your eyes on something, it's going to stay on it. You can obviously choose to move your eyes, but it's not like you can shake your head back and forth, and your eyes are going to, like you can't even make yourself do that. You can't just say, okay, I'm going to look here and I'm gonna look here.

Your eyes want to do that thing where they're going to stabilize on something because that's reflexive. The Moro reflex it represents the only fear that we're born with, which is the fear of falling. And it's the reflex that you have when you have a sudden loss of support. So babies like to demonstrate this reflects often to us. So if a baby is picked up and it has that sense that it's afraid that it might lose support.

First, what it does is its arms go out. So it'll be like, and then its arms come back in and then it cries. So that's the Moro reflex, it's arms out, arms in cry. So it's sort of a three Parker and then shivering is a reflex because in addition to protecting the body, reflexes also maintain homeostasis of the body. So if you're too cold, your body doesn't wanna be that cold.

So you're gonna start shivering so that you can heat your body up. So that's the point of that one and there's many, many more reflexes. So let's look first at the stretch reflex. So can I have a, sure. Do some reflexes go away?

(speaks faintly) does it go away as you become an adult? Keida is asking about whether reflexes go away when you're an adult. And honestly, I don't know, I don't think so. I think most reflexes there was some that will change. Actually I think I don't wanna answer this wrong.

So I think that, that there are some that do, 'cause I know what you're talking about the rooting reflex is like for breastfeeding and things like that? Or I was even thinking the way you described it. I don't know if you picked me up and dropped me, if I would have the Moro reflex, if I would go out and then in, and then cry, probably I would assume that I would actually assume that maybe the tears would come first because I would be like, oh my God, you just threw me. But I think that most of them do, I'm not sure though. I'm not sure if when you, that you have reflexes that change as you develop that you might outgrow that is interesting though.

I will try to find out the answer for that. Let's look at the stretch reflex and we're actually gonna talk about this sort of later in the day, because the stretch reflex is super important in terms of neurological conditions, because it's a reflex that goes awry a lot in neurological conditions, but let's just talk about it as like a basic thing. So I have a water down here. Mary can you come up here for a second? It's a little cold, I'm gonna give you this water.

Let me do that again. 'Cause you just demonstrated the stretch reflex really well. So we're gonna give her bonus points for having done it so well. So you see how I gave her the water and her arm didn't just drop down to her side. Like you maintained it at a certain level.

So I've given her the water, her stretch reflex kicked in. So the muscle felt like, Oh, there's more pressure here. So it's sort of a two parter, so the bicep contracted, the tricep relaxed and she held this position and her joint was protected because there was no crazy fast movement of her arms straightening. Now, can you lift that up a little bit higher? So her lifting that bottle up a little bit higher proves that that reflex can be controlled by her brain.

Like you can change that, I can say, it would be a really bad news if we picked up a drink and we couldn't actually drink it. So that would be the stretch reflex, gone really wrong. Thank you. And then you can obviously lower it, you can move it around. You can go ahead and sit down.

But if you're just given something, you're just going to hold it and grab it and it's like stretch reflex, I'm just gonna hold on to this. We talk a lot about kind of overcoming that reflex. If you have watched some of Anthony Letts videos that are on Pilates Anytime, my understanding is that he's doing proprioceptive, neuromuscular, facilitation, stretching, PNF stretching, which gets around the stretch reflex because as a protective mechanism, your body's going to tense up and not want to go through a stretch. And if you contract the muscle against that stretch and hold it for a certain amount of time, and then you relax and take it deeper into the stretch, that's sort of a trick around this reflects not letting you stretch perhaps as deeply as you would want to. So when the brain gets involved at something another term for it is called gain.

So it's not just like the brain has decided to do whatever it's called gain. Another reflex is the flexion withdrawal reflex, and it's also called the crossed extensor reflex. It's really simple reflex, but it's a very important reflex. It moves us away from pain or possibly dangerous situation that we're about to step in. And so let's say I was walking and right here, I stepped on something with this foot.

I'm going to shoot this leg straight at the same time as I flex this leg. And the reason that the tooth that have to happen at the same time is that when you lift this one leg up, if you still had this leg bent, you would lose your balance. So you're gonna go like this and you're going to extend one leg while the other side flexes. So the foot that stepped in the tack is going to lift up off the tack while the other leg is going to go all the way straight. Does that make sense?

And it also applies to, if you're about to step in dog poo, exact same reflex takes over, doesn't have to be pain related. And then in terms of movement, I think one of my favorite reflexes, and I think one of the most interesting one is the cross pattern generation reflex. So these cross pattern reflexes are very complicated reflexes. So they're not these simple to neuronal circuit reflexes, like for instance, the stretch reflex. So you have these neural circuits in the thoracic and lumbar sections of the spinal cord and they're sort of pacemaker neurons for lack of a better word.

They'll establish a pace of movement, like if you're walking that your brain does not have to be actively involved in. So you start walking, the choice to walk is something that the brain is sending down. Once you start walking, it's just a pattern that gets established on actually in the spinal cord. It's not just walking, it's swimming, it's also breathing. And if you ever see a dog scratching and they're just going town, they have had a cross pattern generation reflux for scratching kick in because they're no longer thinking about it with their brain, their leg is just going at whatever is itchy.

So importantly, all of these reflexes can be modulated by the brain. 'Cause if we didn't have that, this reflex that coordinates the flexor and extensor muscles, we wouldn't be able to speed up. We wouldn't be able to slow down, we wouldn't be able to walk up a hill or walk around something or change anything about how we were walking and we wouldn't be able to stop. So the reflex you'll see it, even in like little babies, even when they're not walking yet, you'll see them do this leg thing where they like have one leg and then they'll switch legs. So they're already, they have the reflux, they don't know how to walk yet, but they already have the reflex going.

And I think that it's really interesting and important to know if you're working with someone with a neurological condition, for instance, who's having trouble walking that they don't actually need' as much connection from their brain to their body as you might think. You would want to get them in the pattern of working with that reflex. So you'd want to get them in a walking type pattern. So you could get that walking type rhythm that sort of pacemaker thing turned on. But you wouldn't necessarily need to have as much connection as you would think.

So somebody who for instance has had a spinal cord injury or a brain injury, they would maybe be put on a treadmill with like a harness holding them up. 'Cause maybe they couldn't hold themselves up yet, but they can still get into the movement or they'll take their legs through the movement. So if you were working with somebody and you wanted to work on this particular reflex, and let's say you wanted to work supine. Supine, you could actually kind of get this reflex going maybe a little bit, but you couldn't get it going seated because if you take yourself laying down and you just transfer yourself from this laying down position to a standing up position, that's actually a very similar position. You're just like a lengthened body.

But if you're doing something where you're seated, for instance, maybe on like a split pedal one to chair, and you're doing this, like maybe you're strengthening the muscles that you want to work on pelvic stability or whatever, but you're not really able to access that reflex. So through the magic of television much like when they have the fully cooked dish that comes out right after they put on cooked dish into the oven, we have a reformer now. So Francine, if you will be my model, we were going to talk a little bit about this cross pattern generation reflex and how we might want to just work on getting somebody to start feeling it again if they're not really feeling it. So if you want to lay down, I'm going to lift this up, but I probably wouldn't lift it up that high because honestly, when you're walking around, you don't wanna have your head in a forward position bring your feet on and we're just gonna bring your legs to parallel and they can come kind of onto, we're gonna end up wanting to be pretty low, so press your legs all the way out straight. And we're on a pretty light spring right now with her, but we're going to have her legs be in a position that's not unlike if we just took her on a tilt table and tilted her up this way that she would be in a standing position.

So bring your right knee in, bend your left knee slightly, and then press your left leg out and plant your right foot down and switch. So you're just going to go from March. So left knee comes in bending your right and then, but I don't want you to have this moment where you're going out, pause and out pause. I want it to be switching midway, so you go out land right. Bend land left.

And you're in try to speed that up. So you're gonna try to get into a pattern. I actually liked this better. Do you see how she kind of went from where it was a little bit more, it was slower and it was a little bit more concentrated and I want to get her to get to the point where she's just feels like she's going for a walk and I'm not with her right now trying to correct any kind of pelvic stability. It's not really what my goal is to work on with her, right now my goal is to get this pattern, this reflex to just start maybe firing a little bit in this position if for instance, she was someone who couldn't stand or if she was someone who was very weak and maybe we just wanna get this sense.

And I actually want you to think less about what you're doing. And so if you have somebody like her, who's like kind of overthinking it, which that would happen a lot. I would maybe do something like use music and so give them something 'cause music is a great pacemaker as well. And these are pacemaker neurons. Now we don't need music yet, but just if we were having something, I would generally give people something that they liked to walk to, it's like sort of, what's your favorite music.

So you just start, get into the groove. And I would want her to be on there for like five minutes or something and just kind of get that sensation of what that reflex is. Thank you very much. We're going to actually do a quick scene change because we're gonna get a one to chair and show a similar thing where we take her to standing. So this is a split pedal one to chair.

I loaded it pretty heavy. So it's got well, not super heavy, but it's got a spring on the third from the bottom on both sides and the the little dowel that connects the two sides has been removed. I have the handles on, obviously for safety. I don't necessarily need you to hold up here, you can hold more loosely on it, but step one foot on to one of the pedals and press down and then you gonna step the other foot on hold on obviously, and you're going to come into as much of a proper normal position as possible. And I don't necessarily want you to be on your tip toes because I want you to be more in what would be right standing on it.

So maybe come forward so you're on the arches of your feet. And then you're just going to let that walking pattern sort of happen. So let your right knee lift up and then left and I like this, so she's not going for an exaggerated big marching steps. She's going for a little walk. And this is a nice way to kind of get people back into that cross pattern again with walking and another way that you can do this which I might even like a little better than this is if you take a Cadillac and you have like two couple springs, like two heavy Springs that you load off the side so that you can stand into the springs with the springs on the floor and they're connected to the Cadillac and you can hold onto the Cadillac.

Where do you connect them to? So I would connect them to, I would raise that little. The sliding bar. The sliding bar up and then I would connect the coupled springs to the sliding bar and then I would stand on the side on the floor and then step a foot into a spring and step a foot into the other spring. And I've had like really good results with one of my clients who has spinal cord injury, that we put her in that and then she goes for a walk when she comes to see me and she's really good at it because if we made this heavier and you can obviously make the coupled springs heavier, you also have to have a lot of pelvic stabilization to not let that weight like hike your hip up when you're going for a walk.

I think that that covers this, thank you. (speaks faintly)

Chapter 6

The Motor Cortex ~ Movement from the Brain Down

So we've been talking a lot about this somatosensory cortex and sort of movement from the senses coming in through the body and then what happens, now, let's talk about it in the opposite direction. So what happens when we think about a movement and then we want that movement to happen. So right in front of where the somatosensory cortex is, you have the primary motor cortex and the primary motor cortex is mostly concerned with movement in your personal space. So there's a lot of things that they talk about with feeding behaviors, like hand to mouth.

