When it comes to biomechanics and alignment, the conversations centre around structure and functional optimization, but very rarely does that same conversation include references to the nervous system or the brain- they are treated as very separate entities.
The truth of it is that the brain is ultimately deciding where and how the body should be positioned at each and every moment in time. The entire structure of my body changes from parasympathetic to sympathetic; as soon as my fight-flight nervous system is activated, everything moves to support that.
My bones articulate differently and my spinal alignment changes to support maximal loading and acceleration. My organs shift to one side; the fascia dehydrates with the presence of cortisol and adrenalin and the tubes of my body begin to close. Everything compresses and shifts towards the midline.
The decision to move the body in this way is the domain of the unconscious brain; it’s a response to a perceived lack of safety in the environment. This sympathetic activation works for short-term bursts… but what happens when we are “stuck” in the sympathetic channel, or are sympathetically dominant? Then we experience the physical degradation and immune responses associated with this overall compression and dehydration.
So many cues and instructions I see given to riders are attempting to correct a sympathetic structure through conscious adjustment. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s wildly ineffective. Until your nervous system is adjustable and your unconscious brain has more info to go on, you are going to be fighting against yourself.
What’s more, we are often cued for structural positions that activate the fight/flight nervous system. Tucking the tail? That activates your fight/flight response. It’s what we do as part of the flee response. It’s just the physiological reality.
There’s nothing more effective for your alignment in the saddle than getting your nervous system in order. Until you do so, you are slapping band-aids on.