There’s a negative cycle we get stuck in when we find ourselves living more often than not in our fight flight or sympathetic nervous system.
An active and online sensory system is necessary for us to be present in the world in ways that allow us to really meet the reality of the situation we’re in. This may sound obvious, but in many circumstances, we’re anything but meeting reality; instead we’re meeting our story, through the lens of our past experiences and perceptions.
This glorious animal body of ours is designed to sense, rather than think, our way through life. We have 19 different senses that are constantly feeling into the world around and within us, sending information back to our brain for processing. Our brain then integrates the information and uses it to answer the question:
Am I safe?
The yes, no or maybe answer gets sent out in the form of a motor or movement response that is appropriate for the sensory input. So, if my sensory input alerts me to danger (or the potential of) my motor / movement response will be a sympathetic or fight flight response. A reaction of my survival nervous system.
If my sensory input tells me all is well, I send out a parasympathetic motor / movement response that is designed to match and harmonise with the circumstances I find myself in.
With this in mind, all parasympathetic and sympathetic responses are responses of movement; they are functions of the motor system of the body.
So what’s the catch?
Modern living means we are no longer being stimulated in new and novel ways. We aren’t required to be in the world to build shelter, find food or care for community. We have comforted our way into convenience, and out of the necessary interactions our body would have with the world that allows us to create a nervous system that’s healthy and adaptive.
As a result, movement is something we have to decide our way into.
The brain requires regular, novel experiences by way of movement in order for the sensory system to stay active and online. Without it, it no longer has the necessary information to make “good decisions”. If sensory information is the data we need to understand our literal place in the world, a lack of it means we are lost at sea.
During sympathetic activation, the sensory system is “turned down”. We do this as a means to temporarily support our survival processes; it’s not useful for us to feel all the feels if we are under attack or needing to flee a situation as quickly as possible. But of course, we are only meant to be here for a short period of time.
When we are living more often than not in our survival nervous system, this lack of sensory data becomes maladaptive, and creates a negative feedback loop. The sensing practices I teach are designed to reactivate the sensory system to re-establish adaptability to our nervous system states so we can be fully present and involved in the things that are important to us.
This last couple of weeks in JoyRide we have been exploring Coming To Your Senses; sensory activities both with and without your horse to help kickstart the information your brain needs to pull you out of loops that are no longer serving you.
Tonight’s workshop is all about mapping pressure, using objects such as balls, blocks, and weighted bags to increase sensory awareness and fine tune our sense of our own bodies both in and out of the saddle.
If you want to join me in JoyRide, now is a great time! We are a global community so if you can’t make it live, everything is recorded and on the membership site shortly after we’ve wrapped up. You can read more about it or join me for JoyRide here.