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FEEL IT: Perception and activation

This is an excerpt from Myofascial Training by Ester Albini.

Feel it Strategy

Let me introduce you to the different nuances of the Feel it strategy (which involves listening and feeling), from simple to more complex exercises. Experiment with your body and explore its potential in a different way; this will help you to consciously feel what is happening. Only then will this awareness be deeply rooted in your brain, and only then will your training truly change.

Start with this strategy because moving is great, but moving and feeling is even better. The time has come to start to listen to and feel your body, which requires constant stimuli to maintain and grow intelligent movement, as we saw in chapter 1.

In this chapter I explain in detail why and how I came to include the Feel it strategy in my training sessions.

Let's consider precisely what is meant by proprioception and perceptions. I prefer the definition proposed by the neurophysiologist Charles Scott Sherrington (1857 to 1952) because it is the definition that I most often come across and which I have adopted for my courses. Sherrington first coined the term “proprioception” in 1906.

Definition of Proprioception

The word derives from “propius” (oneself) and “(re)ceptus” (to take or grasp), or “the ability of our body to take or grasp itself”. Sherrington then went on to define the “kinesthetic sense" as kin(ema) (movement) and cistes(is) (feeling or sense). The proprioceptive sense is linked to sensory inputs that originate in fascial tissue in the tendons, joints, aponeuroses, ligaments, muscles, etc. (see chapter 1).

Sensations and Perceptions

Sensations are electrochemical impulses that originate from sensory detection, which are processed in order to be perceived.

Perceptual Learning

“Perceptual learning” is defined as the acquiring of new behavioral models, the establishment of new response configurations adapted to environmental (external and internal) and individual requirements.

Simply put, the more we feed our brain, the better it will be able to process inputs (affer-ent stimuli) and respond in terms of outputs (efferent stimuli).

Applying the Feel it strategy will help you to consciously feel what is happening in your body. As a result, this learning will be deeply rooted in your brain and will then be able to trigger changes, offering you the following benefits:

  • Awareness of movement
  • Safety in movement
  • Improved functionality of everyday movements
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Greater muscle flexibility
  • Stimulation of the nervous system (by communicating with the brain, it nurtures the mind, creating new files)

In a nutshell, perception is essential for complete mental and physical well-being, as well as for athletic performance; you need constant stimuli. Unfortunately, this component is very often neglected or put to one side because it is not easy to listen to oneself.

Using the contact points (see section 3.5.1) will help you to feel the myofascial lines. Conscious distribution allows us to

  • direct the distribution of load, tension, force, and information to the applicable myofascial lines, and
  • have the perception to connect or disconnect the myofascial lines and therefore to consciously influence them.

Standing Square Against the Wall (SBL)

Strategy

FEEL IT - Perception - Exploration - Superficial Back Line

Starting Position

Standing up straight, place your hands on the wall at chest height and slightly more than shoulder-width apart and lean toward the wall.

Movement

Take two steps backward and lower your chest until it is horizontal to the floor so that your body makes the shape of a square (with the wall and floor). Keep your head between your arms, your back in a neutral position, and your shoulder blades pushed toward your buttocks.

Standing Square Against the Wall (SBL)

FIND IT

Mentally trace the path of the SBL, connecting one point to the next.

Find it

FEEL IT

  • Try to feel the individual parts of the SBL. Use the points to help: Fixed point: heels; mobile point: hips.
  • Raise the hips, which become a mobile point, toward the ceiling; tension in the back of the thigh (hamstring) will increase. Now bend your knees slightly and the tension will decrease or even disappear.
  • With your legs straight, the SBL acts as a continuous myofascial line.

USE IT

Hold the square position to the wall for 30 to 45 seconds and use the SBL in a static stretch.

Focus On

  • Active kite.
  • Elbows facing outward.
  • Outstretched arms.
  • Maintaining your back and pelvis in neutral position.
  • Palm of your hand completely flat against the wall.

Work On

Activation and perception of the SBL.

Discussion

This exercise can be used to feel the lower part of the SBL or to activate the SBL. Adopt the position, hold it for 3 seconds, and return to the starting position. Repeat 4 to 10 times.

Change Stimulus

Roll down the wall. To feel the top of the SBL, lean your pelvis, thoracic spine, and head against the wall. Breathe out and start to gently push your cervical vertebrae against the wall. Stretch your neck and lower your head in front of your chest toward the floor, removing one vertebra at a time from the wall but keeping your sacrum against the wall as much as possible and your coccyx toward your heels. The tension (feeling of stretching) in your back will increase as you go down; this is the top of the SBL.

If you reach the point where your vertebrae come off the wall in groups rather than individually, roll back up to the point where the vertebrae were still rolling off the wall one at a time. Pause here, take three breaths, and try to roll back down a bit further.

Allow time for the fascial network to adapt. Breathe in as you slowly return to an upright position. Repeat the exercise multiple times, and you will be surprised to see how fast your flexibility improves. The fascia adapts to the demands we put on it.

Change stimulus