Body – Control – NeuroSomatic Control

by pre., Friday, October 2nd, 2009.

Last month we learned about Neuro Somatic Interactions, the way the mind can effect the body. How it can raise and lower stress levels, influence hormones, affect the immune system etc.

This month we’ll be exploring ways to learn to gain greater control your body, and so it’s worth noting that most of your body’s actions are the result of neuro somatic interactions. Even more surely than your brain can send signals to control your immune system, it can send signals which control your muscles.

German poet and philosopher Fredrich Schiller once said “It is the mind itself which builds the body”, and this is true to a massive extent. The mind affects your glandular and endocrine systems, it effects the way you stand, walk, move, your posture and gait. These things all in turn affect your appetite, the way the fat is distributed around your body, which muscles are used often and so are large and strong and which are slack and short and weak.

You grow into the kind of body shape that you expect to grow into, neuro-somatic feedback mechanisms alter your body shape via appetite control, excercise, likely even adjusting your very metabolism rate.

A study done at the University Of Warwick finds that people’s body mass index (BMI) is influenced to some degree by their relative BMI. That is, if you have fat friends you get fatter. If you have thin friends you get thinner. Not because you’re actively dieting to be more like your friends, just because of the small subliminal influences they have on you and the way this subconsciously changes your behaviour.

We’re not trying to say that you can think yourself thin, it’ll take more than visualisation, dreaming and meditation to radically change the shape of your body. However, you can think yourself into a new attitude, a new state of mind, which in turn can affect your behaviour.

For the rest of this month we’ll discuss some ways in which your thoughts and behaviour can build patterns and habits that, over time, will affect your body. Frames of mind and addictions which will increase your control over your body, it’s movement, it’s shape.

Finally, as usual, at the end of the month we’ll present a guided meditation, a lucid dream, which should encourage these predispositions as you sleep, and afterwards, while you’re awake.

Body – Control – Muscle Movement Patterns

by pre., Friday, October 9th, 2009.

We have talked a lot about the pattern recognition functions of your brain, how your visual system, for example, notices patterns in the activations of the rods and cones in your eyes to determine colour, and patterns in the colours to determine lines and shapes, and patterns in those lines and shapes to determine texture and shading, and patterns in that shape, texture, and shading to determine what objects you are looking at.

What is true for the input sensory systems to your brain is, more or less, true for the motor systems of your brain too. The layout of the neurons on their way out of the brain to the muscles is remarkably similar to the layout of the neurons that lead into the brain from the sensory systems.

It would seem then that your conscious mind is likely to be sending patterns, which your control neurons break down into sub-patterns, and so-on, eventually instructing individual muscle cells to contract is a particular sequence.

While patterns are recognised and grouped by the sensory neural system, they are instead constructed and developed by the motor systems.

Learning how to control your body more precisely, more accurately, more consciously and delicately is essentially a process of developing new patterns and improving existing patterns used by your neuro-motor systems to control your muscle movement.

As an infant, you learned how to move each of your limbs independently of each other by developing these pattern construction systems through feedback from your sensory systems. Most of it happening at a well-below-conscious level even for a well-below-conscious stage of development like that of a baby.

Did you learn it right?

There are as many different postures, gaits, and demeanors as there are people in the world. No two of us learned exactly the same patterns of muscle contractions in order to move our arms. There are lots of similarities, of course, but things like the way the stomach muscles ripple their contractions during the movement of the legs in walking is surely not exactly the same for any two individuals on the planet, even twins.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in an absolute sense, but of course all these things are still being inspected and analysed and judged by all the people around you in order to determine your social status, your confidence, your sexiness, your fighting prowess, your agility and even your intelligence and emotional connection to the people around you.

Which means that if you have preferences for how your social status, your confidence, your sexiness, your fighting prowess, your agility and even your intelligence and emotional connection to the people around you are judged by those around you, then you should pay attention to these things in order to refine them and project the image you want.

There are also health implications in these things. If you use all your muscle groups when you move, then you will not suffer from some being unused and rotting away. The shape of your body is affected by the way your stand and move via the amount of use each of your muscle groups receive.

Finally, while of course there are physical limits to the way you are able to move, some of the limits on the way you are able to move derive not from the size of your joints or the length of your muscles but from limitations in the patterns produced by the neurons controling those muscles. You can learn to more finely separate your muscle grouping, to flex and relax individual muscle fibres, with enough practice and attention. To raise a single eyebrow, even after half a lifetime of them being psycho-physiologically linked.

