S1:E13 | Heal The Body & Mind with E. Kristof

Mar 16, 2022
 

[00:00:51.700]  Welcome

[00:02:08.810]  What is Applied neurology?

[00:04:19.920] Reason why people can feel unsafe in their bodies

[00:06:11.550]  Poor breath patterns will keep you in a fight and flight state.

[00:08:48.690] Somatic healing from your perspective and integrating both the body and the brain approach

[00:11:11.270] Seeking refuge in movement

[00:13:34.210] Mind body connection

[00:18:05.930] Approaching the basic yes no relationship with your body in terms of getting answers

[00:22:13.450] Training your brain for different movements

[00:24:56.920] Healing vision

[00:32:04.350] Cervical ocular reflexes 

[00:44:04.950] Contact Elizabeth

HOW DO YOU GO FROM STAGE FRIGHT TO SPOTLIGHT & BEYOND CHANGING THE WORLD & CREATING A LEGENDARY LEGACY?

How do you fine tune your body to fine tune your voice to convey what you're you might not understand, but your heart does?
 

Today I am excited to be here with Elizabeth Kristoff. Elizabeth is an expert in using applied neurology to move people out of pain, unwanted behavior, and stress response.

She is the founder of Brain Based Wellness, a revolutionary online platform that trains the nervous system and body to resolve old patterns, improve performance, and increase wellbeing.

Elizabeth is a certified Applied Neurology practitioner who has been in the fitness and movement industry since 2007.

She works with entrepreneurs, athletes, leaders, and creatives to improve, resilience, manage stress, and regulate emotions through intentional science based brain training, her research and work with hundreds of clients taught her that healing and change must occur both in the body and in the mind, that each body, mind and nervous system is unique, and most importantly, that with the right tools.

We are all capable of healing. I am very excited to have Elizabeth here because we have collaborated to teach together and our material complements each other so nicely. So welcome, Elizabeth.

 

[Elizabeth]

Thank you. I'm really excited to be here too. I love your work and I'm just really excited to chat today on the podcast.

 

[Melanie]

I think we're going to have a lot to talk about. So first, I would like to better understand what is Applied Neurology.

 

[Elizabeth]

Applied Neurology is essentially taking the latest information in brain science and neuro research and breaking it into really practical neural exercises that people can do on a regular basis to train their nervous system. Just like you would think about training your muscles in the gym. So just a regular daily practice of training.

 

It focuses on the input systems, like your visual system or your balance system inside of your inner ear or your body mapping system inside of your joints to make those systems change in a positive direction so that your brain is getting better information & when your brain gets better information coming in from the input systems, then it's under less stress on a second by second basis, doing its primary job, which is to make predictions to keep you alive. So it gathers all that information about you, about where you are in space and about the world around you and it uses that information, it integrates it all, and then it produces an output. That output is always at its most basic level, intended to ensure our survival to keep us safe and to keep us alive.

 

So if I can train the body to have better performance in the input systems, like the eyes, the inner ear, the mechanoreceptors, and the joints, then the brain is getting higher quality information and it feels less stressed out, making those really important survival decisions. Then the outcomes start to change from protective modes of being to keep you safe, like pain, muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea, even, like fatigue or unwanted behavior, into more performance outcomes where your brain feels safer.

 

So it'll give you more strength in your muscles. It'll allow you to move faster. It'll let you be more focused and present and generally move out of any kind of protective output that it has been using to keep you safe.

 

[Melanie]

I love this. I'm all about giving the body better input so it can create a better output. From your perspective, what are some of the reasons that people feel so unsafe in their bodies?

 

[Elizabeth]

So that's a great question. And I think there's a multitude of reasons that the body can become unsafe.

 

One is, of course, if we have previous trauma that has not been resolved through our body or a nervous system hasn't been healed with it, it can start to feel really unsafe just to even feel the sensations that are inside of your body. And also that stress, even like a car accident or an acute trauma, can stay stuck in the body, then also,  long term gradual trauma can create patterns in our nervous system. That kind of move it gradually into a state of fight and flight or even beyond that, into a state of freeze, shut down and dissociation from your body.

