JUMPSTART HEALTH THROUGH THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
- Stiffness, especially in the joints, reduces nervous system function. When we are less active we become stiffer.
- Nerve impingement made worse by compression makes our lives miserable with conditions like spinal stenosis, sciatica, degenerative disk disease, arthritis.
- Peripheral neuropathy of the hands or the feet causes poor nervous system functioning.
- Illnesses like Parkinson's cause extensive damage to the functioning of the nervous system.
- Stroke involves significant brain damage.
- Balance is often significantly impacted when the nervous system is functioning poorly. Improving nervous system function reduces the symptoms and at the same time makes all your physical training more effective. You can exercise the nervous system directly.
- Lastly, the nervous system is involved with every single process of the body. If you improve how the nervous system operates then everything works better.
When nervous system function improves, a host of benefits ensue: Improvement in basic nervous system function assists in reduction of symptoms and slowing deterioration. Balance improves and falls happen less. Pain lessens. Inflammation is reduced. Circulation improves. Deterioration slows. Reflexes improve. Energy increases.
Tips about exercise and the nervous system:
- The hands and feet are so similar that we can use one to teach the other. Wiggling your fingers helps teach the nervous system how to wiggle the toes.
- One side of your body can instruct the other side. Do the exercise on your right side and it tells the brain what to expect on the left. If you have an injured arm for instance: do the exercise on the other arm first so the injured area can know ahead of time how to protect itself.
- Try to make your sides function equally, or at least have that goal in mind even if equal function is not possible. Have an ideal in mind and gently but consistently move slowly in the direction of your goal.
- Use imagery to improve function. Imagery, also known as visualization, is an extremely powerful tool for training the nervous system. Competitive sports uses this skill extensively to train athletes to perform at their best. We too can imagine how we want to move, in specific or general ways. The more serious the focus the more benefit we can receive. We can imagine how we want to perform in any activity. Imagine how you want to stand up from your chair moving smoothly and easily. Imagine how you want to get into or out of a car. Before standing up out of bed in the morning, imagine doing with grace and ease.
- Focusing your eyes on whatever is in front of you makes your balance better. It also serves to "clarify" nervous system function. For example, as mentioned above, focusing your eyes helps to control involuntary head motion.
There are numerous ways to improve how the nervous system functions. Physical exercise is only one approach. You can combine it with other strategies like: structured meditation (mindfulness meditation); use of visualization, brain fitness exercises; hands on healing techniques (Reiki is one example); use of rhythm in the study of music and many others.
Building Better Balance is a DVD based system made up of 4 hour long balance classes. Each class in turn is divided into specific short segments, which can be practiced on their own at times convenient for you. One of the segments of the Legs & Feet DVD demonstrates the exercises described above.
2 exercises that improve nervous system health: Don't be fooled by the simplicity of these movements. The positive effect from doing them can be much greater than the effort put into them.
- Touch each finger to the thumb in sequence; both hands at the same time. Bring your index finger and your thumb together; then bring your middle finger and your thumb together; your ring finger and your thumb; and finally your little finger and your thumb. Repeat 4 times.
- Same exercise, opposite direction with the order of your fingers.
- This exercise is significantly enhanced if you include using your voice along with the finger movement. As you tap your thumb to your index finger say: “Index Finger, Middle Finger, Ring Finger, Little Finger”, etc.
- Ultimately, try tapping your fingers in the opposite direction on each hand at the same time.
2) 8 Count Foot/Hand Combination: Here is the rhythmic combination we will use, where R is right and L is left: Do this exercise as precisely as possible, keeping a consistent rhythm.
2R/2L, 2R/2L, 2R/2L, 2R/2L
- Tap your feet: With both feet flat on the floor, tap each foot using this combination: tap your right 8 times, your left 8 time; tap your right 4 times, your left 4 times and then again tap your right 4 times, etc.
- Tap your hands: Place you hands on your thigh so that the palm stays in contact with your leg as you lift your fingers up to tap your hand. Do the same tapping combination using your hands instead of your feet.
- Tap your feet and hands at the same time: Repeat the combination tapping both at the same time.