The sporting brilliance that is Tom Brady has recently come to my attention. At 40 years of age he is considered to be the Greatest Of All Time in the American Football League (NFL). As a young player he was considered too light and scrawny to make the grade – easily pushed over. However, his tactical mind and ability to cope with crises on the pitch has made him an outstanding decision-maker. The opening chapter of Jonah Lehrer’s “The Decisive Moment. How the Brain Makes Up It’s Mind” indicates this quick-wittedness on Brady’s part:
“…’I don’t know how I know where to pass,’ Brady says. ‘There are no firm rules. You just feel like you’re going to the right place…..And that’s where I throw it.’…..” p.16
It seem to me that Brady’s physical movement on the field is so well mapped and his nervous system is so in tune with his “play”that he can rely upon instinct or feel at decisive moments. This interested me since in our sensory yoga practice we try to map healthy functional movements. Through the repetition of small useful movements we aim to give the nervous system something to listen to and this strengthens our primary motor map – the one that sends commands down the spinal cord to make the body move.
Last week a student noticed aspects of her alignment and movement whilst practising sprinters. Class discussion helped us to pinpoint the biomechanical patterns of support – feet, ankle, hip. The signals transmitted through the spinal cord and the feedback from the feet, knees, hips etc will help this student to balance movement in everyday life (with patience!).
Following up Tom Brady I was excited to discover the methods that his coach, Alex Guerreo employs to keep athletes healthy and injury free. Guerrero advocates rest and meditation but he is firm that following an injury, “…rest; it makes you feel better but it doesn’t make you get better…” What Guerrero concentrates upon is retraining neuro-patterns. Injured athletes may use an anti-gravity treadmill to help the body feel the part of the body that is “out of commission” and gradually through small movements neural pathways are re-programmed:
“The faster I can change the way in which your brain thinks about this injury, the quicker you will recover,” he says, “and the more successfully.” Alex Guerrero
Interesting that the anti-gravity treadmill means that the injured athlete is bearing only 10% of his body weight. Thus a moderately relaxed body can be more effectively “mapped”. Thus whilst you practise sprinters or lie on your side and go through the shoulder/arm movements that we explore; when you use the feet in semi-supine to release a tight psoas Relax and learn: the psoas 2 – be confident that your practice will produce long-lasting results.
If we strive for structure in our yoga practice, we becone fixated on the shape of asana. In this way, the perceptive brain is dominant and long lasting change may not result. When we also tune into our sensory/emotional brain we feel how small functional movement can begin to reduce tensions – to make us feel more at ease in ourselves. Then – there is no going back (I think).