 

In addition to that, there can also just be deficits in our nervous system that over time, are continuously increasing the amount of stress that we're under. So say, for instance, you had an old ankle injury and you never properly rehabbed it. And your brain's map of where your foot is in space has gotten a little bit blurry. Those joints have not been reactivated, and that neural feed from the brain to the foot has not been healed.

 

So your brain is not exactly sure where your right foot is in space. And so then every single step that you take is a little bit threatening to your brain because your foot is the place where you make contact with the Earth. Your brain is going to start to decide to be a little bit more protective. It might create tension in your hip flexors and make your steps smaller, because smaller steps are safer because it doesn't have a clear body map. So sometimes that sense of not being safe in your body can come from trauma or one particular incident, and sometimes it can come from nervous system deficits that have just been getting increasingly worse over time because of habit or because of medication or because of old injury that lead your brain to not get very good information and then it feels threatened.

 

[Melanie]

Those micro traumas or chronic repetitive things that we do are really so incredibly powerful in a way that I think most people, even a lot of medical practitioners, don't fully realize. I often say that just because you're walking doesn't mean you're doing it right, and just because you're breathing doesn't mean you're doing it right. And we know quite well that especially with breath, that poor breath patterns will keep you in a fight and flight state will perpetuate that.

 

Tying into your ankle injury. In my world, I am more familiar with the research around interior cruciate ligament repair and how even after you've had it repaired, you don't go back into the same muscle firing patterns that you had prior to the injury, that there's a muscle firing pattern that goes with the injury that is sustained even after you have surgery to repair that.  I know  that most anterior cruciate ligament repairs aren't getting the full rehabilitation that they need to really undo that.

 

[Elizabeth]

I think there's so many important points that you just made, and I think just on a really broad level, you can think of it as that injury not being properly rehabbed. But then also when I think about mindset coaching, for instance, where people will tell you your past doesn't exist anymore, you just have to be in the present and create this new reality. And that is true to a certain extent. But I think it also overlooks the fact that our body holds a lot of these old patterns and that there's a part of our nervous system in our body that has to be healed to bring our body and our nervous system on board with that, or else you start to get held back by a body.

 

So just like an athlete trying to re perform again after a ligament injury or after something, if they didn't properly rehab it, their brain would not give them the full range of motion. It wouldn't give them the full strength.

 

It's the same with behavior change. If you're not healing and addressing issues in the body and the nervous system to really rehabilitate that and correct those deficits and heal those neural patterns, then it becomes very difficult to just push forward into the full present of who you are without being held back by what feels like a body that's working against you.

 

[Melanie]

in the psychiatry and psychotherapy world, one of their Pinnacle books by Bessel van der Kolk  called 'The Body Keeps the Score'. And your body absolutely does hold these memories that can really create obstacles. And can you talk a little bit about somatic healing from your perspective and integrating both the body and the brain approach?

 

[Elizabeth]

 I got into somatics because myself, in my childhood I have a pretty high A score adverse childhood experience, there's a lot of violence and stuff that went on in my childhood, and I'm also a pretty high performer in my life. I've been able to live a life where I had a pretty successful business. I have a graduate degree, and from the outside, it looks like I'm pretty functional as a human being. 

 

I was able to push through a lot of my old trauma and my patterns through sheer will and relying on my intellect and my mind. What started to happen for me was these outputs of my nervous system that were really painful behind the scenes. My binge eating got really difficult. Sometimes I would be under so much stress that I would black out or I would just throw up in my car as I was driving or throw up into the Starbucks Cup or whatever. All these things would start to happen. I was in a lot of pain because my body was still holding all of this trauma, and I was really still in a very dysregulated state of flight or flight most of the time for me down into freeze.