Like those kinds of movements are very much programmed into the motor cortex, in addition to your other movements. But it's really about like what's happening, like immediately in your field of vision and space. So there's another homunculus here and he's gonna look very similar to the one that you had in the somatosensory cortex, but what the measurement here is about dexterity. So the more dexterous parts of the body are given more space than the less dextrous parts of the body, for instance, your thumb would be as big as your entire forearm because your thumb has a lot more dexterity. What's interesting I think about the motor cortex is that you have functional synergies in it.

So you'll have paired groups, so the extensors and flexors will be paired together. So they're going to be right next to each other because they need to work together. Now, if for instance, you have had an amputation in one of your fingers, like you lost your index finger, your brain doesn't like to have that space that would have existed in the primary cortex that would have been labeled index finger, it doesn't like to let it go to waste, to not put anything there. So what's going to happen is that adjacent areas like your middle finger and your thumb are gonna start invading that space. So you're going to get a little bit more space for them because your brain's not going to leave that space empty and not do anything with it.

Also, it's very dynamic, so this part of your brain is changing all the time. And you know this because you know that if you do an activity a lot, you get much better at it. And it's because it's taken up more space in your brain. So my husband for instance, plays the guitar. And I don't know if you are somebody who plays the guitar, or if you're somebody who's never played the guitar, but if you take a guitar and give it to someone who's never played it and you ask them to move their fingers in the way that they would hold them for cord, it's practically impossible to get your fingers even into that position.

And to think that somebody will get so skilled at moving their fingers around to be able to not only hit one chord, but maybe hit multiple chords and then my husband does when he plays, he does the finger-picking, so it' this hand is doing something different and then this hand is moving, so it's not strumming, he's actually picking on his right hand and like finding the chords on his left hand. And that obviously is something that didn't happen overnight, like that had to happen with a tremendous amount of practice. So exercise is something that's obviously going to change the primary motor cortex. Like I said, the more you use something, the more space that's gonna take up, but similarly, if you tend to use things together, they're going to take up space together. We gonna talk about this a little more when we talk about brain plasticity, but let's do a little quickie test and see how much brain space might have been given to something and how things might have started to pair together.

So if you extend your hands in front of you going to start folding your fingers, and we're gonna do thumbs fold in and then extend, index fingers, fold in and then extend middle fingers and then extend, ring fingers and extend and pinky fingers. And then I keep doing that and I want you to see, I have it especially when I want to bend my pinky finger, that my ring finger wants to bend in at the same time. So even though I might have really pretty decent hand dexterity, yours, actually, can you be my demo? 'Cause you're actually a really great person to show this. Not that I'm picking on her, but she shows she demonstrates this neurological principle very well.

So if she takes her hands out and she folds up her pinky fingers, see how much this finger wants fold up and are you right handed? So she uses her right hand more. So this actually has less of a separation than that side does. So can you do it pretty quickly? All of them?

No, just go through like that again. So the reason that these two want to work together is that most of the time, if you're gonna use your hands and you're going to be doing something you're gonna have these fingers are gonna work together, you're gonna grab something. If you think about when you're typing, you don't really have that much movement of your ring finger and your pinky finger away from each other, but your index fingers tend to be very easy to move without necessarily moving everything else with them, because you would have a little bit more times where you're gonna use these separately. Thank you for, for demonstrating that. You can also see that if you have an exercise that you practice, that most people wouldn't practice, that obviously you would be better at it than people who don't practice it because you're gonna have a little bit more brain space for it.

So I do a lot of foot exercises because I have a lot of foot problems and that's like a neurological thing, but I remember there was a workshop on here where I think it was Madeline Black and she was doing something with the toe waves and she was doing toes down, toes up. And I was like, that is so easy. I'm like I don't understand why everyone is having such problems with it, but I practice that kind of stuff. So I was like, this one's really not that hard to put your big toes down and then push the rest of your toes down and lift your big toes up or to roll through your toes like a wave, and then hike your toes back up like a wave. Because obviously if you're practicing it, you're going to get better at it, which is really good news for all of us who want to get better as things.

Lastly, we're gonna talk about a little bit is the spinal cord, so thing that's really interesting about the spinal cord, is it sort of there's another visual representation of the body in the spinal cord. So it gets bigger at the cervical spine and then at the lumbosacral area, does anyone have any idea why that would be? So why would you have your spinal cord get bigger at those two locations at your cervical spine and your lumbar sacral area? More nerves there. What'd you say?

More nerves there. There are more nerves there. But why would there be more nerves there? 'Cause they branch off to your arms and legs. Right, they branch off to your arms and legs.

So in the spinal cord, you're gonna have a lot of motor nerves and sensory nerves that are connected to your arms and to your legs. So it's actually a little bit bigger in that area. And the spinal cord basically has two jobs. It's the seat of simple reflexes like some of the ones that we talked about when we're talking about movement up the chain and it's the highway between the brain and the body. So that's how information or energy is being transferred.

So if we looked at the ventral horn of the spinal cord and the ventral horn is where the motor nerves travel, it's also the anterior horn, if you have the posterior horn, it's where the sensory nerves travel. I think it's kind of interesting because if you look at it, the closer you are to the midline of the body, the closer the nerves are to the midline of the spinal cord. So your more proximal muscles like your trunk muscles are gonna be closer to the middle and your distal muscles are gonna be closer to the end. And there are various theories on why that is, but I think one thing that I've definitely considered, and I have no idea if this is true or not, but I think it's kind of interesting that if you had injury, you were more likely to have injury to the outside of your spinal cord, as opposed to the inside of your spinal cord. And there's something I think interesting about that maybe that's protective in a way, but also information has to go first through, you have to from your center obviously you're not going to just move your arm without things traveling out from your torso out to your arms.

So it travels out from your torso to your lens in that visualization of the spinal cord.

Chapter 7

Building Connections from the Body Up

So now let's get to some ways to build these connections. So we want to have a little bit more information coming in so that we can feed that mind-body connection. And I have a whole little basket full of goodies here, and we're gonna talk about a couple of different ways that you can create more input. So first let's talk about if we're building connections from the body, from the senses, and you're trying to get more sensation into the brain.

So one thing you can do is turn on a sense. In terms of proprioceptors, you have three places in your body where you have more proprioceptors than in other places. And they're the soles of your feet, the sacroiliac joints and the cervical spine. So if you're working with someone and you wanted to increase proprioception, probably the last thing you would want to do is take away any sensation from those areas that wouldn't be necessary to take away. So I don't like working with people with any sort of neurological condition or in general I don't like people to have socks on because it takes away some amount of sensation.

These are Garshana gloves, they're an Atharva Veda, which is Indian traditional medicine they're used for lymphatic massage. They're kind of weird, but they're a rough ross silk, so they're are texturally interesting. Can I have a volunteer come up for a second? While I get. Anyone?

Can you take off your jacket? Yes, I can. So let's say I had, oh, what's your name again? I'm sorry. Erin.

Let's say I had Erin and Erin I wanna work a little bit on increasing your sensation, so let's go ahead and have you lay down on the reformer and add a spring. Can you put the foot bar up? Foot bar up is fine. We're just gonna do some foot bar, foot work. So bring your feet up.

And so you could do this, I mean these are like elaborate, like don't certainly need anything like this. So if I wanted her to have more sensation in her feet, then I would probably want to do something to like, kind of turn on like what is the level of stimulation. So what does that feel like? It's nice feeling. Yeah, it's sort of rough, you can do tapping.

There's a couple of different things you can do. You don't need to anything that's textural. I like texture because I think that it gives you a little bit more oomph. So what I'm going for is that her feet feel more alive than they did. So they feel kind of woken up.

Especially since I was sitting (speaks faintly). So you're sitting and now your feet are awake. And then from here, let's go ahead and just do some footwork. So her feet are awake and then once she starts moving, hopefully that firing us, that sensation that I created for you by rubbing your feet would stay there. Turned on.

Yeah, turned on. And I say that a lot when people ask me what it's like to have MS. And I'm like, it feels like things aren't turned on. It feels like you have nerves that just aren't awake or we say, they're sleeping, they're not like really getting that sensation through. Okay, you can go ahead and come off.

So you could also, like if you were just getting, working with someone and I do this more with people who have, some sort of neurological condition or spinal cord injury that I might start them off and I might just start to try to wake some stuff up and I might rub the back of their neck and I might tap them like right at their sacroiliac joint. Another thing that I really like are using like the spiky balls and having people, and I actually liked this for everyone because also feels really good. Just kind of roll around on the spiky balls before you start working, because it's going to start waking up those parts of your body. And then you might actually, if you have somebody who's not feeling something somewhere, these work well to just sort of rub along somebody's skin and wake something up. So this is a physical therapy handheld small vibration device.

I hesitate to call it a vibrator, but it's kind of a vibrator. And so they've done some really interesting studies with people who have trouble walking, where they take a device it's bigger than this one, and they'll actually run it along their TFL because remember that vibration is in your body in sort of it's a different touch receptor than just the regular sense of touch. So Paulina, if you want to come up, this one feels cool. So if you had somebody who was really lacking some sensation, what I might do is I might take this and start just placing it along, usually it either goes along the muscle belly and you would wanna kind of go along the muscle belly, or you would go at insertions and attachments. So it feels kind of weird, right?

Not bad, weird, but a different weird, and I'll show on me something that I actually do. So if you wanna sit down. So I have foot drop on my left leg, which means that I have trouble dorsi flexing my left leg. So sometimes if I feel like it's especially sleepy before I do something, I'm going to actually just apply vibration along my tibialis anterior. So that muscle that doesn't feel like it's getting a signal gets like kind of a big signal, 'cause this is making this handshake too.

So I'm feeling it all the way through this hand. And this is actually something that people they like it, it feels kind of cool, and it feels interesting. And you're like, oh, that's cool that you can get that sensation when you turn that sense on. So those are all different ways to turn on a sense. What about with neuropathy of the feet?

Actually she's asking about neuropathy of the feet which is super common, all sorts of things, you have it in diabetes, you have in a lot of neurological conditions, you have it like when somebody has a pinched nerve or things like that. I actually really like doing stuff like this because they have the same problem, like they really don't feel things. What I would always advise people to do if they're working with something like that is to use a pretty substantial amount of touch. Like light touch is really super creepy feeling if you have something called paresthesias, which are really common in different neurological conditions or neuropathies where you have these kind of creepy crawly, pins and needles the best I can describe it is when you sit on your foot and it falls asleep, it feels like that except all the time. So I had that from like the waist down for like four years where it just felt like pins and needles.

