VOR Applications for Movement Teachers
This video offers a quick review of what the VOR is, and then gets into a few examples of how you might be able to incorporate it into your work with classes or clients: how you could use VOR in a seated context (a chair or desk yoga class, for example), or doing low mat work, or standing/balancing work.
How you use this may need to vary (drastically!) according to who you are working with and the context of the session.
When I teach this (or many other things we'll be working on together) in a group yoga flow class in a gym, I tend not to get very deep into explanation of what I'm doing in the midst of the flow. Instead, I offer a movement, ask the class to take a mental snapshot of how their body feels in that movement (what their range of motion is, how strong they feel, what kind of ease or challenge they experience in the movement), move on to work with VOR from within a traditional yoga pose (choosing the stability of the pose from which to work based on the needs of the group in front of me), and then return to the first movement and ask them to compare what they feel now to the mental snapshot they took the last time they were here. Often many students will stay after a class and ask questions, and we can have a discussion about the concept I've introduced, but the students who come simply to relieve stress, move their bodies, or have that group yoga experience still get what they are looking for rather than feeling like they ended up in a lecture on neuroscience or biomechanics.
That said, I also work with a few small groups (4 people or fewer) and private clients that really enjoy learning more about how the body and brain work together, and when I teach them, even in the context of a flowing session, I'm able to get into more detail about what we're doing and why we're doing it.
But it depends on the client--I also have private clients for personal training who just want me to give them exercises and talk them through them and keep them motivated enough to show up at the gym every day. And while they will let me give them drills like this, they don't want me to necessarily talk them through the anatomy of the inner ear or about what kind of reflexes the body has developed in order to stabilize the image that they see as they move.
Finally, with anyone I'm working with, whether in a group flow class, small group work, or private sessions, one of the keys to being able to introduce this kind of work is to choose your assessment movement by something that the group cares about deeply. I show shoulder rotation work in cactus arms here because a lot of the clients I work with are office workers who spend extended periods of time hunched over a desk/computer screen/keyboard, and they care deeply about finding healthier movement through the thoracic spine, shoulders, and neck. They will be interested in any assessment that focuses on strength, ease, pain reduction, and/or range of motion through those areas.
In other classes, my students are interested in improving their deep squat, so I would use that as an assessment. Or in touching their toes, so as Erin demonstrated, you can use a forward fold as an assessment. (Although it is worth noting that forward folds can bring in multiple variables to the assessment, because you are getting in additional vestibular stimulation with each repetition of the head dropping down. Doesn't invalidate it as an assessment, but it makes it harder to establish a direct relationship between the drill you are doing and the resulting change in the assessment.) Both deep squats and forward folds are easy to work in as assessments in a group yoga flow, too, because malasana, utkatasana, and uttanasana naturally serve as in-between points when changing sides in the course of a flow, and lead easily to standing or to stepping back into plank/down dog, or even to seated.
Another note on assessments: the goal of the assessment is two-fold. One is to figure out if the drill you have just done is a high-payoff drill for you. Does stimulating VOR by fixing the gaze on a point and then moving the chin diagonally up to the right and then back to neutral result in a more easeful deep squat than VOR moving the chin up and down along the midline, for example? But it's also to create compliance. In other words, we assess--drill-reassess because by showing our clients an immediate improvement, even those clients who don't want to know anything about the nervous system will be motivated to continue working with the drills we are showing them. If I'm training someone who is only interested in how much weight she can add to the bar and successfully squat (or bench press, or dead lift, etc!), then showing her how doing a drill like this helps her immediately gain strength and ease in her loaded squat will mean that even when I'm not there, she will want to use that drill in her training.
Questions? Comments? Thoughts you'd like to add from your own experience? Feedback? Please use the comments section to share them with us!
Also, be thinking about our zoom call coming up this week! If you have a chance as you are watching these videos, jot down any questions or thoughts or anything else you'd like to share or discuss together--feel free email them to us, or to add them here in the comments. Especially if you might not be able to join us for the live zoom call, if you share your questions/discussion points ahead of time, we can be sure to address them. (The calls will be made available to everyone who can't join live as recordings.)