 

 I couldn't really access my emotions. It was like I was living my whole life in my prefrontal cortex. And that worked for a while until it didn't, until I started to get really shut down. I had to start exploring these new avenues of teaching myself that it was safe to experience emotions, teaching myself how to feel emotions, teaching my nervous system in little, minimum effective doses that I could let myself feel grief or let myself feel anger or jealousy or all these emotions that were taught is bad.

 

The way for me to do that safely and to have a real effective response with it was somatically, so just moving that stuff through my body, bringing my body into that process, and allowing myself to if I was processing my anger, maybe doing, like, some page purge journaling about it, where I just let myself write with the emotional maturity of a five year old. But then after following it with either some intuitive movement or punching a pillow or screaming into a pillow or letting my body act out, some of this stuff that it was holding on to was really the only way for me to move through it.

 

[Melanie]

Is that what brought you to Pilates and movement in particular?

 

[Elizabeth]

 I think without really knowing it most of my life, movement was one of those ways that I regulated my nervous system and was probably able to be as high functioning as I was, given my childhood background. So intuitively, my whole life, I have sought refuge and movement when I felt really dysregulated. I think I was very much in a state of flighto, so running and forward movement and all of that helped me feel safer.  I went into movement at a pretty early age, and I started my Pilates studio and my movement training studio when I was 24 and just believed in the healing power of movement, intentional movement, mind body connection.

 

Even though at the time I was still largely disconnected from my own body and like, living in a state of dissociation, I knew enough to know that there was something powerful in that for me and that I wanted to share that with other people. And so that was really what brought me to movement. Then over the past 15 years, I've just been diving deeper into really understanding what a true mind body connection looks like for me. Movement doesn't have to be so rigid - you go to the gym and you do this specific set of things to get this specific outcome.

 

But learning how to listen to my body and move in the way that it wants and using that relationship to heal me because I believe there's a lot of internal wisdom inside of my own body that knows what it needs to heal and to process those emotions that stress those events.

 

[ Melanie]

There's so much to unpack there that I think is really important because that mind body connection really is a relationship.

 

I often say that your mind will lie to you all day long, but your body will tell you the truth, that your mind can really start creating the stories and being very clever in terms of how it avoids things or repeats things, and often at the expense of ignoring our bodies. When we get those symptoms, they're really warning signals, but we're all so good at ignoring that. We've been culturally conditioned, not to attend to that very specifically, I guess elaborate a little bit more on that relationship and how you see the connection.

 

Elizabeth

With myself and with my clients, I believe everything that we're experiencing in our life, we experience in our body as well. And our body will always be the best place to understand when we're out of alignment in our life, with what really works for our nervous system, for our own health, for our own well being, our body will let us know; hey, this is too much stress; hey, this is not working for you. We are so conditioned to push past those signals. For me, I trained as an athlete growing up, and it was really normal to push through pain. 

 

I believe also, too that's why some of my nervous system outputs had to become so loud and so severe was because I would experience the softer signals before I would get pain. In my left knee, I had tendonitis, I had shin splints. I had pain in my back and my spine. I would get migraines, but I would push through those until my body found other ways to really start to shut me down with extreme nausea or even with a binge. I really believe binging is an output of my nervous system that was regulating me.

 

It was really forcing me into rest and digest. If my body couldn't get me to slow down, my mind would push through everything. But if I switched into that binge behavior, then it would be so painful that I would have to rest, and I would kind of pass out, almost like a coma, and shut the lights off, cool everything down, reduce the stimulus coming in. So my nervous system felt safer and also really turning on my digest part of my nervous system, moving me out of fight and flight. 

 

I believe that if I hadn't had that self regulation tool all those years, I don't know what would have happened to me. I don't know that I would have been as functional in my life. I don't know if it would have come out as disease in another way from being in that dysregulated state for so long or mental health breakdown. I've seen a lot of things happen to people who've been dysregulated for a long time, and I feel a lot of gratitude for having binging at serve me in the way that it did for that time.