Like it just had this weird kind of sensation. And so you'll find that a lot of people who have neurological conditions or neuropathies are really hypersensitive to touch. In which case you want to make that touch firmer like you want to get past that level of that top layer where you're just getting that light touch and really getting into the pressure kind of touch. Also I just think as a teacher, I don't know how to manhandle people, I like to like move them around and like be a little more firm. When you say firm, you're not having fingers pointing deeper (speaks faintly).

I touch a lot with the heel of my hand. I also tend to touch a lot with my forearm because I like that level of pressure, but I always, the only time I ever use a finger is if I want somebody to move away from me because I find that's actually very effective. Like if you take your finger towards somebody, they don't like it, so they'll just be like, let me get away from your finger coming towards me. They are all great questions. Does anyone have?

On the feet, neuropathy on the feet, is it pretty firm? I'd still want to try to wake them up a little bit because usually people don't have total loss of feeling. Like I didn't feel the bottom of my feet for six months, but I didn't have no feeling. I felt like I was walking on elephant skin. Like I had like really crazy calluses on the bottom of my feet or something.

And so it was just like that top layer of those sensory nerves that I wasn't really feeling, but I could still feel pressure. So most of the time people are going to feel something, they're not gonna feel nothing. And I think that it's nice for them to feel something, I would always ask, like, does this bother you? Does this make this sensation worse or better? But I have yet to find anyone who said it makes it worse to have pressure on it.

Is that good? So the next way to increase that coming into the body connections is to turn off a sense. So we're trying to turn on a sense we're turning on touch. Everyone knows that if you turn off a sense, you heightened others and you might not think you know it, but if you've ever been driving somewhere and you're sort of lost and you've turned the radio down in your car, then you know that that is something that you do. So you're trying to focus your brain a little bit more by taking away a sense that's coming in.

So you're like, I will be able to find this place if I can hear Maroon 5 less loudly and it actually does work. So you can turn off a sense. So who wants to be my Guinea pig for this one? Leslie. Leslie.

I'm in, right, sure. I did bring an entire basket full of blindfolds. So if you want to grab one and try doing like maybe get a mat out and doing like pelvic curl or doing some sort of motion, similar to what I'm gonna have her do some supine arms. Obviously you don't wanna do standing exercises blindfolded, please be careful, don't make bad decisions. So go ahead and lay down.

So the reason I like blindfolds better than closing your eyes is that your sight is so powerful that it's tries to see, it sees shadows. It tries to pick up on all these sensations, all those these sight information that it can get. And so if it's getting something, it's gonna try to use that and I don't want her to get anything, can you see anything at all? When I have my eyes closed. Okay, you can have them close.

Close to open, but I'm just trying to block out the light. So if you want to just, at your leisure if you want to grab a mat. I'm going to have her do some supine, arms and abs. So just laying down on your back, bring your legs into tabletop and then let your arms come up slightly higher than they are so that they're directly above your shoulders. Drop your ribs, the tiniest little bit, nice.

Inhale there, exhale, press your hands down by your sides and then bend your elbows, fingertips reaching towards the ceiling and press your arms straight. Again bend your elbows and press your arms straight. Bend your elbows, hold your elbows where they are, lift your elbows up an inch and then back down and up an inch and back down, press your arms all the way straight, turn your palms to face your hips, open your arms out to a T and then squeeze your arms back down to your side. And so Leslie, now that you're blindfolded, what does it feel like? In terms of movement.

Do you feel like you're tuning into it maybe? I'm definitely focusing on the movement much more exactly what I'm doing. Leslie said, she feels like she's focusing on the movement much more than, than she would have, if she was just laying here, not blindfolded and we were doing the same thing. I'm sure it would be cool to just, now that we have sleeping masks on, I'll stay down there for the rest of this workshop, but let's go ahead and make our way up, your feet are gonna find a foot bar right there. Mariska can you comment on why the blindfold was different than eyes shadow?

Yes, so for me, the blindfold, it blocks out light. And if we have vision, if we're somebody who can see and you shut your eyes and I would move my hand in front of it, you would still see something, you still have some sight. So I'm just trying to get it even more obviously it's not practical to always be like, I want you to tune in, I'm gonna give you a blindfold. I would maybe do that with some people, but most of the time just say close your eyes, but your sight is so strong that it's really going to try to see. So you're still trying to see if you can see, so this way it turns it off a little bit more.

Maybe a question about that as well. I was told at one time, and I don't know if it's true or not, but that as you get older, your proprioception essentially becomes dominated by your sight. So as you get older, you should practice doing things with your eyes closed so that it doesn't necessarily take over, so that we do, like for walking, you don't all of a sudden feel that you have to watch exactly where your feet are stepping. So what Erin was talking about, which I think is really interesting, and I haven't heard exactly that, but I've heard similar things. She was saying that when you get older, does your vision takeover for your proprioception so that when you're walking, you're paying more attention to vision.

And I'm not sure about that. But what I do know is that as you get older they've done some studies that show that like old people posture where they're like here and they're looking down and they're taking really small steps is a learned unnecessary behavior. So people are afraid because they're getting older and they're more frail and their friend broke their hip or whatever that they would be safer if they're taking smaller steps, which is actually much harder to stay balanced, taking bigger steps is a lot easier to walk with nice balance. And then do this looking down towards the floor and I don't know if it's because visual takes over for proprioception, but I do know that that definitely happens when you get older that most people have a tendency to sort of begin to go down a little bit and they start to look down. When I was (mumbles) the big thing was that you don't close your eyes (speaks faintly).

So Keith was saying that he had heard that you should keep your eyes open when you're doing stuff. So that you're alert to everything. I would say it depends on what your goals are. I personally work out with my eyes closed quite a lot, and I have really awesome proprioception. And I think it's because it's trained because I do work out with my eyes closed and I've been one of those people that I like to tune into my body and I feel like I tune in better with my eyes closed.

So a lot of times I just do that. Can you tell I want to say something? I can tell Christie wants to say something because she's squirming around. The idea is that when we're training in the body, that we're often trying to, the thought becomes functional and you're not walking around (mumbles). So let's train, let's work open in a way.

I think that's part of the thought. So Christie was saying that the thought is that we work with our eyes open, so that it's more like, obviously functional. It's like we don't walk around with our eyes closed and it's getting us more present in like the situation that we're in. And I think that that's also mind body. (speaks faintly) And I think that's also mind body movement.

And actually the next thing I have is purely based on how to really work with the visual cortex. So I think it's what do you want to be focusing on? And it's going to obviously be very individual to that person. So I use all these tricks it's like, I want to work on this person's proprioception. So I need to turn off some strong sense and the easiest one to turn off is sight for proprioception.

So I promise to give you some information on how to trick the brain. And I think that the most interesting work in how to trick the brain is done with mirrors. So this is actually something that I do for myself. So one of the things that I have that is very common in neurological conditions is foot drop, which means that you have difficulty dorsi flexing one of your feet, it's usually just one. So I'm gonna take this mirror and I'm going to place it down in between my legs resting on the floor and I'm gonna have it resting against my left leg.

I'm gonna lean over a little bit towards the right. So I'm gonna begin to lift my feet up. And so you're probably seeing something very different than I'm seeing. So I imagine what you're looking at is that my right foot is lifting dramatically higher than my left foot off the floor. And then if I hold it up and I try to like lift it a little bit higher, I might be able to get my right foot up, maybe a little bit higher than my left foot.

But what I'm looking at is I'm looking at a reflection of my right foot in the mirror that my brain doesn't know isn't my left foot, because I think that it looks exactly like I'm looking at my left foot doing this work. So they've done a lot of work with people who have Phantom pain syndrome, like amputees, where if they lose an arm, for instance, it's usually when the loss of that arm involved, something that was very painful. So you would be less likely to have Phantom pain syndrome. If you had to have an amputation for something that wasn't a painful syndrome, but if you had pain and then you lost a limb, that pain might still exist in the part of your hand, the sensory section of your brain is still there. So you still have the map in your brain that says, left-hand, even if you don't have a left hand, you still have the part of your brain that says left-hand.

So what they do is they'll have people, a lot of times they would say maybe they have a horrible cramp in their left hand and they can't stretch out this cramp, but if they had their hand and they were looking in the mirror and they started doing things where they're trying to stretch out one side and they're seeing they think this right hand, that they don't have anymore being stretched out, your brain doesn't know that you're not seeing it. Personally for somebody who I still have both legs, but one doesn't work nearly as well as the other. And I have to do dozens and dozens and dozens of reps of exercises that are excruciatingly boring. For me, it's extremely frustrating to look at how bad the left side is compared to the right side. So this way I choose not to look at it and if I'm just looking at this side, doing it I'm like, oh, look how good it's doing.

And then I'll stay with it, I'll actually do more reps. And this is what I tend to do use mirror score more when I'm working with a client where I'll say, we're just gonna put this mirror here and I want you to do this, and I want you to evert your foot, and I want you to invert your foot. And I want you to do little foot circles or something like that and I'll watch the good side doing the work. And I think that they're both working equally, even if they're not. So you're changing your brain, but then you're also exercising a muscle that you might have made the choice not to exercise because you have a certain amount of frustration with it.

(audience member speaks faintly) I wouldn't want to put it on the other side. So if I put it on the other side, I'm reinforcing bad movement to the other side of my brain. You know what I mean? It's like, if I put it on this side, then I was looking at this foot not lifting up very high. It was lifting higher.

My foot is lifting higher than the other side? No, not higher than but higher than (speaks faintly). She said it was lifting higher than it was when I started, which is actually like what my goal is. My goal is that I stop, I get past my idea that this leg does not work as well as this leg, because I'm watching the leg that works perfectly fine. And then you just keep doing it and keep doing it and keep doing it until ultimately it becomes true.

Christie, you just like. I'm gonna give you applause, 'cause I don't know if there's any, what about getting past your idea? Like you know you're doing it. How do you get past, I know I'm faking myself (mumbles). How do you get past the part of knowing like there's another step in there.

So Christie was like, how do you get past the point where you know that you're tricking yourself and because of how the visual information is going into your brain, that doesn't matter. It's what you're seeing, you're just giving, it's the visual input. It's not the judgment on the visual input. It's just the visual input. So you're just giving it that one bit of information.

So your brain can have changes without having, it's not like the judgment is gonna make the visual thing. It can make it slightly different, but it's not like it's going to remove it. So that you're accessing different parts of the brain. Right, you're accessing different parts of the brain if you're going to judge that and say that I know I'm tricking myself, but I know enough about neuroscience to know that I can make changes this way. So I will choose to watch my right foot because I know that that can eventually make changes in my left side.

Does that make sense? And Christie, I thought this was mirror neurons, which is another fascinating conversation, which we're going to get to, but no, this is just a mirror and it did affect my neurons.

Chapter 8

Building Connections from the Brain Down

So now let's build some connections from the brain down. We've talked a little bit off line about where one side of your body, isn't talking to the other side of your body. And so that's something called crossing the midline and two hemispheres of your brain are completely separate, except for this one area called the Corpus callosum that runs right through the two.

