In thinking about Flexibility and Balance I thought of different modalities such as, Yoga, Qi Gong, Massage, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Pilates, nutrition and mindfulness. These thoughts led me to Dr. Aplin, a Huntsville Alabama neurolgically based chiropractor who has a strong desire to both increase and promote the ideas and concepts of balance and adaptability. He agreed to talk with us about his philosophy on wellness.
HPG : Good Morning Dr. Aplin . What is neurologically based chiropracticand and why is it important?
Dr. A : Originally the practice started to evaluate how the nervous system not just the physical system worked. However the science of the day hadn't evolved to explain what the chiropracters were looking at so people accepted chiropractic as an Orthopedic or structural science. Because of todays neuroscience advances it is easing back into its original focus which is to explain how and why the nervous system functions. Simply put the nervous system is the primary driver of how the body functions. It controls how you react and how you recover. This sets the stage for general health and adaptability.
HPG: What do you think about us having a nervous system in our guts?
Dr. A : Absolutely this is the case- the heart has its own neural network and begins working even before the brain is formed. There are over 40,000 dedicated neurons in the heart and the gut has its own neural network know as the enteric nervous system. It is comprised primarily of the parasympathetic portion of our autonomic system. We have a nervous system that runs everything and we don't have to be aware of it.
That is called the autonomic system. It is broken up in to 2 pieces, one speeds things up and one slows things down. Our defense system resides in the the speed up portion, flight or fight response. We also have the recovery side of the system which is called the parasympathetic nervous system. It resides a lot in the Gut structure. So when people talk about "gut responses" or gut instincts" those are real responses. As a culture we are focused on trying to control our defense side of our system, which is a reflex response whereas, we are trying to enhance the recovery strategies or mechanisms of the body. The defense side is controllable with medications which is not ideal while enhancing the recovery mechanisms are much easier to teach and learn. By learning how to enhance recovery skills and become less reactive you are then inherently more balanced.
HPG: How do we enhance the recovery mechanism? Can you give us one specific example of this??
Dr. A.: Well there are 3 basic practices that we teach people.
1) Learn how to breathe - we tend to breath using the defensive side of the system, that is breathing through the neck which triggers the defense system. It is vital to learn to breathe through the stomach . Using things like Yogic breathe which focuses on deep abdominal expansion and lung breathing while relaxing the collarbone triggers the recovery mechanism. Always breathe out longer than you breathe in
2) We teach communication- people struggle with expressing how they feel in their body so we teach a specific method of communication
3) We teach people how to control their body responses. – Cold hands warm heart - is absolutely wrong. This is true if people have their defense system stuck in the on position. When your flight or fight system is triggered you are moving blood away from the periphery and into the core. It is moving it away from the digestive and reproductive systems. If your hands are cold I ask if you have reflux, chronic constipation or other reproductive or digestive issues. Then I inform them of the best 2 ways to activiate your recovery response.
A) Recognize what is going on
B) Learn how to switch between systems. We use the hands as a marker to help identify what is going on and switch from defensive into the recovery mode by using the breath. Focus on healing breath.
HPG: What do you do for yourself in terms of Wellness? Mind? Body? Spirit?
Dr. A. : I focus on achieving Balance – the ability to appropriately respond and recover from that response.
One specific strategy I practice is when I drive and come up to a red light I take a breath and say let go ( mentally) as I exhale. I'm now using this idea of “ this is done” and following it with a parasympathetic or recovery dominant activity such as conscious breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. That is the idea of tensing a muscle and then relaxing it and focusing on the movement between. Spiritually I feel like everything is all connected and being able to look beyond what is going on in the moment you see the rhythm of life. I am lifted up when I am riding my Harley, and ground myself by walking barefoot in the woods.
I see a chiropractor every Tuesday. I am constantly pushing the envelope and needs my system as highly adaptive as possible in order to do my job to the best of my ability. Seeing a chiropractier has nothing to do with currently having an existing condition but in being proactive and balanced.
HPG: What is your response to peoples reactions to Chiropractic. –
Dr. A: In order to recover we have to shift our inate responses. Many chiropractors focus on the structure which puts them in a muscular skeletal practice which is about relief. Neurological opens the door for many non traditional chiropractic clients. It is not a treatment for pain only but in fact the foundational issues that cause pain.
HPG: What would you like to leave our readers with today?
Dr. A.: One thing I think can help everyone would be “ Speaking rather than thinking over your troubles” By speaking and then following that word with a parasympathetic strategy you get a response. You need to actually verbalize in order to see a change. Perhaps Science and our folkloric wisdom is starting to coincide. The most important question is to ask the question Why? We are so fixated on "What" that we miss the right question. It is all about our ability to adapt and that is enhanced through the recovery system of the body. What ever strategy you may use it is important to focus on the recovery nature of that activity in order to increase your adaptability and balance.
For a complete audio of this interview please see the movement resources page.