 

[Melanie]

I think that's so important to realize that even when things are really dysfunctional, it's very often your body doing the smartest thing that it can possibly do. Just yesterday, I had a discussion with a woman who is very well versed in Native American traditions and plant medicine, and we specifically talked about how vomiting is in that realm is considered like a spiritual purge. It's considered a clearing, a cleansing, in that it doesn't have a dysfunctional piece associated with it.

 

[Elizabeth]

 I think everything is our brain's best bet at how to regulate our nervous system and change our behavior to ensure our survival, even though some of it may be painful for us in the long term, in that moment, in that time, this is the best way that our old brain and our nervous system can make sure that we are staying regulated and staying safe.

 

I didn't have other self regulation tools at that time. I didn't understand that I could regulate my vagus or up regulate my vagus nerve or I could do bouncing and shaking to process things through my body or focus on my breath. I just didn't know. So that was the best that I could do,  it really, honestly kept me alive.  I think that that's the case for many people.  It helps to look at it that way because it allows you to really cultivate a mindset of curiosity and compassion for yourself, rather than your body being an enemy or rather than going down that shame spiral about your behavior. But what is this trying to tell me? What can I learn from this and how can I find other tools that make change possible that make it possible for me to live the way I want to?

 

[Melanie]

That inquiry is so incredibly important because even our most dysfunctional, if we can remove the shame from our most dysfunctional behaviors and addictions and things like that and really just dig into why are we doing this and what is it happening? What does this drive tell me about myself? Then that is so empowering to be able to step into a new way of being with it. 

 

I teach people to have a basic yes no relationship with their body in terms of getting answers. I'm curious how you approach that.

 

Elizabeth

What I like to start people out with again, because sometimes it doesn't feel safe to be in your body right away. So I'm a big fan of like minimum effective dose. How long can I do this before I start to experience negative outputs?

 

For me, when I was emotionally, when I was trying to experience my emotions, if I went there for too long, I would actually have an autoimmune response. I would start getting eczema or I would get inflammation. My body was really afraid of some of those emotions and it would start having a defensive reaction.

 

I want people to practice in a way that they're not pushing themselves into too much threat. So maybe just starting with cultivating that interceptive skill, that ability to read the signals that your body is sending you for just a minute a day and taking 1 minute a day to drop from your head down into your body and seeing how many sensations you can feel. Can you feel your heartbeat? Can you feel sensations in the bottom of your belly? Can you feel your bones expanding and coming back in with your rib cage as you breathe in so that you're developing that understanding that your entire body is sensory and just starting to cultivate that skill of seeing how much you can feel.

 

Then if there is a place that is painful or tight or maybe your heart is racing, maybe put your hand on that place and just ask it, what do you need from me? How do you want me to be with you? Listen for a little bit and see if any kind of intuitive answer arises. Again, you don't have to stay there for super long. Maybe even just set a timer for 1 minute so that you know you have this end cap and it doesn't feel like this insurmountable task, but just begin to develop that relationship in a little way and then be open to hearing some of the truths that your body tells you. Sometimes they're not what we want to hear right? 

 

I had one client recently who has just had so much hip tightness and hip pain and we do a lot of neuro drills to get her out of it, but it always comes back. Sometimes you have to be careful not to just put a bandaid on something with the neuro drills. Then she got out of a relationship that was really harmful and stressing her out all the time and causing dysregulation.

 

After years of trying to rehab her hip, she got out of the relationship and the pain went away. And so sometimes our body tells us hard truths that you have to build that relationship, of honoring those truths little by little as you get your body to start to trust you and you start to trust your body.

