Back pain has been a feature of my life for as long as I can remember. As a teen, I was poked, prodded, and evaluated as a point of curiosity for enquiring minds over various modalities.
Maybe she has rheumatoid arthritis, they said at one point.
Hmm, yes, we think probably some of malformation of the cervical vertebrae, said another.
None of this proved to be true. And yet, I wandered around as though carrying a cloak of rocks, my young muscles burning and aching, making me wish I could peel them off me like a bed sheet.
I came to an arrangement with my body that I would ignore it as best as possible and get on with things. My extensive studies into yoga were motivated, in part, in an effort to control the pain. The therapeutic modalities I studied helped. But if I had a day off, or somehow didn’t do my practice, the same inescapable discomfort returned.
One day I admitted that as much as I identified with being a yoga practitioner, my practice only ever provided temporary relief. I still wasn’t getting to the core of the issue. This was hard for me to look at because I had built a life around much of what I was doing.
It wasn’t until I dived into studies of the nervous system that the lights really came on for me. In all the years of investigation and talking to experts- decades- this fundamental understanding had never been brought up. And once I got a handle on it, everything changed for me.
In our sympathetic or fight flight nervous system, we use our lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck) to create movement in the legs and shoulder girdle respectively. If we consider the outer tube of our body (everything that we can run our hands over), the lumbar and cervical spine pump forward and back in the tube as part of a movement process to maximise our powers of force and acceleration.
This is designed as a short-term deal, when we are under physiological threat. But as many of us know, we’re in a living situation now where many of us are living more often than not in our fight flight system and it’s creating wear and tear on the body as a result.
If we talk about lower back or neck pain, there’s barely an adult you talk to that doesn’t have a complaint. It’s epidemic. So much so that’s it’s almost an expected or normal part of adulting, which speaks to how much we have got used to living with nervous system dysfunction.
In the parasympathetic system, we create movement completely differently. The first thing that happens is I create an intention for the movement and my brain swings in that direction in my skull. My deep front line fascial train and my organ bag of fascia then swing in the direction of the movement, causing a movement of the fascial trains generally and my joints to mobilise.
When we move in this way, no one part of the spine is compromised. It essentially rides the movement in coordination with our superficial front line fascial train, our centre line.
For me, paying attention to my movement patterns and repatterning them from being dominantly fight flight to parasympathetic has literally changed my life. It’s not quick fix work, nor is it effortless. But I’m not sure there’s much I’ve done that has been more worth it.
My posture has changed, and I no longer have back pain. Like, at all.
Looking back, I can see how my nervous system was all over the shop growing up. And my body was functioning, moving, and living from that place.
I find the relationship of movement to the nervous system more than a passion and fascination, although it is both of those things. These understandings let me ride, move and be in life without feeling like I need to escape my own body. And there are benefits that extend well beyond that also.
This principle forms is part of the root of what I teach in JoyRide, my membership program. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read more about it here.