How to adjust your patterns of muscle use

The good news is: you have already been doing this, much more-so than you likely think. The whole of our last lap around the spiral was based on body awareness, on excercise routines designed to ensure you concentrate on your body while moving it. This, more than anything else, is the thing that teaches your motor control neural groups how to adjust their output patterns to produce the appropriate cellular muscle contractions. Those excercises, hopefully combined with some more aggressive training, have strengthened your core muscles.

Strengthening your core muscles already means that you stand taller, with your shoulders further back, chest more expanded, all the typical signs of confidence and social status.

You are much more likely now to begin a pattern of muscle movement by tightening the muscles around your gut to support your back during the process of moving. This will reduce the likelihood of back-pain and other vertebra related health problems.

You are really already part way there! But of course there is always room for yet more improvement, there is no transcended, only transcending. This month’s guided lucid dream will help to improve your concentration on the way your muscles move, the patterns of feedback they produce as they move, and in turn improve posture, gait and all the social values these things indicate

The Meditation

Our meditation at the end of the month will encourage you to pay attention to the way your body responds as you try out movements that are impossible in the real, waking world. Practising these movements will allow you to see, on a gut-instinct pre-conscious level, how the patterns fit together. To better learn to understand and coordinate them.

Body – Control – Exercise Zones

by pre., Friday, October 16th, 2009.

Learning to consciously control your body involves understanding, consciously, how it works. If you want to be able to control the amount of muscle tissue that hangs off of your body, say, you need to understand what movements will build the muscles where you want them.

Understanding this in detail means knowing at least a little about how muscle cells metabolise their fuel to stretch and contract. Once you understand that, you can visualise how it works and correlate those imaginary visions with the way your body feels, how it reacts.

You can probably do that by visualising Tai Chi energy, or dragon breath flowing around your limbs, but the Transcendence Institute prefers to use the best available model, the one which illuminates a map which matches as closely as it can our actual physical reality.

Never the less, we don’t have time here to describe a years worth of university lectures on the way muscle cells metabolise various sugars coming from various parts of the body in order to produce the energy needed to feed their contraction reaction.

We only have time to spend a single article giving you the best overall simplified map of the process that we can. Much, therefore, will be missed from our sketch, and of course these things aren’t yet necessarily completely understood at the molecular level.

Types Of Metabolism

In short, though, muscles cells burn different fuels, depending on a range of circumstances, in order to power their patterns of contraction. The muscles in different areas will be using different types of metabolism at any given time, depending on what supplies of the various cellular and intra-cellular molecules are available.

The way your muscle cells, and body in general, responds to the different types of metabolism is important for full conscious body control. When exercising in different ways, your body’s muscles perform in different ways as the rate of excercise changes. Understanding the way your body reacts to these types of excercises will help you change your body, to control it, to learn to listen to it and instruct it how to grow.

You will likely never be able to accurately, objectively, measure which kinds of metabolism are happening in which muscle groups in your body at any given time. You can, however, use your pulse rate as a rough guide. The heart-rate works as a sketch measure to indicate what types of metabolism your muscles are using on average at any given time. Be warned though, it really is just a rough guide. If you’re more practised at one type of metabolism, you’ll be better at it, able to use it more. The range at which you’ll use it will increase. These differences will be spread all around your body, your leg muscles maybe undergoing a different kind of metabolism to your jaw muscles, or your arm muscles, at any given time.

We can divide up the pulse rate into zones, starting at resting rate and measuring right through to the maximum pulse rate that an individual is likely to achieve. This is usually about twice as high as the resting rate, so we start at a resting rate of 50% of the maximum value, and divide into five groups:

Types Of Exercise

Resting Zone – 50-60% of maximum

If your heartbeat is slower than about sixty percent of that maximum, you’re really not exercising at all. You may be asleep or in a coma or something. Possibly watching television. Your muscles are likely shrinking away slightly, certainly if you maintain that level of inactivity for some hours.

Efficient Zone – 60-70% of maximum

If you manage to overcome your lethargy and actually move at all for any decent period of time, even just stretching, your heart is likely to speed up to over 60% of maximum speed. You should probably just be in this range when recovering, or warming up.

