How can such a gentle touch do anything? This is probably the most asked question that I get, or at least it very often crosses people’s minds. Since I’ve been practicing now for over 20 years, I forget that this isn’t a matter of fact for everyone.
In order to know what it needs to do, the body continually assesses the environment. It’s sensing how much oxygen is in the air and adjusts the respiratory rate accordingly. It’s sensing how much of an effort you’re making climbing up stairs and adjusts the heart rate and blood pressure. It’s continually sensing what food is in the digestive system in order to know what nutrients to extract. And the body is continually trying to predict what will happen next and whether it’s safe or not.
There is a fascinating phenomenon in neuroscience called Predictive Anticipatory Activity or PAA. Scientists can measure the timing of a stimulus and the body’s corresponding physiological reaction. So for example, the stimulus might be the heat from a stove element and the body’s reaction would be an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity when the hand is placed over the element. PAA is that the body has a physiological reaction BEFORE the hand is placed over the element, before the stimulus happens. The body is able to sense something happening before it actually occurs. Scientists don’t know yet if it’s the basis for precognition but I think it’s amazing that the body can at least unconsciously predict something before it happens.
The body requires information in order to know what it needs to do in any given moment, in any given system. It gets off track and it’s not able to correct itself when it doesn’t have the information that it needs. This can accrue when for example the body is not being stimulated enough or it is not able to get enough information from the environment.
If the body is not able to elicit information from its environment, then this means that the nervous system is out of tune. It’s not able to pick up on more subtle cues. It’s like our nervous system becomes deaf and it can not hear clearly, what it hears is muffled sounds.
Let’s say that you’re working for a company and you are requested to submit an earnings report. But all you give to your superiors is the totals; no specifics, no trends, no fluctuations. This limited information would not allow your superiors to have a clear picture and be able to steer the company in the right direction.
If the body has only limited information to go on, it won’t know how to adjust itself to the environment. In fact this happens in extreme situations where people have reported not knowing that they have had a heart attack or that they were pregnant.
And that’s where the gentle touch comes in. Most people are surprised that a gentle touch can lead to dramatic changes. We are so used to thinking that stronger is better, no pain no gain, so automatically the mind dismisses a gentle touch as being effective.
However when you pay attention to the gentle touch it retrains the nervous system to be able to listen better, to be more sensitive to its environment. It helps to retune the nervous system. This gives the body more information and it’s better able then to do what it needs to do next (adapt to its environment).
It’s like the difference between hearing and listening: Hearing, your nervous system is being stimulated and you can hear sounds. Listening is paying attention to what you’re hearing. You could say that NeuroStructural care helps you be a better listener: a better listener to your environment. And it all starts with a gentle touch.