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Is Muscle Amnesia a thing?
Have you ever been told ‘your glutes are turned off’ or ‘you need to fire up your quads’?
Can you suffer from muscle amnesia? Yes and no.
Recently I have been focussed on disrupting my regular breathing patterns to encourage abdominal activation. I am loathe to say I am doing core workouts because I fear you will envison me doing planks for days with one thousand sit ups.
In Somatic Experiencing, which I employ in my own yoga therapy practice, the concept of sensory motor amnesia was coined by Thomas Hanna, the man who developed Clinical Somatic Education.
Sensory Motor Amnesia describes the loss of motor control and sensation that can occur when we move our muscle or learn new patterns.
After carrying and birthing twins and a subsequent head on collision motor vehicle accident, that resulted in 4 herniated discs….my abdominals were stunted, torn apart and suffering from amnesia. And my pelvis had issues as well, trying her best to harmonize with my upper and lower halves while the nerves had gotten annoyed, shot and ran and hid for cover.
The loss of motor control and sensations in my pelvis and core has been palpable for years.
I detest most suggestions and industry recommendations for core rehabilitation but will save that for another post.
Suffice it to say, yes I had/have muscle amnesia, but I am actively rehabilitating myself out of it and you can to.
Provided that is what you have.
You see, muscle amnesia has become a panacea for maladaptive bodies and inactive people.
Unless you have suffered from neuropathy or a neuromuscular injury, whereby the nerves lack their spark and stop reaching their mark >>> you most likely are suffering from underused or undertrained muscles.
Doesn’t sound as sexy does it?
Contrary to the popular term, muscles actually do not have a memory of their own!
Our muscles are controlled by the nervous system! The nervous system is an incredibly efficient system in our bodies and responds to the inputs and learned patterns of the body. Meaning when the nervous system recognizes repeated patterns, static postures or duplicated movements it makes those inputs automatic.
The brain and nervous system have so many jobs~keeping us alive being paramount, automation is a clever device it employs, regardless if that input serves us or not.
We can develop maladaptive coping strategies, bad posture and poor muscle engagement out of efficiency and not even be made aware of it.
The body simply adapts to the input we give it.
The body tells the brain what to do.
Sometimes it is easier to label parts of our body as being ‘turned off’ or suffering from amnesia because it creates one degree of separation from our personal responsibility.
And I get that.
But here at Sadohana, we are all for exposing the sly ways we tell ourselves stories that keep us stuck and limited. Stories that do not serve our highest good.
And we love to dispel common myths in our industries.
The dispelled myths today are
1. Muscles do not have memory
2. Is it amnesia or lack of use
Moving your body in novel or new experiences , like trying yoga therapy or jiu jitsu for the first time, will introduce your body to underused muscles, new patterns and sensations.
Not being good at these experiences is to be expected.
You have yet to acquire the necessary strength, coordination and correct inputs that will lead to an optimal experience.
Until you learn how to hold, move and engage the body correctly, you could develop patterns of pain.
Don’t give up and accept that your body is deficient in some way.
You simply need to learn the right inputs, develop muscle control and awareness and then practice those inputs correctly so the brain learns this pattern of control and memory.
At some point I will investigate further, because the nervous system is such a delicious source of discovery and I would hypothesize that we have all sorts of unknown neuromuscular personalities and quirks from our collective, unskilled approach to processing trauma….that who's to say we ALL don't have some form of covert neuropathy?
But for now, I ask you to be astute when you or they want to label your muscles with amnesia.
Is it true ?
Or are those particular muscles just neglected, under used and under trained?
For now, I can confidently say I have both amnesia and under used muscle groups. I will share as time goes on how I am reactivating my core and pelvis and how these new patterns are becoming automatic!!
Diane Seamark is co-owner of Sadohana with her husband of 25 years, Michael Seamark. She is a veteran yoga therapist having logged over 5000 clinic hours, is a 5th degree black belt in KoKoDo Jujutsu and a mom to twins.