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Newsletter - Volume 2 by W. Patterson, MD

Fundamental Requirements of Successful Movement

The following will seem extraordinarily obvious but it has a profound impact on rehabilitation.
To move successfully one needs:
1. Intact and functioning anatomical structure, including bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and the brain. If I don’t have a leg I cannot move it. If my tendons and muscles and ligaments are highly inflamed, that painful information will inhibit or alter my movements.
2. Effective coordination communication between the brain and the muscles. With poor coordination programs, movements will be inefficient.
3. Orientation to self, the earth and to the surroundings. Orientation is critical. If I can’t find the door, I cannot go through the door.
4. A clearly organized intention. All voluntary movement proceeds from will.

Now for the not so obvious.
By deeply focusing the will and attention, one can improve coordination very rapidly. To do this, merely slow down any particular movement of interest and watch the movement very carefully. Glitches will be apparent and will reproduce themselves in the same arc of the movement each time. The next time you near that particular part of the movement, slow down, breathe, and then relax your way through the rest of the movement. In one or two repetitions there will be an obvious improvement in the smoothness of the coordination.

Orientation organizes coordination. Our movement brains are designed to orient to the support of the earth, our own proprioceptive feedback from our ligaments and tendons and muscle contractions and lengthening, to our surroundings and also to the object of our movement.

To open the door, I have to get to it. To get to it, I have to see it or know where it is in some fashion. Moving toward the door, I push against the floor (earth). I need to be aware of my surroundings so I don’t bump into the furniture getting to the door.

Our eyes, ears and nose have two openings. This allows for stereo location. Besides answering the question of what it is, I can find out where it is with my eyes, with my ears and with my nose. It is obvious which direction down the street leads to the barbecue and the loud music in the hidden back yard. The retina of our eyes has two distinct sensing fields, the macula and the surrounding area. The macula is for focused vision and serves to answer the question”what is this”? The surrounding area of the retina takes in peripheral vision and serves to answer the question “where is this and is there a movement relative to my eye”.

An Exercise in Movement Orientation
This exercise is best done outside. Pick a small discrete object such as a leaf on a bush or tree, focus intently on it and walk toward it. Try not to see anything else but be careful not to trip or collide with something. Pay attention to the quality of your coordination as you walk. Next, instead of focusing intensely on one discrete spot, try to notice with a passive gaze, all of your surroundings as you walk toward something. Again notice the quality of your posture and walking coordination.

You can experiment with any sense; sight, hearing, smell, the feel of the earth to your feet or the feel of the air on your skin. As the sensory input changes up or down through your intention, coordination can change subtly or profoundly.

Sometimes this is a very powerful intervention to regain appropriate movement.

A Rolfing Movement Story
In a Rolfing movement class, a student was asked to do the above walking exercise experimenting with sense of smell. She thought that was pretty dumb but went through the exercise anyway. As she tried to explore her surroundings with her sense of smell, (like trying to smell the distant tree or checking for faint odors) after a while, during a deep searching olfactory nasal inhale, suddenly she felt her chest wall relax in a way that was novel. She realized her deeply unconscious previous use of smell had limited her chest wall excursion. By consciously exploring her sense of smell, she gained new movement possibilities in her chest wall. This, according to the rules of human structure, will necessarily lead to differences in breathing coordination, cervical and thoracic movements and shoulder movements.