The human body is hardwired to maintain balance on every level, emotional, chemical and structural. Science calls this homeostasis. Our body is constantly adapting to the internal and external environments. When we think of a body as being unstable we tend to think along the lines of maybe an old person bent over and frail. Or someone with an injury trying to move around it to maintain an upright posture. Stability isn’t actually what you might think. Its not based on muscular strength or motor control. Its structural strength. I learnt this a long time ago when I was exploring pilates to add to my Personal Training qualifications. But it didn’t really take off. The buzz words back then and even now were core stability. I don’t think this paints a true picture of stability. Structural strength is the capacity of individual elements to withstand load and transmit forces from gravity to movement to all the elements within a structure. If this is out of balance, joints pay the price. We can do repetitive movements poorly over and over again via life or even exercises performed incorrectly ……bear in mind here, a movement may well look right and even impressive but if its structural starting point is due to compensationary patterns then this is neurological instability. You can become segmentally flexible or segmentally strong but we need to not function as individual parts but in harmony. Joints suffer if there are compensations going on regularly and inevitably end in injury or pain.
Throughout our lives our body communicates with us. We have “pre-pain”signals that we often ignore. They can even come from places we don’t associate with pain or problems structurally such as the enteric system(gut). We often ignore these until the signal becomes “Sudden chronic pain”. You have heard of chronic pain and acute pain but this is a pain that we perceive to have come on suddenly and from “nowhere”. But it really didn’t. Your body has probably been trying to warn you of this for quite sometime before it decided “enough was enough” and gave you an almighty kick!
You’ve all heard of me bang on and on about fascia (unless you’re new to my classes – in which case I will warn you in advance ……unless you really are interested, probably best not to ask me about fascia, that could be a very long conversation!) To really simplify fascia….
All fascia is connective tissue but not all connective tissue is fascia.
Fascia is the single most abundant material in the body. Our connective tissue guides the way for our muscles, bones , nerves and everything else in the body to grow. Lines of connective tissue give us the ability to create dynamic movement. Fascia is a matrix that gives our muscles, bones , nerves and other structures the definitive support and connection they need to maintain an upright posture and pain free movement. It actively holds us together, and gives us our shape and connection between all the systems that impact stability.
For years in dissection fascia was cut away to allow scientists to study the muscles, bones, etc of the body. We now know that fascia is what holds this all together. Muscles move bones but fascia provides us with our shape.
To over simplify, it’s like a giant bag that resembles a spiders web that is fluid and constantly moving and adapting. When this system becomes dehydrated we start to experience things like stiffness on standing from sitting or when getting out of bed. Remember the pre-pain signals I talked about earlier? This is an example of that. In MELT we refer to this as stuck stress. One of the purposes of MELT is to help improve hydration within the fascia to reduce or eliminate this stiffness or pain.
In the fitness world we spend a lot of time assessing peoples posture but as I pointed out earlier, someone could appear to have good posture but still be stiff or in pain. This could be due to muscle compensation and fascial dehydration. The muscles have created new patterns to hold the posture but meantime the fascia is dehydrating. By MELTing we can help to rehydrate the fascia and encourage the joints back to stability with correct re-patterning (this comes later in your MELT journey) and get the muscles back to doing their job properly.
The MELT living body model uses a number of terms to simplify systems of the body. The autopilot describes the body’s nervous system. The autonomic systems of the body support, protect and stabilize you without your voluntary control. Over time these systems can learn to manage the instability better and therefore allow the dysfunction to continue. So lets say you are doing the same bunch of exercises regularly but your knees ache and your back aches, you aren’t training your joints to improve their stability, your nervous system has learnt to manage the compensations despite your autopilot flashing a red light telling you that something is wrong (remember those pre pain signals!). So we really need to address the compensations and encourage the autopilot to relocate to our centre of gravity and listen to it as it warns us of imbalances and dysfunction.
Body sense is another term used constantly in MELT. We have the ability to sense signals from our bodies. Some of these are the obvious such as when we are hungry and need to pee etc etc. But again I refer to these pre pain signals that we switch off from. MELT encourages us to tune back into our body sense. To not use touch or sight to work out what we feel within our bodies but to tune back in with our minds. It’s the element of MELT that I think is a really Mindful exercise. For me this not only helps me to identify stuck stress but to help me to bring my focus to my body, my breath and ultimately to bring me back to me.
Masses and spaces are really simple terms used instead of anatomical terms. Masses are the bones and spaces are the joints. As an instructor I love nothing more than rattling off the names of various parts of the body but this can be very off putting for many people. So MELT created these terms to help people identify parts of their bodies.
However, sometimes I like to throw in things like piezoelectricity. This is the fill effect we get after shearing in MELT and this along with mechanotransduction (neurochemical changes) is simplified to Tensional Energy in the MELT living body language. We learn 2 directional lengthening techniques such as hip to heel press which are great ways to send fluid flow through the fascia after shearing and can be used instead of rinsing if needed.
There are other terms used in MELT and on your journey through MELT I will of course explain them to you.
MELT as many of you now know is a system that follows a definite process. The different processes of MELT are done in a specific order which has been designed to give the greatest benefit and effect.
They are Glide, Shear, WAIT, (piezoelectrical effect), Rinse and in the case of the hands and feet, Friction.
I hope that your MELT journey will be a long and fruitful one and I hope also that I will be able to be part of that journey for many years to come. Happy MELTING.