 

Melanie

That's such a great example. Those hard facts, your hard truths are definitely hard and very difficult to listen to and digest and swallow. That's often the thing that we're most rejecting. I love how you talk about unstructured movement, because I have this relationship with movement historically, too, where I've always been very structured and that getting into more unstructured moving meditations and dance and chaotic breathing and things like that has been so incredibly powerful in my own healing process. Can you give an example or just kind of like the because certainly there are pros to structured movement, too. But if you're unable to have unstructured movement, that definitely becomes problematic or it's a symptom of trauma and dysregulation for sure.

 

Elizabeth

I really began to explore this idea with my applied neurology training because the Institute that I train under has this idea that we should be able to move in many different planes, ranges of motions, different rotations, that it's actually a problem if you have your legs internally rotated and you bend down to do something, and that's so threatening to your brain that it causes a pain response or an inflammatory response. We should actually be training our brain and our body to be able to move through all these different body positions and rotations, and our eyes should be able to look in all the different directions without that being threatening to the body.

 

So one, the brain really needs novel stimulus in order to keep adapting and to get adequate fuel supply and activation. If you're doing the same thing all the time, you're not giving your brain the fuel and the activation that it's really hungry for. You want to keep movement patterns new and exciting and activating to the brain then also you want to train your brain that a lot of different movements are safe. 

 

One of the things I do is a lot of mobilization of the ankle,  what would almost look like rolling your ankle out or rolling it in. So that if that happens, if you step off a curb and your ankle rolls out past its appropriate range of motion, your brain doesn't freak out. It says, OK, I've experienced this a bunch of times. It was always safe, it wasn't a big deal.  Then it doesn't have to create a pain response or inflammatory response. Moving the joints through all different kinds of ranges of motion that are maybe even not considered the appropriate range in a lot of normal fitness and exercise regimens actually prepares your brain to be more adaptable for when those movements might happen in real life. 

 

I  started with that foundation and exploring movement in that way. And then as I went further into thematics learning to trust my body a little bit more to say, if something feels like it needs to be expressed in this particular way, just let it do that. Get out of my head and into my body. One of the best ways for me to drop out of my head is to just try to be 100% in movement and not think about the movement.

 

Just let the body take over if I need to shake or bounce or roll around or whatever. Again, maybe starting with just little chunks of time with that because it can feel really uncomfortable and really unsafe. 

 

I've also worked with intuitive movement practitioners, it helps to have a guide sometimes in the beginning to kind of create that safe container for exploring your body and give you a little guidance, hey, this is okay, or try this, or try this. How does this feel? That's really helpful sometimes too.

 

[Melanie]

So I've been working with you. We've done a little bit of work to help my vision, which was really wild because they were quite simple exercises,  I had to really work with that minimum effective dose because it got really intense in my nervous system. Let's talk about vision for a little bit and healing vision because I think that's something that people don't really realize is available to them in the first place.

 

[Elizabeth]

One of the most important things, just as a foundation to understand about applied neurology, is that our nervous system is incredibly plastic, right? It's malleable. It's always changing based on the stimulus that we put into it. So people have this idea that your vision has to deteriorate as you age.  That's not really true because our nervous system can change in a positive or negative direction depending on the stimulus that we give to it.

 

Most of the reason that people's vision deteriorates is because they're not training their visual skills. They're keeping their eyes really immobilized by looking at a fixed point for many hours a day, usually our computer screens, and not getting full range of motion through their eyes and not getting their eyes to focus on points that are far away, not training their peripheral vision and just not getting enough movement through their eyes.

 

So the cranial nerves that innervate the eyes don't get enough activation and can become hypersensitive. Also the six muscles surrounding each eye start to become weak and under active, just like any other muscle would if you didn't work it or if you kept your arm in a really fixed position for 8 hours a day, that would create problems after a little while, right?

Lots of imbalances and issues. So a lot of what we do is train the visual system just by training the different skills that your visual system should be able to do, focusing on something near and changing your focus too far or training the peripheral vision. Then I look at where maybe someone's unique deficits are right, because everyone has unique deficits in their own nervous system, depending on their trauma history, depending on their injury history, depending on their daily habits, and then start to train to resolve those deficits.

