Your current nervous system state expresses through your motor patterns. It expresses in movement. This is an easy sentence to read and gloss over but the implications that it holds have far reaching effects on our health and wellbeing- physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If we break it down even further, for every situation we find ourselves in, our brain has two choices about how to respond. It can decide to respond with a parasympathetic response, or a sympathetic reflex. Those are the two choices.
At a fundamental level, what it essentially comes back to is:
Does this situation require us to fire up our sympathetic or survival nervous system?
If yes, this means the brain has registered a physiological threat. A threat to our physical wellbeing. And consequently, we fire off one of the reflex motor patterns in the sympathetic reflex chain.
If not, we respond with a parasympathetic pattern that allows the system to remain open. What this ensures is the sensory information coming in has traveled through our sensory motor cortex, and our brain creates a response that is unique to that moment.
If we then consider our day-to-day activity, every action that we take is a motor pattern come to life. How I rise to the trot. How my body moves at canter. How I apply a leg aid when I ask for shoulder in. The essence of these are all motor patterns.
When we learn any of these skills we can do so in the sympathetic or parasympathetic. What determines that is current nervous system state at the time of learning; the motor patterns we have mimicked from our parents or primary care givers that have informed some of our basic movement patterns; the learning style and conditions of which we were both taught and learned.
Every thought pattern also has a corresponding motor pattern in the body. So, if I am habitually thinking a specific thought, I will be continually expressing the same pattern in my physiology.
These few short paragraphs have covered a lot of territory, but the purpose is really to highlight this:
If you are looking to create a nervous system that is more adaptable and responsive; if you are wanting to shift out of reflexive modes of behavior or experience; if you are looking to change your posture, position, and movement…. addressing your motor patterns is a fundamental piece.
If you have a sympathetically dominant pattern of rising or posting to the trot, for example, you will be inadvertently firing off your survival nervous system, even if the circumstances don’t call for it.
If you are in a situation where your dominant mode of moving in the world is rooted in your sympathetic nervous system, this will reflect in your posture, seat, and position. Your body will be expressing its primary choice of the sympathetic reflex responses. And no amount of willpower or conscious manipulation will override it.
Understanding more about your brain and nervous system- even at a basic level- will gift you not only with self-compassion and empathy, but with discernment. The discernment to unpick what works for you and what doesn’t; to navigate your way through the internet forest of quick fixes and promises; to let go of teachers or coaches who foster reliance and dependency instead of information and self-understanding.
If you are interested in learning and sharing in this work with me, you can check out my membership program JoyRide. I’d love to have you join me!