Book Review: “Your Body has a Mind of it’s Own” by Sandra Blakeslee

Hello Friends, welcome to the Living Revolution 🙂

I finished reading a very interesting book, and I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts about what I read. The premise of the book is an exploration of the interaction between the stimuli we receive from our environment and the system by which our physical bodies process those stimuli. The authors suggest there is a very real connection between your “mind” and your “body”, so much so they make the suggestion that we only exist in the sense that we can detect and process stimuli from the environment around us.

Isn’t that an interesting concept? That our consciousness is grounded in our ability (or inability) to process direct physical experience? Every moment you exist subconsciously filtered through the complex mechanisms of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste? The authors call these multiple layers of perception and reception “body maps“, and they believe these maps provide a network for understanding ourselves in a more complex and insightful way.

Hold on. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. I need to tell you why I was reading this book in the first place.

To be better at what I do, understanding how to help people tune in to their body is a great tool. Of course, there is no “right” way to teach or learn, so possessing a eclectic skill set will help me work effectively with people who fall anywhere on the continuum of health/fitness/wellness. Understanding the complex interplay between the psychological and physiological aspects of training puts me in a position to create effective and efficient training programs that are safe and sustainable. This makes me a better coach/trainer, which makes my clients better, which eventually makes the world a better place, and that is my ultimate goal!

As a coach, one of my highest priorities is to teach people how to move safely and efficiently. This job requires me to verbally explain a movement , physically demonstrate how a movement is performed, and then provide constructive feedback to my clients, ensuring they perform the movement correctly. Understanding how body maps are developed, and how each individual develops their personal conglomerate of body maps will help me develop my coaching skills so I will be able to effectively work with ANYONE. I picked up this book because I need to “buff up” my coaching skill set, and the concepts in this book have some interesting applications in the personal training/group class environment. I work with clients all over the spectrum of “body awareness”, so let’s look at a couple examples of clients with whom I work, and how their “body maps” effect training.

Occasionally, I’ll come across someone who has horrible problems learning new movements, someone who simply cannot figure out what I am trying to explain. Their body schema is negatively compromised in some way, and there is a significant disconnect between what want their body do, and what actually manifest in physical movement. Perhaps an old injury still bothers them. Perhaps they are morbidly obese. Perhaps they have never used their bodies for more than the most mundane tasks. These people need to be walked through new movements step by step. They require the most attention and the most work, but typically they end up being the most rewarding people to work with because they put so much effort in to doing good work. The skill set they develop is that much more valuable because of the focus and effort they put toward progressing. Their accomplishments are worth much more in contrast to their previous inactivity. These people help support the notion that body maps are fluid and can be reprogrammed, even if it does require lots of patience and hard work.

Most everyone else can learn the basic mechanics of a movement by watching someone else perform that movement. In “Your Body…”, the authors discuss how mirror neurons fire when people watch an action and then imagine themselves performing the same action. This simple idea drastically improves a persons ability to learn new ways to use their body, but it requires a higher degree of body awareness and a more intact collection of body maps. I learned about how mirror neurons in the brain work efficiently to convert what a person see to action in their own bodies. They will watch a coach demonstrate the movement a few times, and then immediately grasp the basic concept. These are people who typically have an athletic background or participate in some kind of active lifestyle outside the gym. They played sports as children, or maybe even in college, but then “real life” happened, and it has been 10 years since their last visit to the gym. I love working with these people because their basic understanding of physical movements allows us to spend more training time on refining technique, mastery and virtuosity. Years of physical activity have laid down body map patterns that provide more effective proprioception or “body awareness”. These people are your Master’s athletes. These are the retirees who refuse to retire. These are the “aging fit” who are working hard to figure out safe and effective ways to keep the fire inside them burning as long as possible. These athlete reinforce the concept that body maps are consistent and resilient, as long as they continue to be used. While conscious effort does play a role, the subconscious body maps developed by lifelong athletes help them retain a higher level of brain plasticity and allow them to continue to learn and improve in to the later years of their lives.

These are only two examples of how the concepts of body maps and proprioception manifest in the “real world”.  In “Your Body…”, the authors delve much deeper in to other examples including  how body maps are effected by stroke, how dysfunctional body maps contribute to anorexia and bulimia, and the interesting problem of “phantom limbs” experienced by amputees. After reading “Your Body has a Mind of it’s Own”, it isn’t difficult to understand how the interaction between our psychological selves and our physical selves is much more complex than previously thought. Whether you are a coach like me trying to improve your skill set, or someone who just wants to gain a bit more understanding of the complexities of being human, I encourage you to check out “Your Body has a Mind of it’s Own”. Thank you all for reading my words, and for participating in the Living Revolution! Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s