Years ago, I attended a workshop with a traveling teacher who has an INCREDIBLE practice. His gift for sequencing movements together exudes flow state. Every pose, every transition, even every pause reflects mastery over his own body. Watching him practice had me dreaming about what it would be like to experience that level of control and fluidity even for just a fleeting moment.
His weekend training included morning practice classes and afternoon workshops where we’d get to ask more questions and delve into the details of different postures. During one of those workshops, he brought up the “issue” of transitioning from a closed-hip position (like Warrior III) to an open-hip position (like Half Moon). This was the first time I’d heard that this type of transition could be problematic, so I raised my hand and asked him for more of an explanation.
His response: “Your nervous system just won’t respond well to it.”
My (internal) reaction: “Um…what?”
Not only was I clueless about what the nervous system has to do with Half Moon pose, his response had me asking something far more basic that I was too embarrassed to say out loud:
What’s the nervous system?
At no point in my 300 hours of teacher training did anyone talk to me about the nervous system. I’d heard passing mentions of parasympathetic this and sympathetic that, but I wasn’t clear what the difference was between those terms or if one was preferable to the other.
It wasn’t until I started working with a strength coach that I finally learned and understood that the nervous system refers to so much more than parasympathetic or sympathetic states—it’s actually responsible for how we perceive, perform and adapt within all of our movement patterns.
If you’re anything like me and completed a YTT that didn’t even touch on the nervous system, or you’re a person who just wants to know more about this stuff here’s the Coles notes:
We have a central nervous system (CNS).
We have a peripheral nervous system (PNS).
And then within the PNS:
We have an autonomic nervous system (ANS).
We have a somatic nervous system (SNS)
The CNS is essentially the brain and spinal cord, which is fed information from the PNS. The PNS takes in sensory information—the stuff we feel/the raw experience—and delivers that to the brain. The brain then uses those inputs to make decisions and interpretations around which movements we can do safely.
Think of the first time you tried to bend over to touch your toes. What happened? If it came easily, that’s a reflection of your brain telling your body, “Go ahead, we got this.” If it didn’t come easily and your body felt really restricted, that’s your brain saying “This doesn’t feel right. I’m going to hold you back from going into unknown territory.”
The ANS, meanwhile, is what unconsciously regulates body functions. This is where the parasympathetic (down-regulating), sympathetic (up-regulating), and enteric nervous systems (your gut!) comes into play.
And the SNS is our voluntary pathways—like those that execute the bending over to touch your toes—after your CNS makes the decision to do that.
While they perform different functions, the CNS, PNS, ANS and SNS share one common goal: to keep us safe.
In Detour Method Online, we spend a lot of time talking about the role of the CNS when it comes to movement. Through this lens, we explore things like the gap between passive and active range of motion (what your body can do vs. what your body can control), building strength through time under tension, and how adaptation works when it comes to getting stronger and more mobile.
In any other movement field, all of that would be considered basic information – the stuff you have to know if you want to understand anything else related to human physical performance. But in yoga…not so much.
The cost of that looks like…
“Yoga butt”, or proximal hamstring tendinopathy – that literal pain in the ass that creeps in right around your sit bones…
Or that nagging ache at the front of your shoulder that seems to get worse with every chaturanga…
And that crunchy feeling you get in your lower back every time you push up into wheel pose.
That’s what happens when we practice and teach without an understanding of progressive movement and adaptive load.
Progressive movement. Adaptive load. How would you explain those terms to someone who wants to know more about building resilience into their movement practice? Or better yet – how would you explain what those concepts have to do with moving from closed-hip to open-hip postures so that those transitions aren’t problematic?
If you’re stumped…that’s ok. You’re in the right place. But the best way to learn more about this stuff is to start from the ground up and not learn it from me. Instead, you need to study with someone who lives and breathes Anatomy + Physiology, who would have read this email and been tempted to add footnotes left, right, and centre on all of the things I could have explained a little more eloquently.
That person is Drew Hume.
The first time I saw Drew teach was when we invited him to teach anatomy during the Yoga Detour 200HR YTT. After just the first day of class with him, I knew Drew was sharing content that every yoga and movement teacher needed but wasn’t getting anywhere else. I may or may not have lit a fire under his ass to turn that training into an online course which, today, thankfully exists and is open again for enrollment.
Not only that—if you sign up for Drew’s Intro to A+P, which starts September 10, you’ll qualify for $250 off Detour Method Online.
That’s because of the amount of time and effort we all save when you come into DMO already knowing the basics (despite those basics not being covered in conventional YTTs). Those who take A+P as their lead-up to DMO are at an undeniable advantage when it comes to understanding the lingo in the course. Instead of getting caught up in theory and terminology , you can jump right into the practical elements of DMO and start applying them to yourself and your students with total confidence 🤩.
The best price for Drew’s course ($428 CAD) is only available until Saturday midnight, after which it’s goin’ up. Claim your spot here. After making the purchase, hang on to your receipt since that’s what you’ll need in order to qualify for that $250 coupon off DMO.
And remember…your nervous system(s) is important. Learning about it is important. Asking questions so that you understand the role it plays in movement is important. If you need me to clear up anything else about the topic, comment below.
Enjoy your weekend,
PS. All of our DMO Team Leaders (the superstars who support everyone through the course, providing feedback on assessments and assisting me during the live calls) have taken Drew’s Intro to A+P and rely on the information gained to be more effective educators.
Here’s that link again. You’ll need it if you intend to become an A+P wizard.
Published: September 4, 2020