And it's this very dense layers of axonal fibers. So that the right side of your brain can talk to the left side of your brain. And as a general rule, the left side of your brain is gonna control the right side of your body and vice versa. So you have the right side of your brain controlling the left side of your body. Like for me personally, all of my MS issues are all left side.

They've always been left side because most of my MS lesions to my brain are on the right side. So right side, left symptoms, left side, right symptoms. So ideally you want to have these conversations between the left and the right to happen really super fast and quite fluently. And it doesn't always happen. So we're all going to do a little experiment.

First you have to pair up with a friend. So I need a friend, who can be my friend? I can be your friend. Mary can be my friend. So we're gonna have to have your eyes closed again.

So if people are uncomfortable, they can always sit down. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna just have you hold your hands forward first. And we won't necessarily, we're gonna do palms up and we won't necessarily stay here very long. But what I'm gonna do is I'm going to touch your finger on your right or left side. And I want you to fold the same finger on the opposite side.

Does that make sense? So if I touch her index finger on one side, but don't tell them what you're doing and they have to have their eyes closed, they can't see it and then you do the opposite. You are just tricking me. So what just happened, which I don't know if you caught that I touched her pinky finger and she thought I was touching her ring finger, or she bent her ring finger. I'm not sure if that was one of those where the two parts wants to fold together.

(audience murmurs) Will you restate the instruct? So what we're doing is we were having somebody hold their hands out in front of them. So I'm trying to find out how quickly does information travel from the left side of her brain to the right side of her brain. So if she has her hands extended in her fingers out, if I touch one finger on one side, I want her to fold the same side finger on the opposite hand, does that make sense? So you'll see sometimes where if you're doing it, that sometimes it happens a little bit more quickly with some fingers than others, but then you'll see people who are super fast at it like they have great connections, like the screaming fast, high speed internet from one side to the other.

And some people are on dialogue. I mean, it's like 14 to 400 like it's just not, (audience murmurs) the speed, right. I feel like I got better. You did get better. And I think probably was 'cause you're paying more attention and you're just like, okay, to do this.

You have to concentrate. So we're going to do, is, is everyone good? This actually also pointed out something we've already talked about which is where sometimes you can have some of these cortical maps get a little overlapped. So sometimes if you think it's a finger that's adjacent to the finger that's being touched. So if I touch your middle finger and you think it's your ring finger, then probably your cortical map for your index or your middle and ring finger have fused together in your brain some did it happen to you Christie you look sad.

I mean I have a fusion. Christie has a fusion. Luckily you can work on that, it's like you just work on the dexterity of those individual. She was really fast though. She would like you to know everyone watching at home that she was actually quite fast with it.

(Keith speaks faintly) Right, a piano player probably have really good communication because their right hand is doing something totally separate. So we'll have exercises where you're doing something where you are crossing the midline. So if I take my hand across the midline that is moving from one hemisphere to the other hemisphere to kind of keep it going past the midline you have sometimes it's more in developmental disabilities where you'll have children and this is really interesting. They'll draw and once they get to the midline, they'll pick it up with their other hand and keep going because the midline crossing is really not happening. So they're just taking it and they have like a drawing that they're doing and they'll switch.

So if you had a child and they were exhibiting behaviors like that then you would need to get them to somebody who specializes in working with that sort of developmental neurological condition, because you want to have that really good communication between the right and left hemisphere, Christie. Two questions, I told you I was really sad. Christie has two questions. So Christie had asked whether it's true that women have they actually have a larger and more adept Corpus callosum, but it's also that women tend to be less hemispheric with how they do things. So women would be more likely to do an activity and pull from two sections of their brain from the right and the left side.

And men would be more likely to keep it in one hemisphere. So women tend to have a faster speed but not really so much that that's measurable, but what is measurable and that they have studied is that women who have a brain injury tend to recover better. And they think it's because that the Corpus callosum, that there's more ability for the right and the left to have a conversation than it is in men. And then she asked about crawling and whether if a baby skips crawling, does that have any impact on this ability to cross the midline? And I'm not sure about that, but what I do know is that there are certain kinds of neurological rehabilitation where they try to take you back to certain steps and what they do is they take you back to infants like movements.

And I can't remember what the name of this type of therapy is, what'd you say? Brain gym. Brain gym is just one of the different ones that has. Bobath therapy. I can't remember, it might be Bobath therapy.

There's a whole bunch of different ones and they're all just people's names. But what they do is they take you back to moving like a baby and babies army crawl before they learn to like speed crawl, I guess you call it. So when they're like army crawling, what they found is that kind of pressure and that feedback in those exact places. So it's not it's on your forearm, 'cause you're crawling on your elbows, but they're also more on the inside of their leg 'cause they're turned out. So they're crawling and they're sort of in this position and they try to mimic that because they're trying to get you to have a better neurological outcome.

And I know they do that for stroke and certain kinds of brain injury. I don't know if skipping that step in development makes a difference, but it's interesting. I certainly think it might makes sense that it would. So another little practice, how fast you are and how good you are with crossing the midline is so who didn't do Itsy Bitsy Spider when they were a kid? I will spare you my singing, so we won't go there, but you're going to bring your index fingers and thumbs together and then you start to walk.

So the Itsy Bitsy, spider crawls up the water spout. So this is just regular, this is a crossing the midline exercise, but this is really super easy, so we're gonna up it. We're gonna take up a notch. So instead of going back to your index finger, let's go to your middle fingers. I know it's already getting complicated.

And then you're gonna go to your ring fingers. So you're walking up to your ring fingers to your pinky fingers, and then you start walking back down, ring fingers, middle fingers. And these aren't even the hard ones, there's like other crossing the midline exercises that get more advanced if you stop thinking. So index fingers and thumbs, index fingers and thumbs, and then you're going to move and then you're gonna hit middle finger and thumb. And then you turn around and you hit middle finger and thumb.

And then you turn around and you hit ring finger and thumb and ring finger and thumb, and pinky finger and thumb. And so these kinds of things are actually exercises that people can do if they want to get that communication happening to where you can get really fast at it. There's another one that I can't do, but I'll show it to you, I can't do it to save my life 'cause it's so challenging, but there's another one's called pistols. So you would make pistol fingers and then you would have like a thumb on one side bend and a finger on the other side bend, and then you switch them and that didn't work. See, I find this one really difficult.

So that's just another word something's happening on one side of the body that's not happening on the other side of the body. That to me, that last one, I'm not good at that, it's gets better, I wanna get good at it, can give that to a Pilates client? Christie asked if I would give that to a Pilates client. I would tell them about it, I wouldn't necessarily work with them in their session that they're paying me $100 to see me that I wouldn't say we're gonna do Itsy Bitsy Spider and then thanks for the money, that was awesome. But I give a lot of homework, I'm very big on homework.

So but since we're Pilates teachers, I think what we will more likely to be inclined to do is to give them plots exercises. So I liked the chair, this might be a little bit heavy. I'll probably make a little bit later for doing, I need the pedal or the dowel. So remember any time that we're going to cross the midline of the body, we're going to engage the corpus callosum. So where the brain hemispheres go from one to the other.

So I actually teach this a lot because I love it as a glute meat exercise where I do sort of a cross press. So if you're standing and you step one leg across the other, on the pedal, you have crossed the midline of your body with your leg. Probably the simplest mat exercise is where you're doing leg circles. When you're laying down, we have one leg up and you're just circling it and you go across your body and up across your body and up, if you're not going across your body, you're missing the corpus callosum. So I would say, make sure they're going across their body.

So if you're doing an exercise where you're pressing the pedal down and lifting it back up, that's one way that you could work that midline crossing. But it's really, it's not just that it's any time the right side is doing something different from the left side of the body. So if you were laying down and you're say, okay, right arm, left leg, you know how you have people have like real trouble with that, where you're gonna say, okay, we're going to lift this arm, this leg opposite arm, opposite leg. And then that's good midline crossing exercises. So another way to build the connection from the brain down is to increase dopamine.

And so dopamine is a brain chemical, and it's a really important brain chemical because it is the hedonistic brain chemical, it's the sex drugs and rock role of brain chemicals. And it loves to, we like it. If we do something and we get a little shot of dopamine, we want to do it again. So the more you can increase the amount of dopamine, the better, and an interesting thing about dopamine is that it can act as sort of a secondary information or energy transfer to the nervous system. And we talk about nervous are, no they're good.

When we talk about neuroplasticity, which we're going to get to in a moment, you want to give more than one input at the same time. So if you are, for instance, doing an exercise and you give someone praise, praise is gonna give them a shot of dopamine, because they're gonna be like, oh, I got praise. I wanna get that again. So the importance of praising your clients cannot be understated. Does it matter if it's genuine or not?

I bet it does matter if it's genuine, I bet people can read it, I bet people know, and when we talk about mirror neurons, we'll talk about like your ability to read other people. And so I think people would know. So I don't always say great, 'cause it's not always great, but I'll say better. And I'll mean it, I'll be like better. Like, so we're getting there, we're not necessarily there, but we're getting there.

And then generally people want to get that shot of dopamine. So another thing that gives people a shot of dopamine is novelty. Novelty tells people to pay attention to something. So I teach very nontraditional classes and I like even as a teacher to always be teaching something, that's a little bit different, or maybe I'll want your hands to be flipped this way. And I know when I'm teaching, if I see the room where you can tell that they know where you're going, I will purposely change it because I hate that people are trying to out guess where I'm going with my class, because you're not giving them that shot of dopamine that they're gonna want to keep coming back to your classes.

They want to learn something different to get something new. Another thing that can increase dopamine is just changing what the experience is like. So maybe sometimes when you're teaching your class and it's a really nice night, maybe you turn the lights off. You have candles out, you have something that's different for them so that they can get that little dopamine rush. I think one of the best example of when we start to feed ourselves dopamine is if you're on the internet and you're on Facebook, I think Facebook is the biggest like dopamine pushing a market out there because you're always getting something new.

And then I tend to click on something, I'll be like, oh, I'm gonna read this article on whatever. And you click on it, and before you even finished reading the article, you saw a sidebar article and then you click on the sidebar article and then you start reading that. And then you'll think, oh, who was the actor that was in that movie? And then you're on IMDB and you're looking him up. And then you're thinking about like, I haven't seen that movie in a while, or I haven't been to the movies in a while.

What's playing this weekend, and then later, five hours later, you're wondering how you got there. And it's really because you've been feeding the dopamine of your brain by just continuously giving it new things. You're your own drug dealer. You're your own drug dealer, exactly. And then another way you can do it as mental rehearsal.