Your body is not really putting any extra demand on the system, fuel for your cells is generated as fast as it can be used up, a Just In Time system of production. That fuel, known as Glycogen, is burned to produce Glucose, which is used in oxidation reactions to fuel cell motion.

Aerobic Zone – 70-80% of maximum

As your rate of work increases, your cells eventually begin to run low on Glycogen, and have to burn fat instead. The fat burning process is less efficient than simply using Glycogen, and so it starts to feel harder to keep the muscles working.

The TI excercises last week should have seen you at the low end of the Aerobic Zone for most of your time, as would a yoga session, pilates, light step or weight excercises or short distance running.

Since you are increasingly having to burn fat cells to power cell movement, and since you’re using and so building muscle cells, the Aerobic Zone is good for weight control, not only burning off calories (which is still only going 20% faster than if you were sat around doing nothing, remember), but also because the new muscle tissue built will be more expensive to keep alive when you ARE resting than the fat that’s been burned was.

Because you are likely breathing deeply, and pulsing powerfully, you are using and so strengthening the heart and the diaphragm and core muscles used in respiration. This helps to increase the flow of air in and out of the lungs, and helps getting the oxygen in that air to the muscle cells where it’s needed to mix with the fuel you’re burning, be that fat or sugar.

Anaerobic Zone – 80-90% of maximum

The process of burning fat cells produces a waste substance. Sometimes, fairly erroneously, known as “lactic acid”. The cell, of course, has systems for transporting these lactate molecules away from the cell. However, these processes can only work at a given maximum rate. At around 80% of the maximum hart rate, your body’s cells are beginning to produce this waste product more quickly than it can dispose of it. This is known as the Anaerobic Zone.

When working in the Anaerobic Zone, your muscles’s blood supply is being exercised about as much as it can usefully be. Blood flushing around the cells like a white river rapid, all the oxygen and fuels needed by the cells being delivered as fast at they can, all the waste products being removed as fast as they can.

Eventually, especially as lactates build up, the muscles start to metabolise their own cell structure to keep stretching and contracting and working hard. In order to build long-distance stamina, or to improve the range of the aerobic zone, you will need to excercise for some short bouts in the Anaerobic Zone. Staying in that zone as the Lactate damage begins to grow, however, may well begin to cause damage, and certainly reduce muscle growth rates, even as it may still be building and improving the bloody supply system which helps keep that damage under control.

Red Zone – 90%-100% of maximum

As lactate levels rise, and muscle damage builds, the muscles literally eating themselves to drive power, we reach a zone in which only the mega-fit are able to train. Almost anything you could want to do to your body will be better done after some rest at this point, at least after slowing down into the Aerobic Zone for a few minutes.

The Meditation

We will use some of the imagery from this rough sketch to have you dream of how your muscles are working while you dream about actually working them. This should allow you to ‘practice’ listening to your body while in the presence of an appropriate metaphor, and increase the probability that you will use this model to understand your body and so gain closer control over it as you excercise.

Body – Control – Muscle Memory

by pre., Friday, October 23rd, 2009.

Next week, we’ll present a guided lucid dream designed to help improve your control over your body. However, it’s worth noting that your body is paralysed during sleep, unable to move, unable to properly practice. If there is one thing which people with excellent body control have in common, it’s that they’ve practised lots!

Be they professional tennis players, virtuoso pianists, savvy conjurers, accomplished darts competitors, Olympic javelin hurlers, adept pistol shots, trained fencers or capable contortionists, the one thing that experts at body control will all have in common is hundreds and hundreds of hours of practise. While visualisation and lucid dreaming can help make the most of that practise, they will never be a substitute for it.

To be as in control of your body as you can be, you will need to spend lots of time deliberately concentrating on your body as you use it, as you move and dance and jump and play.

If you have been continuing to do the excercises listed in the last lap around the spiral then you are already practising a fair amount, but of course that this is essentially the bare minimum you should be doing. Those excercises will not help you develop fine motor control in your fingers, they will not help you learn the subtleties of interacting with a ball, they will not help you learn to juggle or climb or twiddle a poker chip over your hand or run or type or play computer games or walk a tight rope or ride a bicycle. The only way to improve at these things is to do them for a few hours.