 

That's really important because the visual system is at the top of the neural hierarchy, meaning that the information that our eyes give to our brain is considered really important by the brain from making those predictions that it's going to use to keep you alive.

 

About 80% of the information that our brain uses to make those predictions comes from the eyes.  So when we can train that system to function better, that makes a big difference in the overall well being of the nervous system in the brain, because it's really making a big impact on the quality of information coming into the brain so that it feels less threatened on a second by second basis.

 

When our visual system starts to fatigue out, because we've been looking at a computer screen for the entire day, our brain will often make the rest of us really tired. That's when you maybe get a migraine or you just get really tired and you need to go lay down because that signal goes off to your brain like, oh, no, this really important system that I rely on for information is starting to fatigue out and not function as well.  I better make the entire system tired so that the amount of stimulus coming in is reduced so that I stay safe because I don't feel safe making predictions without the system functioning well.

 

So one of the best things people can do to give themselves energy throughout the day is just stop. And in between Zoom meetings, do one or two eyed drills that makes their visual system happy. So you could take your hands, just close all your fingers and place your palms over your eyes and block out all the light. And just give your visual system a little bit of a reset. Let all the muscles around your eyes relax, maybe practice some controlled respiration while you do it nice long exhales. Let your eyes rest and relax and do that for 30 seconds. Take your palms off and notice if you have a nice boost in your energy or maybe walk outside for just a couple of minutes and see how much you can see in the periphery of your vision.

 

Start to train your peripheral vision. See how much you can see if you keep your face looking forward and your eyes looking forward. But try to intentionally see how much information can I gather from my periphery so that we're starting to get that system activated, the cranial nerves that activate that system become more awake and turned on.

 

Also it's moving us a little bit out of threat from that bottom up approach because when we're under threat, our vision becomes very focused. So if we can expand into our peripheral vision, that's kind of giving a signal from the body up to the brain that, hey, we're not under threat right now because we're focusing on our peripheral vision.

 

[Melanie]

That's a great point about how focused vision aligns with threats or we use that in threatening conditions, certainly, as we're more than a year now into the pandemic and we've all been on Zoom more than ever,  with the cell phones, we're all using our vision in a way that facilitates our sympathetic nervous systems and not going outside and having our heads in the clouds and really looking at the big picture so much.

 

[Elizabeth]

Yeah, absolutely. I think it's one of the most important things that people can do Besides maybe breath and vagus nerve stimulation.  Vision is right up there with that because like you said, if we're in threat response, stimulating our sympathetic nervous system, we're going to be really hyper focused. It's kind of a reflexive action.

 

If I was to throw something at your face, your eyes would really focus in on that target to try to protect you. You're not really trying to focus on what's going on in the periphery. You're looking at the immediate threat. So it is a threat position of the eyes that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and also, too, has a really big impact on our posture.

 

Because convergence, which is when our eyes come in close to our nose and like if you were going to cross your eyes, it's kind of a convergence position to be looking at an object that's about 13 inches away from your face. That specific visual skill stimulates cranial three and four quite a lot, which also provide a lot of activation to our midbrain, to our mesocephalon, which also really increases the amount of tension in our flexor muscles.

So if we're in that constant eye position of convergence, we're also really over activating our flexors, like our spinal flexors, that would cause us to be rounded forward. It would lead to that interior carriage of the head. It would lead to really tight hip flexors. A lot of the stuff that we think about as being associated with sitting a lot also maybe has a huge relationship to the position of our eyes because of that overactivation of that area of the brain and its correlation to too much activation of our flexors.

 

[Melanie]

I also want to talk about cervical ocular reflexes because certainly when we get startled, for example, and we turn our heads and our eyes to see what's happening, and trauma can really transform those cervical ocular reflex loops in ways that are really great in the moment but problematic for the long term.  Breaking those circuit ocular reflex loops can have really profound changes on muscle tone and even performance.  I'll just say that as I've been doing my eye exercises, my vision has gotten somewhat better. But what really got better was my net game in tennis!!  I knew that part of the reason I play tennis is because I recognized how twitchy I was to play up at the net, that it really was evoking a lot of fear responses in my body. But it's been really fun to be able to play tennis better after the little bit of exercises, too.