And I think this is really interesting if you're working with someone for instance, who can't walk, or this is actually great. If you have somebody who's broken a limb, because they've shown that your motor cortex of your brain is going to turn on whether you're actually doing that motion or whether you're just thinking about doing that motion. The reason I put the picture up that I have the guy listening to the headphones. When you watch the Olympics, you'll always see everybody with their headphones on and you'll see them sort of doing this rehearsal. So if you watch like the figure skaters, for instance, you'll see them and they'll be having their eyes shut.

And they're literally going through a mental rehearsal of like this point in the music, this happens and then this happens and they're having like an amount of input into their brain that your brain doesn't necessarily know that you're not doing it. And they've done studies that have shown that if you, for instance, broke a leg, but you imagined using that leg for the entire time that you were in a cast, that you would have less atrophy of the muscle than if you didn't go through the imagining of the motion, which is fascinating science, I think.

Chapter 9

A Note on Music

So let's talk a little bit about music. So I teach all of my classes to music, but I don't teach all of my privates to music, but I enjoy using music as an additional teaching tool. And I think music and the brain is very fascinating.

When you listen to music, it's not that it's coming into just the auditory cortex. It's not like you hear music the same way you hear language. It's a totally different experience. Music is gonna touch multiple parts of the brain. So it's not just you know, the audio, the sound that's coming in it's sound, but it's also rhythm, it's timber, it's pitch.

It's changes in all of those things. And it also turns on parts of your brain that are involved in planning and anticipation. Because if you listen to a song and it doesn't even have to be a song you know, you know where it's going to go, unless it's jazz, in which case, then you're screwed. But if it's not jazz, usually you know that there's a beat and you've picked up the beat and you sort of know where it's going to go. But music doesn't happen in one part of your brain, your brain takes in all these different elements.

It takes in the rhythm, it takes in the sound and it puts them together to create an experience of music. So it's being analyzed in all these different places, and then you're assembling it. And it's not even that rhythm is in one section of your brain. Like some people have bad rhythm, but almost nobody is completely rhythm deaf because it's not handled in just one part of your brain, it's handled in more than one. So in terms of using it as a teaching tool, it's really important if you have somebody who has a disease, such as Parkinson's disease, where they have problems with kind of getting going.

So they just can't get started and they have problems with pacing like if you see people with Parkinson's, they take these little bitty kind of shuffling kinds of steps. So right now they're doing a lot of studies with Parkinson's disease, with gait, where they give them music, but then they're also throwing in tango. A lot of times if it's for gait, you want something, that's got a good pace for gait. What they're using tango for is actually for a rehab kind of workout because in tango, I don't know if you've ever tango dance, you're being held by someone. So you're really being guided along as you're doing the tango.

And then there's a whole neuromuscular thing called the lunge matrix where you do a forward lunge, a sideways lunge, and a lunge with rotation. And it's sort of mimics that with tango. So they're doing studies with tango. So for people with Parkinson's disease, one thing that they're studying now is working with them with having tango lessons, because with the tango, you're moving not only to a beat, so you're creating some sort of sense of rhythm in your body. It's also a supported movement because you have in the tango, you're up close to your partner.

And then in neurology, they like to do something called the lunge matrix in neuromuscular rehabilitation. And the lunge matrix is something where you would do a step forward, like a forward lunge, a step to the side, a side lunge, and then you would do a step forward with rotation. And all of those happen within the tango, which is sort of interesting 'cause it gets it out of having to be boring rehab and gets it into something that's more fun. But a lot of times, if you're trying to work with somebody with gait, or I have a 25 year old client who moves so fast, like you cannot slow this girl down. And the only way I can slow her down is to play music and to count her out beats like lower your arms down two, three, four, and up, two, three, four else she's just flailing about and she's very kind of all over the place and it's very hard to get her to focus, but you can get her to focus with music.

Music is also sure to reduce perceived levels of exertion. So if you're listening to music, you don't feel like you're working out as hard. You can work out longer, you can usually work out faster. Like if you have somebody who runs, they usually can run a little faster. If they're running to music, I actually have a waterproof iPod because I like swimming to a beat.

And I find that I can swim a lot longer if I swim to music and that's sort of a universal thing and it blocks sensations of fatigue. So you can keep going longer, so if you're listening to music while you're working out, you'll be able to work out a little bit longer. And then finally, and this is one of my favorite things in terms of teaching a group class to music is it really changes the dynamic of a group. And I tend to teach very large mat classes that are just filled with people from wall-to-wall and they're taught to the beat. And there's that gorgeous synchronization of movement that you have when you have a bunch of people moving to a beat.

So you don't necessarily have to work as hard as the teacher to get them all in sync, because they're just gonna start following the patterning in the music. And you don't necessarily have to tell them what that is, because maybe you have one person who doesn't have as good rhythm as everyone else. And some people hear an uptempo and some people hear, a down an upbeat or a downbeat. So they don't necessarily hear the beat happening at the same time they hear a beat, but it's not the same beat you hear. And that happens but what I also think is some really interesting research that they have going on right now and I'll have Christie start a second song, is that they found that when people are singing or moving with exactly the same breath pattern and that music is involved, that their heartbeats start to synchronize.

That was just on NPR. It was just on NPR. Can you say that again? So when people are like in a chorus or something and they're singing together and their breath patterns start to match up, or they could be moving together and their breath patterns start to match up, the heartbeats in the room are going to start to match up, which is where I think that you have these really kind of spiritual experiences. When you go, when you hear music, like I'm playing Ave Maria, just because I think it's a beautiful song, but if you go to a yoga studio and you're owning together, or there's a chance or all different spiritual practices have some sort of musical element that your whole group can end up really being synchronized in a way that you might not have thought possible.

You can say that you work with individuals (speaks faintly). It depends a lot of times when I'm working with an individual, we're having a lot of conversation and I don't necessarily want that to be distracted conversation. So for me, when I'm working one on one with somebody, I usually am way more hands on than I would be. If I'm working with somebody in a group, I don't tend to be very hands on in a group setting because I have a lot of people and I quite frankly, might trip on them and I don't want to. So I tend to sort of stay in a single location and then not move around as much.

But if I was doing stuff with an individual, I would want them to be focused on me and like what I was saying to them. But if I needed the music, like if they had a gait problem and I couldn't get them past that. So remember when Francine was walking earlier on the reformer and she was doing the marching and it wasn't necessarily moving the way I wanted it to move. It was maybe a little bit too slow like I might have given her some music and say, keep the beat of this music. So now we're gonna talk about neuroplasticity,

Chapter 10


which I think is we've actually probably unbeknownst to you've been talking about this entire time, which is the ability of the brain to change itself.

And I think that that's obviously really important that we need to know that in addition to working out and changing muscles, we can change the brain. So this happens because of our life experiences. And what we need to do is harness that for our therapeutic advantage. So knowing that the brain changes, having these ways, that we can help give it more input and make it more likely to change is going to be useful and also know that plato's aren't. So when people think that they've stopped progressing, it doesn't necessarily mean that they've stopped progressing.

If you're making changes in the brain, there needs to be a time where that information can be consolidated. And what we talked about about pruning of unnecessary networks and sort of solidify those new networks that are really useful, that that takes time. So you might have somebody that has this amazing improvement. And then it seems like, well, then they just stopped. But that doesn't mean that they stopped.

It just means that things are kind of settling in and then they can have it start back up again. So sort of the thing in neuroplasticity, or in my opinion, is called Hebbs postulate. And it says that that fire together wire together, and we've already seen that in action where people had trouble moving one finger and not the other finger, because maybe you had done a motion, like a grabbing motion where you've programmed that in into your brain. And so now those neurons are connected and this is great for plasticity because to make changes at the synaptic level or at you can even come to the genetic level, you need to have that information happening over and over and over and over again. So if somebody has a stroke, for instance, and they're doing something called Taub's constraint induced movement therapy, what they're doing is they're doing Hebbs postulate with them, where they're making them work a certain area and they're doing literally gazillions of repetitions of something.

So it's a very intense therapy where somebody might go in for like six weeks at a time. I think it's like six weeks, three weeks or six weeks. And they're just doing hours and hours and hours a day of repetitive work because it's a compressed timeframe to reprogram somebody's brain, but constraint induced movement therapy and stroke is shown to be about 80% effective and it works for people even if they had a stroke 10 years ago, it's just that condensed amount of rehab. So what they do is they'll take, let's say you can't work one side of your body. 'Cause you had a stroke and you had the left side of your body stop working.

They'll tie the right side of your body down so that you have no choice, but to use the left side of your body. And you'll be like that for several weeks on end until suddenly you can use the left side of your body again, because you just didn't give yourself any options. So in terms of Hebb's postulate, this was actually recognized in 1949. So in terms of neuroscience, it's fairly old. The way to have it happen more is you increase sensory input, is one way, you increase the quality of sensory input is another way.

And then it also works backwards. So you have neurons not wiring together. If you decrease sensory input or the quality of that input. So you wanna make sure that the quality is good and that you have a lot of it. (speaks faintly) So if you're going to give somebody sensory input where you're going to maybe tell them how to do something, you want to be really good at telling them how to do something.

You want the instructions to be very clear. You if you're giving praise, you want it to be praise like Christie was asking like, is it sincere praise or is it not sincere praise? So sincere praise obviously has a higher quality level than insincere praise would have. When you have Hebb's postulate in action, it's actually, in some ways you can have really good things happen. So all of us in this room do Pilates.

So we probably are really good at stabilizing something before we move it. So we probably all stabilize our shoulder before we do some sort of side plank or something. So we've kind of fused those things into our brains. So we like know that if your arm is gonna be here, you're going to make sure that your shoulder isn't up. So we've programmed that in.

If you see people who are ballet dancers and you ask them to go into hip extension, and I say, I want you to engage your glutes, move your leg back, so this is me non dancer doing it. If you have a dancer, they're going to think that they wanna go into an arabesque and they're going to turn their QL on to get their leg to go back further. So those are a lot of times wired together in their movement patterns. And then I found an interesting in a recent physical therapy instruction from my PT to try to extend my thoracic spine without bringing my shoulder blades back is actually extremely difficult. And I'm going to blame pulling straps on that because I think it all the motions that we do, we're used to extending your thoracic spine and simultaneously engaging your rhomboids and squeezing your shoulder blades together.

So I want to have you guys try that. So just come to seated or come to standing or what standing is probably better. And you Pilates teachers and Pilates students are going to let your arms just hang by your side and then extend your thoracic without squeezing your shoulder blades. So probably a good cue for that. Because I see some puzzled faces say, extend your thoracic without squeezing your shoulder blades.

And so how does that feel Erin? Labored. Like we've linked it, we've said that if you're gonna extend your thoracic, most of the time you're going to engage your lats, engage your rhomboids, where you don't actually physically have to do that. You can lift your thoracic, your sternum forward without having to squeeze anything on the backside of your body, but we don't necessarily do that because we're not given the instruction to do that and we've done it so many times the other way that we're just naturally gonna go into that habit. Its really annoying physical therapy to be told, to do that where you're like, but I'm so good at doing it this way.