Muscle Memory

The results of learning new control functions over your muscles like this is known as muscle memory. While the contraction patterns and muscle movement groups aren’t literally stored in the muscle cells themselves, much of the process is indeed moved down from the conscious frontal cortex to neurons closer to the muscles. A process of pushing that control down the spinal column towards the relevent muscles themselves.

Many movements, especially well practised ones such as walking or talking, do not require the motor cortex of the brain to send delicate contraction signals to each of the muscle groups involved in the action. Instead, a control signal is sent to the spinal column, and the actual movement patterns needed to perform this control function are recalled and regenerated by neurons closer to the muscles themselves, in the neural networks which more directly interface with those muscle groups.

Surprisingly Rapid

The process of gaining new muscle memory can be surprisingly rapid. While it it takes hundreds, probably thousands, of hours to learn to be an expert in the kinds of skills in which muscle memory is relevent, competing in world-class events, representing your nation at international level, it only takes a few dozen hours to become better than almost anyone you know at anything from which which most people refrain. If you put in forty hours more practice at a given skill than all your friends, you’ll surely be better at it than all your friends.

While the first few minutes at learning any new skill are often frustrating, perseverance usually leads to amazingly rapid increases in ability. Take juggling as an example. When first learning to juggle, you will inevitably drop the balls on almost every single throw. Over and over again. Most people give up after just a few throws. “I can’t juggle” they may decide, having dedicated less than five minutes to learning the task. However, if you stick at it for an hour a day for just a week, you’ll almost certainly be better at it than any of those quitters.

Remember that the unconscious networks of neurons which control and implement muscle memory are small, and stupid. They will learn the general idea relatively rapidly, and only take millions of repetitions to hone their skills to perfection. If one hundred times at practising take you 10% of the way towards perfecting it, you will see most gains when you are farthest away from that skill. Often the easiest learning is the low-hanging-fruit at the beginning of learning a task.

To summarise: If you’re trying to learn a skill, do not quit, do not assume you are simply bad at a skill, until you have given your muscle memory time to adapt and grow. Force yourself to practice for an hour, every week day for a month. This is less than a week’s time spent in a full time job. You’ll be surprised how much progress you’ll make. Remember to video or otherwise record yourself at the beginning and end of that month too, so you’ll easily be able to see the difference just 20 hours can make.

Body – Control – The Meditation

by pre., Friday, October 30th, 2009.

This week we present a guided meditation, a guided lucid dream really, designed to encourage you to become more in control of your body, of it’s muscles and shape and posture. As usual this lap around the spiral, it’s to be listened to during sleep, ideally infiltrating your dreams, starting around ten minutes before you need your alarm to go off in the morning.

As usual the first minute or so will slowly fade in, getting you used to the fact that you’re both conscious and dreaming, allowing you to become accustomed to the lucid state, to wake without waking.

You’ll then be asked to dream about how “It is the mind itself which builds the body,” how signals from your brain, your consciousness, can affect the way you stand, the way you move, the way your muscles flex and stretch and thus the way they burn energy, grow and shape your body.

You’ll dream that you are changing the way you move, your gait and posture, giving your practice and predisposition to move move gracefully, building patterns of movement into your brain, practising both during the dream, and during waking life.

You’ll even try impossible movements. Bending and stretching and moving your body in ways which are only viable in the dream world, learning how your body responds to those movements, the signals that you’d need your brain to send to your muscles if you were to perform in waking life. This should help you to understand, on a gut-instinct pre-conscious level, how patterns of muscle movement fit together, even beyond normal tolerances.

Finally, for the latter half of the dream, you’ll slowly become more and more active. Feeling your muscles working more and more and paying attention to how they feel as you move through the various excercise zones, the Resting Zone, the Efficient Zone, The Aerobic Zone, The Anaerobic Zone, and the Red Zone, even beyond.

You’ll pay attention to those muscles, learning how they react, how they send signals back to your consciousness, from pleasure through to work and finally screaming with almost-pain, telling you to stop.

Of course, we would advise spending some time in real life trying this too, learning how your muscles feel as you work them harder and harder, in order to give your internal model some good idea how things should work in your dream.

At the end of the dream you’ll look back at what you’ve learned before coming to full consciousness, taking notes, and getting on with your day.

Guided Meditation File 21 – Body -Control
Backing Music “Follow Your Heart” By Kave
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