Why, you may be asking yourself, why do so many PIH blogs focus on the brain and thoughts and feelings? This is a Pilates studio, I’m just here for my body!
Well, because it’s one thing, not two.
Sure, we’re aware that we have one body and it includes our brain. We might even acknowledge that all movement stems from signals sent by the brain. But in reality, we’re used to thinking about them as two separate things, it’s what we’ve heard our whole lives. Two entities with different jobs. The body is our physical being for moving us around and we need to keep it strong and healthy. Our brain is where we make decisions and process emotions, but it doesn’t affect our muscles.
Wrong. It’s all connected. They cannot be separated. It’s all in our nervous system which is our body and our brain together.
Want a better brain? Move your body? Want a stronger body? Include your brain.
Let’s think of it this way. If we didn’t move, we’d have no need for a brain. If we don’t use our brain, we have nowhere to go.
Have you ever heard of a sea squirt? The sea squirt has a fascinating life. Starting off as an egg, it quickly develops into a tadpole-like creature, complete with a spinal cord connected to a simple eye and a tail for swimming. It also has a primitive brain that helps it locomote through the water. But, the sea squirt’s mobility doesn’t last long. Once it finds a suitable place to attach itself, whether it is to the hull of a boat, underwater rocks, or the ocean floor, it never moves again. (1)
And then they digest their own brain.
Because they will never move again, sea squirts have no need for a brain and it becomes nutrients absorbed into the body. Now, I’m not saying humans digest their own brains, but brains do shrink, especially as we age. And while inactivity isn’t the cause of brain atrophy, activity can help boost brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Movement brings change to the brain.
The CDC says most adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, as well as muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week. And adults 65 and older need balance activities about three days a week. THIS IS ALL PILATES! You can cross all three categories off your list in one class! This benefits your muscles, bones, AND brain.
Now let’s look in the other direction. Yes! I’m saying that if we focus on our brains in a movement class, our movements will improve. How do we do that? By assessing and engaging our senses, starting with the big 3: vision, vestibular, and proprioception.
Last week in class, we were doing snake. It was fine, pushing our limits, but fine. Then Mandy had us hold our thumb out and keep our eye gaze on it while dropping our bodies until we were below our thumb, then rising until we were above it. Seemed pretty dumb to me. 😉
But when we did snake again I felt stronger. The movement wasn’t necessarily any easier, but I was more capable, more confident, moving easier. A fluke, you ask? Well, all seven of us felt that way. Magic? No, the vestibular system.
Moving up and down activated the saccule (in the otolith organ of the inner ear), which influences the brain stem to send better-quality signals to the body. Things start clicking a little better, a little more fluidly, and the result is better performance.
The takeaway? Your body’s only going to move as well as your brain and body work together AS A WHOLE.
So let’s increase our brain function to improve our movement and increase our movement to improve our brain function.
See you in the studio,