Why would you ever want me to do it that way? So you have four main types of neuroplasticity. So you have cross modal reassignment which is cortical remapping. And this one I think is really interesting. So if you have somebody who, for instance is blind and they learn to read braille, braille is going to be processed in the visual cortex of their brain.

Because like I said before, your brain doesn't like to have real estate that hasn't had a development put on it. So it's like a monopoly board, you wanna have everything with a little house on it or something. So they'll just going to move something into that area. And it works because there's no electrical signal into the brain that has a tight, so visual, isn't different than sensory. It's a neuron firing energy and that doesn't change because it's different information that's coming in.

The energy between the neurons is energy between the neurons and it really doesn't care what that energy is. Exercise is gonna fit into this use dependent plasticity. So if you use something, if you do it a lot of times, the area for that part of the brain is going to become more developed. The map in the brain will become bigger then we also have what's called homologous area adaptation. And that generally does not happen in adults.

It's more likely to happen in children. There's one story in this wonderful book called the brain that changes itself. So it's, to me the book in neuroscience, if you want to read more about it, and it talks about this girl who was born with half a brain, so she literally does not have half a brain. And all these things that would normally have been on one side of her brain just are in the other side of the brain. And she's actually quite functional for somebody who's missing half of a brain.

And you would think that that would probably not be the case, but it's just things went over to another side. So she didn't have the side, so it's gonna go to the side. And then my favorite in terms of just saying it is the last one, which is called compensatory masquerade, which I think is just a word that we should all say regularly, because it's sounds really cool, compensatory masquerade. So I am guilty of I'm doing this because I have no sense of direction. I really just don't, I could walk out of here and get lost, literally walking across the parking lot.

And I don't have good spatial relations skills. So I don't read maps very well. So my compensatory masquerade of finding a way to change my brain to make me not get lost is I'll find other things to do, Like I will look for landmarks. I'm one of those people who I need to know that I'm turning at the gas station and then I'm turning left at the McDonald's. I don't need to know that I'm going East for whatever and then Northeast, like that confuses me.

So that's an example of plasticity that's called compensatory masquerade. I see your brains turning, like you're like, what compensatory masquerade do I have? Sounds like it's pretty common. Oh, it's very common. It's just like, if you're not good at something, you're gonna figure out another way.

If you care enough, you'll figure out another way to do it. (speaks faintly) what'd you say? People compensate unconsciously. Oh yeah, you don't think about like how you're going to do it, you do it. So you can boost plasticity.

We've talked about this, like novelty and repetition. Repetition is actually very important. Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition with reward is good. So what's your motivation? Like for me, my motivation to do these boring foot exercises is that I want to walk better.

So that's a pretty strong motivator. And if you're working with people with neurological conditions, you'll find that they have really strong motivators because they really want something very badly. And I have to say in terms of working with people that, that have stuff I've never had clients work harder, like people will work for it and you can push them. Exercise is a great way to boost plasticity and you really wanna have more than one thing happening at once. And then you can do all these things and the most important thing is that you're really paying attention because if I'm sitting here and I'm going to say, well, I'm gonna lift my foot 500 times because that will strengthen my tibialis anterior, possibly true that my tibialis anterior will be strengthened because I've lifted my foot 500 times.

But if I'm not really consciously paying attention to lifting my foot and what that all entails, my brain doesn't have to get involved in it. And it doesn't have to make a change where I want the change to happen. And I want that change to happen in the brain more than I want the change to happen in the muscle. I still want it in the muscle, but I want it in the brain more. So the cautions in in terms of this kind of work is that you, as a teacher, can't fix anyone.

And I know that's like always disheartening to hear like you can't fix people in terms of their brain. They have to do that work. So they have to internalize this. You can give them the tools, you can try to give them more feedback, more novelty, whatever, but they're not going to have those changes unless they internalize it. And then it does take thousands and thousands and thousands of repetitions of something to really program a movement.

So to have something become unconscious and to have it be in your brain, you can't do it five times. Like I always say, that's the hardest thing about working with someone who has something that they really need to be doing a lot of work is who can really afford to pay, to take Pilates every single day. So I always give people homework, I'm like, I want you to go home and I want you to do this every single day. And then you come see me once a week, but we're going to do this exercise every day. No exceptions, I want you to for like 30 minutes and then do this other thing for like 30 minutes, because they need to have that kind of repetitions.

And then the really bad news is that it's really equally easy to program bad movement as it is to program good movement.

Chapter 11


So if you do start with anyone with neurological conditions the advice I would give you is if you've seen one brain injury, you've seen one brain injury. Every single person is going to be completely different and they should be treated as a completely individual case because what works for one person might not work for another person. So when something goes wrong, I have a picture of a brain that's had a stroke and I picked stroke for the reason that everyone picks stroke. In terms of brain injury when you've had a stroke, you have a stroke and then it's over and you don't continue to have a stroke.

If you have something like multiple sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease or Charcot-Marie-Tooth, or any of these different neurological conditions, they keep happening. So they're actually really a lot harder to study. So if you're looking for research in terms of neurological work, what you're gonna find is stroke. You'll find Parkinson's a lot because a lot of people have Parkinson's. But really most everything is stroke.

And in terms of movement the reason that that area that's red on the brain is where it is, is because there's a big, huge artery that runs through that part of your brain. So a lot of times when people have a stroke, they have their motor cortex or their sensory cortex is affected just because of the way the blood is in the brain that it's likely to happen there. So disorders of movement tend to be either hyper kinetic, which means that you have overactivity of something or they tend to be hypokinetic when they have under activity. Most of the time, if it's damaged the brain, you're gonna have overactivity of something and if it's in the lower part if it's in the spinal cord or in the nerves, then it's more likely to be an under activity kind of thing. You have damage to the brain, I had said earlier that you end up having your brain goes into this state of being able to change that rivals what you're like when you're a baby.

And that's because the brain really wants to fix things and you have something called reactive synaptogenesis, which is where you lose axons and they'll immediately start sprouting. So they'll start growing back and unfortunately they don't tend to grow back necessarily all the way, but they do immediately start to grow back and your brain starts to figure out all these other things to find workarounds. And sometimes that's really great and you have a great functional outcome, but sometimes the brain figures out bad work rounds, and then you have less of a great functional outcome. So in terms of where, I said if it's coming from the brain, you tend to have this over activity. This is where we get into one of the most common neurological symptoms, which is muscle spasticity.

So the best way I could describe what it feels like to have a muscle spasm, exactly what it sounds like. So everyone has probably had a Charley horse. So I've had a Charley horse for seven years in my legs, so it's just, I have spasticity in my left leg. And that's a very common thing with MS, it's really common in stroke, it's very common in traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, things just tend to cause this. And it's a loop of reactions that involve the stretch reflex.

So normally you have something you're holding it or you have pressure somewhere and we talked about the muscle spindles, feel that there's a stretch, and then they fire to keep something at a constant length. and then that's what the structure reflex is. And then we talked about how the brain can send signals down to tell your body to do something or not to do something. But in the case of spasticity, the brain doesn't send the signals down. So the muscle spindles sends a message and says I'm being stretched.

And then the brain should send signals down that stabilize the muscle. So it's like, okay, you're being stretched, that's fine. We're going to either do this or we're going to do that. But the message isn't getting there. So the spinal cord takes over and it tells the muscle to contract.

It's like being stretched to contract, that's what the spinal cord does. The spasticity is just the spinal cord doing its job and the brain signal not getting through, but the spinal cord doesn't stop telling the muscle to contract and the brain can't tell the muscle to not contract. So then you have all these other things, sort of a cascade of problems happen. So the spastic muscle starts to lose the amounts of contractile fibers in it. So it can't really contract properly anymore.

And then the muscle gets shorter, well a shorter muscle is going to feel stretch earlier than a more lengthened muscle. So you just keep creating this problem. A lot of times, if you get somebody and they have muscle spasticity, it would be a completely natural thing to want to stretch them, like you're like, oh, you have muscle spasticity let's try to stretch that out. But if the stretch reflex is what's turning on the spasticity and you're trying to stretch the muscle and the brain signal, isn't really getting there. You run the risk of turning on the spasticity more, but then you have a conundrum here because you have the muscles getting shorter and that's the muscle and not the spasticity.

So you still have to stretch, so sort of what do you do? 'Cause you're in a no win situation and that's really what spasticity is. It's it is the hardest thing to work with I think in terms of neurological work, it is an MS the number one cause of disability. It's not that you have muscle weakness, although all spastic muscles are weak muscles, but you have muscles that are so tight that they can't operate properly. And I'm actually going to try to demonstrate a little bit of something on here.

And I'm going to put this on a specifically very heavy spring weight and you have a green spring. So probably get there pretty fast. So a sort of partner of spasticity is called clonus and it's where the agonist and antagonist muscles get confused. And they sort of start one's contracting, the other's contracting, the other's contracting, the others contracting, and you'll see sort of it's called a violent shaking and it doesn't hurt. So if you see it, don't think I'm hurting myself.

So one of the relatives of spasticity, which I talked about a little bit is clonus, which is this sort of violent movement. And my left leg is pretty good at going right into it when it's on a heavy weight. And this is sort of what you would see with spasticity when it's really fired up. And that stretch reflex is kind of all over the place and it just can't control it. So I could just hold it there and it will just sit there and it's going to get worse and it'll just get like this violent shaking.

So I think you'll see it better there. So you'll see it's like an earthquake. So if you have people who have muscle spasticity, obviously I actually don't think that for me, makes it worse for some people, it would make it worse, it's uncomfortable and it's kind of embarrassing. So you wouldn't have them do stuff where they were in like a plantar flexed position. So I would do foot work with a lot of people with spasticity, with the jump board so that their feet can be flat, so that they don't have that kind of extensor pattern.

It's interesting to note that the extensor pattern can happen with feet and straps as well. So if you wanted to do hip work and you don't want to have that happen, if that's happening to them, then maybe what you would do is instead of putting their feet in the strap, you're just gonna put the straps like over their knees. And then they could do like similar like leg circles or frogs or whatever with the straps on the knees instead of on the feet, because it's something about being in the supine extended position. Like if you're all the way out like this, that has a tendency to aggravate spasticity. In terms of stretching, I always say save stretching for somebody who has muscle spasticity until the end of the day.

I do yoga stretches at night, usually for about half an hour. And I definitely walk better the next day but what's very interesting is if you have muscle spasticity and you stretch it and you already have a limited amount of strength, and these are already weak muscles, you will find that you have a lot of weakness that you've created for that person by trying to stretch it. And a lot of times that spasticity is all they've got to keep those muscles working. So if you have Botox, which I've actually had to my leg to try to relieve the muscle spasticity, I hated it because I had so much weakness because it had taken out all the muscle tension to the point where I didn't have any strength. So to me, the spasticity gives you a little bit of strength and it's very hard to correct this pattern.

