8.2 Clarifying Body Maps & Shoulder Mobility, Applied

Body Maps in the Brain

Our brains contain multiple maps of our bodies.

On the broadest level, there are two main divisions of body maps within the brain: maps that reflect sensory input from each part of the body, and maps that reflect the motor output from each part of the body. The relative size and level of detail of each body part's map within the brain depends on how much we use that part of the body and with what level of intricacy--so more space within each brain map is dedicated to our hands, fingers, and mouth, for example, than to our elbows.

Erin mentioned in her lecture a key point: the clarity of our maps of the body depends on MOVEMENT. In other words, mobilizing each of the joints of the body allows us to clarify our brain's map of each of those joints.

And what does clarifying our brain's maps of the body do for us?

It makes us feel SAFE.

Feeling safe is paramount. The nervous system's primary function is survival, so any time it perceives threat, it will work against what it perceives as the source of that threat. When the threat is a fuzzy body map, the threat being perceived is that the body doesn't know exactly where it is in space, nor is it convinced of how well it can control movement through space.

In response to a fuzzy body map, the nervous system might limit range of motion through a joint, or limit the strength of muscular contractions, or even limit the speed of those contractions.

So we want to clarify our brain's maps of the body as much as possible.

This video focuses on clarifying through mobility--specifically clarifying the motor maps of the shoulder.

Here I begin quickly by rolling out the shoulder (or, alternatively, tapping or rubbing or scrubbing through the shoulder region) to clarify my sensory maps before moving into mobility work to clarify the motor maps. Once I've woken up all of the nerve endings through the region we're focusing on, then I offer a number of different places where shoulder mobility work to clarify the brain's body maps fits easily into a yoga flow, or personal training/group fitness session.

Where else could you see this fitting into the modalities that you teach? What questions do you have about the theory behind what we're doing, or about how this could be integrated into your own movement practice or work? Use the comments below to share thoughts and inquiries--that's what they are there for. :)