Neurocentric Approach to Exercise: Why You Need to Start Training Your Brain Right Now

Going beyond a workout

In the dynamic field of fitness, bodywork modalities, and performance optimization, a revolutionary approach that goes beyond traditional workout routines has evolved. This approach is called neurocentric training. As the name implies, it focuses on optimizing the brain’s capacities to enhance physical performance. In this blog post, we will delve into what neurocentric training is, explore its fundamental principles, and discuss the benefits it offers for individuals aiming to unlock their athletic potential.

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What is Neurocentric Training?

Neurocentric training, also known as neuroathletics, is a modern, effective approach to physical training that targets the brain. The term “neurocentric” actually means “brain-based,” implying that by stimulating the brain and the nervous system, we can achieve better physical performance and reduce pain.

Movement, as well as mental activity, is initiated and coordinated by the brain. Thus, all our bodily experiences are a reflection of how well our brain functions.

Main Functions of the Brain

First thing to remember is that our brain performs two main functions: it keeps us alive and gets us moving. Survival is, of course, the most important goal of the brain, so it has become extremely efficient in keeping us safe and sound as we go through life. It is also the reason why the nervous system is the fastest system in our body!

Besides, our brain has become great at making predictions. It constantly monitors our environment to adjust our behavior and movements and make sure we have high chances to survive. Let’s assume you are walking in the woods and suddenly see an object on the grass that resembles a snake. Your brain receives an input and processes it: by evaluating the shape and colour of this object, recognizing a familiar pattern, and making a prediction about it, deciding that the object could be a dangerous snake. In this case, the output (your immediate reaction) would be engaging the necessary muscles and jumping away in a split second to avoid being bitten.

The second important function of the brain is closely connected to the first one. It is to encourage movement, enabling us to live and thrive in the world. Free, efficient movement lays the groundwork for health, whereas inefficient movement leads to pain and disease.

So, how exactly does the brain work to achieve these goals? To put it simply, every time it receives an input from the internal or external environment, it evaluates this input and decides how to react. Based on this decision, the brain creates output. Movement, balance, speed, dizziness, or pain are all different types of this output that reflect how well the brain functions and how well it can gain and interpret the information it receives (input).

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Sensory Input

Generally, the input can be divided into three main groups. The first group (exteroception) is information we receive through our five senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. The second group (interoception) includes our awareness of what is going on in our body and how it feels (e.g., awareness of our heart rate). The third group (proprioception) is the awareness of the position of our body and body parts in space.

This makes it clear that if any of these inputs is received incorrectly, the brain will struggle to interpret it and predict the outcome. Thus, it will experience THREAT because it will think that it won’t be able to keep you safe. Therefore, instead of creating positive outputs, such as efficient movement or strength, the brain will turn on the survival mode to prevent you from injuring yourself. It can result, for instance, in pain, inflexibility, and weakness.

In a nutshell, the quality of sensory inputs to your brain is of extreme importance for the quality of your movement and your physical performance! Of all other body systems, the three are of paramount importance for the brain to create and govern the movement: the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems. These systems work together to provide the brain with a comprehensive understanding of the body’s position in space and the surrounding environment.

Wit this in mind, let’s now explore how each system contributes to the governance of movement:

Visual System

The visual system provides information about the external environment and is crucial for tasks that require accurate spatial perception, such as reaching for objects or avoiding obstacles. It also plays a role in gaze control, directing the eyes and head toward relevant stimuli during movement.

Vestibular System

The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, provides information about the body’s orientation in relation to gravity. It contributes to the sense of balance and spatial awareness.

The vestibular system helps in stabilizing gaze and maintaining postural control during various movements, including walking, running, and changes in body position.

Proprioceptive System

Proprioception involves the sense of the body’s position, movement, and spatial orientation based on internal feedback from muscles, joints, and other proprioceptors.

Muscles, tendons, and joints provide information about the length and tension of muscles, joint angles, and the position of body parts.

Proprioceptive feedback is essential for motor control, allowing for the coordination of muscle activity to achieve precise and controlled movements.

To sum everything up, the integration of information from these sensory systems allows for the precise control of motor actions, the maintenance of balance, and the ability to navigate and interact effectively with the environment. Conversely, dysfunction in any of these systems can lead to challenges in movement coordination and spatial awareness.

For this reason, incorporating vision, vestibular, and motor control exercises is crucial in any physical activity, including yoga. These exercises enhance your brain’s capacity to analyze and process incoming inputs, resulting in efficient, precise, coordinated, and pain-free movement.

Neuroplasticity: Foundation of Neurocentric Training

One of the main concepts of neurocentric training is the idea of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain’s cells (neurons) and neural networks to change and adapt in response to experience. On the one hand, movement is driven by brain activity, and on the other hand, movement itself affects brain function. Repetitive movement can cause neuroplastic changes. In other words, by implementing the right drills and techniques, we can rewire our brain and grow new neural connections to achieve better movement and higher performance.

With your brain veritably defined by its dynamic neuroplasticity, the cage that holds you back is an illusion. Your brain potential is unlimited.

Jennifer Fraser

The Bullied Brain: Heal Your Scars and Restore Your Health

Neurocentric Yoga

Achieving better movement and higher performance is also my primary goal as a yoga teacher. I try to implement a neurocentric approach to nearly every yoga class I teach. It can involve introducing some visual or vestibular drills, motor control exercises, visualizations, nerve flossing, and many more. Applied neurology is a perfect complementation to the physical asana practice, to pranayama, and meditation. ‘Neurocentric yoga‘ is the choice I’ve made to help my students feel their best in their bodies and as a result, move through life with ease and joy.

Conclusion

In summary, engaging in neurocentric movement education and training enables you to identify the proprioceptive, visual, and vestibular skills necessary for achieving pain-free high-performance movement. With consistent practice, lasting positive transformations take place in your nervous system and brain, thanks to neuroplasticity. What sets neurocentric movement education and training apart from other methodologies is its unique approach, leveraging direct inputs to the nervous system—the body’s fastest-acting and controlling system.

Are you interested in yoga, fitness, and personal development? So am I! Are you trying to juggle parenthood and work? Me too! In my blog, I write about all these topics (and more!) as I want to help working parents find energy, strength, and balance in life.

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