And the only thing that really seems to work is a combination of exercise and stretching 'cause you do have to keep the muscles longer, but like I said, stretch late and stretch lasts. Like if you're there seeing you at night and they're not doing anything else for the rest of the day, perfect, you can stretch them. I like dynamic range of motion because I think that that is in a way a stretch that, that doesn't tend to aggravate spasticity nearly as badly. But you wanna make sure that you don't stretch them to where they don't have any strength left to get through the rest of their day. Does that make sense?

On the specificity situation on your foot work, is it detrimental to your health to actually stretching (speaks faintly) stretch the leg out fully? Actually, so Keith's question was whether it's detrimental to do a stretch, it's not shown to be detrimental at all. And it's actually in terms of muscles and your brain, you're not gonna change your brain unless you actually do the movement. So the there's a lot of camps on what to do with spasticity personally, for me, what works is like a small amount of medication to take the edge off the spasticity, because it is quite painful to have your muscles and knots all the time. It doesn't feel good.

But then to work the muscle and to try to get to the point where you're sending the signals down from your brain to turn that off, like I was not trying to turn that off at all because I wanted you to see how bad it could look. But I do have the ability to get my brain to tell it, to turn off some it's just where I feel it more as if I go for a walk for a long distance, there will just get to be a point where my leg is in such a bad cramp that I kind of can't keep going. So it's not shown to be harmful, it's just that you take away strength. And when you take away strength that isn't necessarily putting your client or yourself in a really good position to kind of keep going with the rest of your day. So I like it as an end of the day finish off stretch.

(Christie speaks faintly) So they have muscle relaxers that work on the spinal cord. So there are spinal muscle relaxers. So you have muscle relaxers that work on the muscle fibers, and those don't actually work for muscle spasticity. And my husband's always like, why don't you use tiger balm? And I'm like, so not the problem, but God love him.

He has good ideas. It's like try some tiger balm. So you either you have to, what they do is essentially paralyze the spastic muscle, which like I said, I absolutely hated because it took away so much strength and it took me back in trying to get stronger five steps back to go two steps forward but then you're still behind where you were. But I take a medication called Baclifin, which is a really old drug. So most of the time you would have somebody that has muscle spasticity, Baclifin is probably the drug that they're on.

And I usually ask people to take the Baclifin an hour before they see me, so that it's really kind of in their system and we've taken the spasticity away and we've got the muscle actually in a sort of weakened state and we can work with it in this sort of manageable weaker state. So if you're going in, you're gonna do these intense stretches. You might put it in too much of a weakened state. So the doctors are usually going to find like a, sort of a happy medium, where they have relaxed it enough that you can manage better, but you still need to do the work. You still need to go back and start doing exercises to try to get that muscle stronger because it's a very, very weak muscle.

Does that make sense? This is just a little bit of my own history, we're gonna skip through it just for time, but if you want to read over it, it's just saying like, when one thing happens, sort of the cascade of problems that can happen, if you don't notice something and a lot of times things go unnoticed.

Chapter 12

Learned Non Use and Learned Misuse

And so I want to talk about something called learned non-use and why it is that we have a tendency to develop these really bad habits. If you have any kind of weakness and it could be like an injury, like a sprained ankle or a broken leg, but it could also be something like a stroke. So let's say I had a stroke and I tried to move my left arm and it doesn't work.

So I have an unsuccessful motor attempt to move my left arm. That's gonna feel like a punishment or a failure, and I don't wanna feel like that. So I'm not gonna do that anymore. So the behavior itself is going to be suppressed. So left arm, not working.

I don't feel like using my left arm that feels bad. I have now learned not to use my left arm. On the other side of that, you have an injury and your left arm isn't working and that's neurological because you had a stroke. And then I decided, well, instead, I'm gonna use my right arm, well, that worked. And so then I got a reward and that reward is my little shot of dopamine.

And I liked my little shot of dopamine. So therefore I'm going to use my right arm again. And maybe I was lefthanded, but now I'm learning to write with my right hand and that's giving me this reward. And so now we're strengthening this other movement pattern and we're learning not to use the limb. What's interesting is if people have a neurological injury where both limbs are affected, they're more likely to recover the use of both lens than if they have one limb because you need them.

You're like, well, I've got nothing, so we're just going to like try to work with what we have. And so when you're working with somebody who has any kind of learned, non-use, there are compensations that yes are valuable and yes are good and sometimes you wanna teach them to people. But if you can, in any situation that works out, if you can make their body do that movement so that they can learn to use something that they weren't using before, that's probably going to be preferable. So I take people who have very little movement in their legs and we just do footwork and I hold onto their legs and we just press out and come in and press out and come in. And they're not necessarily doing all of the work, but they're doing the more you work with them, they'll start doing more of the work 'cause you're making them do it.

And when I talked about the Taub's constraint induced movement therapy and the doctor is Edward Taub, who came up with it, that's what they do. They make you use the limb that may be not so easy to use. So what you have happening in these neurological injuries, where you have weakness in one side, you need to work the exact thing that you're seeing. So you have that weakness, and you're going to work it. In hemiparesis, which is single sided weakness, which we've talked about super common.

The way I like to work is you work both sides together, and then you're gonna work the strong side because the strong side can sort of learn the behavior. Then you're gonna go back to the weak side and do the weak side, then you're going to do both sides together again. So if I was going to do footwork, I could do it where I would say, we know my left leg is my weak leg. So if I'm doing footwork and I'm going to run on the balls of my feet, I'm going to press out and in, so I'm doing both sides and I promise you that this will happen with most of your people who have one side that's way stronger is my right leg is really, doing a lot more work than my left leg. Then I wanna get the motion of having a single leg, do the work, so I'm going to have just the right leg doing the work and then once I get that idea of like, okay, that's what it feels like to have a single leg doing the work.

Then I'm going to switch and I'll have my left leg, do it for the same amount or maybe even a little bit more 'cause this is my weak side and then we'll come back and I'll press out and it most likely will be more even. So the sides are gonna work together a little bit more completely. I like to give people a little bit of visual feedback with that as well. So sometimes what I do is if I was doing leg springs on the Cadillac, I would take the roll-down bar and it would have their feet in the Springs. And I would maybe go yellow, maybe not be so heavy.

And I would put hook the roll-down bar as well. So you have the foot straps and the roll down bar. So when you're pushing, you're really getting the idea 'cause you get that visual sense that you're like, oh, I pushed more with the right, which you get a little bit if you're watching your feet and they're both individually in the springs, but you don't necessarily get to see it as well as if you give them something more visual. So if you have the leg straps and then you also hook the roll up bar to it, but your feet are in the straps, you can see is one side working harder than the other and then you get that additional visual cue of figuring out like, this side is definitely working harder let's turn the side on a little bit more. So the goals of neuromuscular training are going to be that you take over where spontaneous recovery stopped, that you prevent or correct negative compensations.

And I think that that's where a lot of people are lost by the medical system that you developed these compensations and nobody ever pointed them out to you. And then they just kept getting worse and then learn how to use muscles more properly. So learned use looks like, is to learn a skilled movement, you have a reorganization of neurocircuitry. You have an increased capacity for activation of the spinal nerves, because you're asking your body to do more, you're gonna stimulate angiogenesis, which is the genesis or the development of blood cells. So you'll have more blood.

And once you have more blood flow and new neural pathways, that's when you can have changes happen in the brain itself. Christie had asked this question earlier about, does this work better on women? And it tends to because women tend to have a more developed Corpus callosum, so the two sides of the brain tend to talk to each other a little bit better. Now I want to move on two, actually three last little topics in the world of neuroscience, which don't necessarily apply to people with neurological conditions, they kind of apply to people. The first is pain, so in pain you have Nociceptors.

We talked about the different receptors in your skin. Nociceptors are the ones that feel pain. So yeah, you have a sensation, it travels up to your brain, your brain, it goes to the Somatosensory cortex, your brain is like pain. The nocebo effect is when once the pain got up to your brain, your brain decides to label it. So you have people who have a good pain tolerance and you have people have a bad pain tolerance and people who have a good pain tolerance are more likely to label that pain as not as severe as somebody who has like a bad pain tolerance.

Like if you're very fearful of something, like if you're afraid that childbirth is going to be the most horrible thing in the world, you've probably set yourself up for having the nocebo effect where you're going to put anxiety on top of pain. And then the pain is going to get worse. The opposite of that is the placebo effect. I'm sure you've heard of it, it's where you can you give somebody a sugar pill and they can get better from the sugar pill because they believe that that sugar pill is going to work for them. And why that works is because you have descending signals from your brain saying like, that's not gonna hurt that bad.

And it literally just stops the signals that are coming up from getting there. So the signals are basically having a clash of the Titans and the more powerful one is going to get where it's going. Chronic pain a lot of times it becomes a neuroplastic thing. So the pain has changed your brain to where you have more of that sensation. And you have more of the anxiety about pain than you would have had previous to that.

And then in a similar world of pain, we have fear. And I think fear is very interesting thing because in addition to your motor sensory system, you also have an emotional motor system. So this would be about posture around emotion. I have yet to find anybody who has a chronic medical condition who doesn't have a slightly forward head or a collapsed posture. I know that I have a slightly collapsed posture because I trip a lot.

So I look down at the floor when I'm walking, 'cause I'm trying not to trip. And that's actually been something that I've tried to work on a lot where my physical therapist has me trying to extend my thoracic spine without squeezing my shoulder blades, because I'm trying to look up and forward, 'cause I still am trying to catch the things that I might trip over, but not look down. When we talk about old people and how they get that posture, they they've gotten this posture around that fear. So that's probably been their emotional motor system kicking in a little bit. An example of how fear would affect movement is when you have somebody get scared and do this kind of jerk thing, which is the absolute worst thing you could possibly do when you feel like you're afraid you're gonna fall is to do some sort of big movement because then you fall.

I have a teacher who worked for me and we were doing the side pike on the chair with a single arm. And it was most astonishing thing I've ever seen that she goes up and she's very clearly starting to fall and she controls it, she just starts to move like really slowly. And she gets her balance back and I was just looking at her and I'm like, how in the world did you do that? And she said that she had a yoga teacher who told her once, if you feel like you're gonna fall, start falling slow. And so she didn't have that jerking reactive response to fear that most of us would have where you're just like, oh no, I'm falling.

Then you go into that kind of protective reflex, she managed to have her brain send a signal down that said, nope, we're going to calmly control that motion. So I think that working around fear is really important. And I think it's also interesting because we talked to the very, very beginning about how overcoming a fear really turns on a part of your brain in a huge way. And it can have massive neuroplastic effects that if you can get over something, the reward of that is so huge, you get such a huge shot of dopamine. So I wanted to show an exercise I've been playing around with, on the Cadillac for an exercise that I personally have a lot of fear around because I have a little bit of vertigo and a little bit of a balance problem.