 

Elizabeth

 A lot of times people decide at a very early age whether or not they are ball sport people because of their visual skills and because if convergence is a threatening skill for your nervous system as the ball comes toward you and your eyes have to converge to stay focused on it as it's coming toward your face, if that eye movement is threatening to your brain, which it is for some people overly threatening, then you're going to feel really bad after a while if you keep getting re exposed to that threat. So people will decide early on, this is not for me, I'm a weightlifter, I'm not a ball sport kind of person. Just you noticing how some of your threat response comes up in tennis, that makes perfect sense & then why training those skills to neutralize that threat response could make a really big difference in your ability to play because your brain would then be moving you out of a protective mode while you're playing into a performance mode where you have bigger range of motion, where you have more strength in your muscles, where you can move faster.

 

It's really about in that minimum effective dose kind of way, like you were talking about rehabbing those ocular reflexes, too. When we are traumatized and our eyes are looking in a certain direction, that direction can be very threatening to the brain unless we start to retrain it, that it's safe, that it is safe to do that.  So very gently and gradually moving the eyes through their full range of motion, having them stabilize their gaze in various different directions, while also maybe you're stimulating your vagus nerve or really controlling your breathing or laying down on the floor so that your body feels really safe. Over time, increasing the intensity of that by changing your body position, maybe you start to do it while you're walking, maybe you start to do it while you're running, maybe you just do it sitting up. Over time, in a little by little minimum effective dose kind of way, retraining your brain to have better accuracy with that skill, but also just to feel really safe engaging in the skill.

 

[Melanie]

I want to just emphasize for the listeners,  how powerful it can be to have an intervention, let's say, in your cranial area,  with your eyes, or I work a lot with the roof of the mouth with a hard pallet, and I do a lot of cranial work. In transforming things that are very far away from your head, like opening up your hip flexors, changing your foot and ankle range of motion, that you really have these because we take in so much information through our eyes. Especially as we get older, people over 45 or 50, I'll say at least 55, tend to be much more visually dominant with their balance for sure, that those interventions can really have these very profound systemic effects.

 

So something that you might think is unrelated to your eye movements can be really profound. That's something that I know there's a small smattering of research and evidence around this regarding around anterior cruciate ligament rehabilitation that retraining your cervical ocular reflexes brings you back into your original movement patterns.

 

[Elizabeth]

The body is so much more integrated than I think many of us are taught originally as physical therapists or as movement practitioners or whatever. It's so compartmentalized & everything is taught from such a biomechanical framework,  it just doesn't work that way. 

 

There's just so much more just the vagus nerve alone and how it connects so much of everything from the brain to the heart to the digestion. How much of our visual system determines the amount of range of motion and the activation of our muscles and our overall sense of well being. Our vestibular system also, the balance system inside of the inner ear.

 

If your body is not appropriately oriented to the horizon, that's going to have a huge effect on the amount of tension in your muscles, because the vestibular system is really what sets your postural muscle tone. It's how much force that needs to go into your muscles to keep your body upright against the force of gravity. If that's awry, then it's going to be really hard to fix imbalances and muscle tension or to get certain muscles to relax if the deficit in the vestibular system doesn't also get rehabbed.

 

It's just all so interconnected and much more of a system than individual parts.



[Melanie]

 My favorite anatomist is John Sharkey, and he states that the body is really a vacuum. We learned it in the layers that we do for convenience because it's easy for us to learn it that way. But it is absolutely not how things actually work and treating the nervous system because it's really what drives everything is such the superhighway to transformation that if you're going to just treat the muscle, you're not going to get the speed or depth of transformation. Really. It's like taking the long bumpy road versus the bullet train where you to where you want to go.