So it's a way that I like to trick the brain. So you don't feel as scared to do the forward lunge. Okay, so when we're working on somebody's fear, we obviously wanna take that fear away for them. So we wanna make them feel like they're not going to for instance, we'll have the fear of falling in a forward lunge on the one to chair. So let's go ahead and use first the sides of the Cadillac and we'll hold on to them.

So obviously don't step on your own toes when you're stepping on the pedal, we're going to bring your hands to these outside rails and then set yourself up so that your hands are in the right position. Because you're a little bit shorter, let's walk this foot back a smidge. Good so that you can bring your shoulders back over your toes and then begin to press into your left foot to lift up. So Keida is not scared of this, but just pretend you're a little scared of it. So if she was a little scared, she would be a little bit more wobbly.

She would be a little more hesitant, so maybe this is the first time she's done it. So we're just going to go up and down using the outside. Now I personally don't like spotting people on this exercise from right in front of them where they could fall on me and I don't weigh that much and take me down and I probably couldn't catch them. So I'm actually one of my teachers who knows that this is a fear exercise for me, came up with a way to give me a little bit of feedback by giving me something to hold on to that has some give, but these are purple springs so they're heavy. It takes a little bit of effort to make them move.

And so I'm gonna have you put your hands in here, shift your weight back and she could always have started in the up position, I always think it's easier to start in the up position and then come back. So it's as if I was holding her hands, but this is actually gonna probably give her a little bit more support than if I was holding her hands and trying to keep the pressure the same. And then I might say, okay, we're gonna go down halfway, drop your right hip down a smidge, perfect. Then bend your left knee in and press and bend in and press. So here we're letting her work, do you feel more secure than if I had you doing this and you had nothing to hold on to.

So go ahead and you can grab on to the sides and then slowly come out of that. Another way that you might use the Cadillac, it's not set up perfectly for this is I personally think that cap on the one the chair is the scariest exercise in all of Pilates. I think it's terrifying, especially because I have vertigo. So when I tilt my head in a certain direction, I tend to get dizzy. So having this part behind you is really nice because you can press your feet down if you're in that cap position.

Can I have you, let's make it a little bit lighter and I'll just move it out of your way, just so that we can demo this, what weight do you like for this? Usually spring on the top. One on the top. So I'll just move this out of the way and you could come to sort of your cap, I want you to sit with your hips down on your heels. And so right now her feet are getting a lot more feedback than if they were just hanging off the edge, which is kind of scary.

And then just reach for the pedal with your hips on your heels. Good round your spine like an angry cat begin to push the pedal down a little bit and then lift your hips off of your heels slightly. So I would maybe take her to here. So I wouldn't take her all the way into cap, 'cause we know that cap is a scary exercise for a lot of people. So I would say, come to here and then round your spine more to bring the pedal back up without letting your hips come back and then press it down and then round your spine to come up and then press it down.

And she seems pretty okay here, so while you're here, you know what, why don't you lean forward a little bit more and then round your spine to pull the pedal up and you can always press the tops of your feet down into the Cadillac to feel a little bit more secure and you know what? She looks pretty good here. So she doesn't seem scared. So let's go ahead and come all the way forward into that cap position, round your spine to come up or press to go out. And so for her, like right now, let's say she tried this exercise once she failed at it miserably because she was really scared of it.

And now she's doing this exercise successfully. So I've just given her, I've dealed her the drug of dopamine to her brain. And then she's gonna wire this into her brain more easily because she feels rewarded from it. And she's also overcome fear. You may come out of that anytime you would like.

Chapter 13

Mirror Neurons

So one last thing I wanted to talk about is something that was actually not discovered until the '90s and it's called mirror neurons. I think this is another thing that's very interesting in the world of neuroscience. So what was happening was they were studying the motor cortex of monkeys and they were giving them these pellets of food. So they would watch what the monkey's brain was doing when it was picking up these pellets of food. So it's like pick it up, this part of the brain fires, pick it up, this part of the brain fires, pick it up this part of the brain fires, monkey ate all the pellets empty tray so that the researchers wanted to continue this experiment.

So they started putting the pellets down. So basically doing the same motion that the monkeys were doing and the part of their brain that the monkey had just been using fires, but the monkeys not doing anything other than watching. So it's the motor cortex of the brain fires, watching someone else do something. So this is why my husband and maybe your husband, or maybe you yell a television when you're watching a sporting event, even though turns out that in the case in our house, that event happened across space and time because it's on the DVR, so it's not even happening live, but he's still having this emotional response to it. Like it is happening and not only that it's happening, but that they can hear him and that he is in fact playing the game with them.

So you'll see a lot of times at sporting events, they just see people get really super excited and super into it. The thing with mirror neurons in your brain, and that's about 20% of the motor neurons, I believe are mirror neurons. I'm not quite sure on that, but I think that's true. You have to know the activity for the mirror neurons to turn on. So I completely passively watched sporting events because I didn't play football or really watch football or have any major interest in football or in the case in our house soccer.

But my husband played competitive soccer in high school and college and soccer was his life. So when he's watching somebody play soccer, all of his motor neurons are firing as if he was playing soccer. It's an important learning tool for people. If they are seeing something done, to be able to have empathy for what's happening. So mirror neurons are why we cry and sad movies because we know what that feels like.

It's why you would look at somebody and they would have a certain posture and you would get tense because you're like, Oh, this person seems really upset. I'm upset that this person is upset. I don't know this person, but you can tell that something isn't quite right with them. They're actually doing a lot of research right now in autism and trying to figure out whether kids with autism don't have as many mirror neurons as kids without autism. I don't know that they've found any rulings on that, but it's an interesting theory if nothing else, because if children can't look at somebody and read what their facial expression is, they might just not have that same part of their brain turning on that, that you might have.

What's interesting too, is that you don't have mirror neurons just in the motor cortex. You also have them in the somatosensory cortex. So if I watch somebody being touched, the same part of my brain is going to turn on as the person who's being touched. If I know what that sensation is like. So if you're teaching and you're walking around and you're correcting hands on and somebody is seeing you do that hands on, they might mirror you in terms of somatosensory cortex.

And they might have a sensation of what that correction would be like in their bodies. So if you're pulling some or pressing somebody's abdomen and to try to get them to get the sense of pulling their abs down and away from your hand, then somebody seeing that might need nothing more than that to pull their abs down and away from the imaginary hand, that's not touching them. It also has some implications when you're teaching that, I don't know if you feel like me, that you feel like you're a puppet master, like when you're teaching and you're just, I saw some of the pictures of me teaching yesterday and I am miming activity the entire time, like shoulders down, arms up shoulder blades back. And you're just doing these things and your students really benefit from that because they're getting that visual feedback, even if you aren't necessarily doing the activity with them. And after a long day of teaching, is it just me or does everyone feel like they got a workout?

Because while you were telling people to do stuff and while you're watching them do it, you feel like that part of your brain has turned on as if you had done the workout with them. And I always say to people, my students think that I do the workouts with them and I don't, I don't teach from the mat, but they are like, well, you work out all the time. And I'm like, no, I'm pretty sure I'm standing there and you're working out. But they think that I'm working out with them even though not, but I'm just mirroring some of their movements. And so maybe they have that sensation that I've done the workout with them as well.

So a couple of more reasons to exercise or that it's brain protective. So people who exercise more tend to have less on demantia, less neurological problems as they age, than people who don't exercise. It also increases nerve growth factors, such as something called BDNF, which is brain derived neurotrophic factor. And that can boost these synaptic changes and it can also increase myelin in the brain. If you're working with somebody and you want to change their brain, then the repetitive practice is something that you really want to do.

And that's really where the difference comes in it's this repetitive practice and paying attention and focusing on all these ways that you can get the brain and the body to talk to each other beyond trying to get somebody to have stronger hamstrings or better hip stability or more thoracic extension. So your marching orders as students is to pay attention to how you feel when you're moving and to really focus on that. Because if you don't have that focused attention, you're not going to make changes in your brain. And I think your marching orders as teachers are first to not underestimate the abilities of people who have neurological conditions or the abilities for those neurological conditions to improve. And that exercise is really something that can do that.

And you can be that conduit for them that lets them know that in fact, these changes are really possible and that's science, that's not wishful thinking, that's not spirituality, that's not hope. That's what happens when you get science involved in the equation. You might not get perfection, but you can certainly get improvement. And so I'm leaving you all today with hopefully the understanding that your brain, that you are walking out of the studio with, or if you're watching it at home, that you're turning off the computer and going back to your daily life is a different brain than the one you walked into here with, that hopefully you learned something that was memorable enough, that it will stick unlike my calculus class in high school. And that if you really liked some of that information, if you tell people about it, you're reinforcing that in your brain.

So you have a better chance of remembering it as you move forward. I thank you all very much for coming out and joining with me today, very nice to meet you all. (Mariska and audience applauds)

Continuing Education Credits

If you complete this workshop, you will earn:

4.0 credits from Pilates Association Australia (PAA)

The Pilates Association Australia (PAA) is an independent and not-for-profit organization established by the Pilates industry as a regulatory body for control of quality instruction, member support, and integrity within all legitimate approaches to the Pilates Method.

3.0 credits from National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP)

The National Pilates Certification Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)


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Brilliant workshop I learned a lot, my husband has MS so really useful, thank you.
So glad you liked it, Debbie!
I am very excited to watch Mariska's new Mind the Movement workshop. I completed Mariska's Pilates for MS teacher training course in London recently. I found it extremely interesting! Learning about Neuroplasticity and how physical exercise can help rewire and heal the brain was fascinating! I feel much more confident to work with not only my client who has MS but also my clients who suffer from other neurological disorders as a result of Parkinsons and Strokes.You really do see the quality of people's movement and strength change which then gives them confidence and belief in themselves. It has been very rewarding work! Not only is Mariska absolutely lovely to work with, she is also just so knowledgable on on the material. Her delivery on what I think is a very complex subject was spot on! I recommend her courses to everyone and look forward to seeing what else she has planned to teach us all in the future! Rachel Parker, Pilates Instructor Birmingham UK
Thanks Rachel! It's so nice to hear how everyone's work is going post-workshops. I'm coming to London again later this year - I hope to see you then!
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Very informative workshop. The complex information is presented in a clear and accessible manner. I feel much more confident working with clients with neurological challenges. Additionally, the knowledge gained regarding how the brain processes information, is easily transferable to all students, making this workshop even more valuable.
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Thank you Mariska! I have a friend with MS and this has opened my eyes to a whole new range of possibilities on how I approach her workout on the reformer and cadillac. Great job!
I can't seem to print the handout, the workshop is great! Any hints on printing the handout?
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