 

[ Elizabeth]

Not just in athletic performance or in pain management, but like we talked about before and behavior change, too. If I'm trying to change my behavior or embody these new beliefs, but I haven't healed myself or I'm operating under that level of threat because I have all these deficits in my nervous system and it just feels stressed out on a second by second basis because I'm not breathing.

 

Or because my right eye has something that's keeping it from being able to integrate the information into the system or because my balance system is off. So all the time it's stressed out. Then you wonder why you can't push past into these other areas of life, even though cognitively, you're telling yourself, it's safe to use my voice, it's safe to level up my business.Visibility is an act of service.

 

But in your nervous system and in your body, it doesn't feel safe doing that.  So just like with athletic performance, pain and everything else, looking at the nervous system is a really powerful way to make those changes, just like you said, deeper and more lasting.



[Melanie]

I also want to just have you re emphasize how profound this can be, even for autoimmune conditions, because that's not typically thought of as a neurological or stress threat response situation by most people.



[Elizabeth]

I'm still pretty deep in looking at all of this for myself. I am Celiac., so in this past year, really taking a deep dive into looking at the neurology of autoimmune and also into the role emotion processing and embodied practices play in healing autoimmune and kind of using my autoimmune as my own next portal to my healing.

 

What I'm really finding is that there is a significant inflammatory response that happens when I am dysregulated for whatever reason.  I believe that that has to do with damage done to my vagus nerve from chronic stress, and that that stress can then leave me in a sympathetic nervous system state for too long and there's too much adrenaline and cortisol pumping out into my blood, starts to damage the vessels, starts to damage the nerve itself.  Then I start to get more inflammatory response. Then there's just a reaction to, I think of my body that is in some ways trying to protect me from the emotional response, the physiological, chemical response of an emotion, because emotions are not just a thought in our mind, they're also like a physical reaction in our body.

 

This last Christmas, I had a really bad flare up of my celiac, and I had a lot of inflammation in my joints. I got a lot of eczema. I had a fever. I was exhausted.  I kept wondering, how did this happen? I'm so diligent about not eating gluten. I cook everything at home, I never eat out.  I had a moment where I just knew intuitively that I was in a trauma response.

 

A lot of my childhood trauma had happened around Christmas, and then the year before had been a really difficult Christmas for me. It was a lot of heartbreak and some very stressful times, and I was reliving it, and I was having a threat response to my trauma, and it was coming out in the form of my autoimmune. 

 

I really knew that in order to help my body resolve some of this, and I don't know if I can heal it entirely, but that there's a lot of emotional processing and somatic work that I'm going to have to do to make those emotions safe again, for my body to feel fear, anger, grief without it being so scary to my nervous system and my body that it starts to attack itself.



[Melanie]

Thank you for sharing your story and being so vulnerable. I think we all do the thing we need most to heal ourselves, and sometimes we dig a little deeper into that wound first before we get to the healing piece.  I recognize my work is very much about healing my own vagus nerve as well, and that having a practitioner that has a story behind how they're doing the work that they need themselves is really, really important. 

I think a marker of a really skilled and I will say a skilled practitioner and somebody who's really on their life path and really embodying that tell everybody how they can get in touch with you.

 

[Elizabeth]

Trauma is our portal to our own awakening, then it is also the gift that we can then share with others.

 

[Contact Elizabeth] 

www.brainbasedwellness.com  

I have a free Applied Neurology 101 course that people can take just to teach them a little bit about how applied neurology works, how to assess and reassess what works for your nervous system, and to learn a couple of my most high pay off drills that are helpful to a lot of my clients. 

You can sign up for that [email protected] 

 

There's lots more to discuss about voice and I'm looking forward to bringing more episodes of embody your star to you.

 

 

Thank you for listening to embody your star.

See you next time.

www.melanieweller.com

 


 

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