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Where’s Your Vestibular Labyrinth?

A friend recently sent me a video of her one-year old granddaughter proudly pointing to her nose or eyes or ears when asked by her encouraging parents to find each of these “sensory portals.” One of the head’s senses, though, went missing from the list – the eager young parents never queried, “Where’s your vestibular labyrinth?” Out of sight and reach, the vestibular sensors in the inner ear remain out of mind, even as they provide sensory information essential to…

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Mobile or Stable?

In Ki-Aikido, we use a firm push on the torso to check balance stability as a form of “no-tech biofeedback” in learning to how to center.  If I place my attention at my center-of-balance (in the gut a few inches below the belly button) I remain stable without having to work at it; if I shift my attention to, say the top of my head, I immediately wobble on my feet when my partner pushes on me. At last weekend’s Minding Your Balance workshop at Denver Ki-Aikido,…

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Navigation

A ride on my shiny new bicycle provides a mid-afternoon break from writing, as I navigate my way through side streets and open-space trails on a warm fall afternoon. The short respite shakes the cobwebs from my mind, and I return to the task of navigating through the tangle of research studies that inform my writing. Besides enjoying any activity that involves navigating through the environment (bicycling, skiing, dancing), “navigation” is on my list of favorites words because it exemplifies…

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Standing Tall

In Ki-Aikido training, a simple test of balance – done with a firm push by the instructor on a student’s shoulder or back, serves as “no-tech” biofeedback about a person’s internal state:  Stable posture correlates with a calm, clear mind that supports best performance; unstable posture correlates with distraction and/or distress and suboptimal performance. The same holds true off the mat; a calm focused mind in daily life not only results in clearer thinking and better communication, it also correlates with more…

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Dizzy

Why is it that dizziness happens in the head but makes us unstable on our feet? Blame the vestibular system – the sensory system that perceives our motion in space in relationship to gravity.  The sensors themselves are located in the inner ear, but the information they provide is critical to perceiving and maintaining our vertical alignment with gravity as we move around in the world. And that matters for more than not falling down. Gravity affects every breath we take,…

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Centering and Parkinson’s Disease

Last Friday I had the privilege of co-teaching the Parkinson’s Disease Movement Lab with Pamela Quinn at the Mark Morrison Dance Center in Brooklyn. I shared the centering exercises from Ki-Aikido and we explored how an awareness of moving from center stabilizes balance. Participants were immediately able to make the connection as they experienced a marked improvement in their postural stability – whether sitting, standing, or walking across a room. We also played with the effect of centering on speech which, like balance, can be undermined in Parkinson’s.…

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Neural Knitting

In 1906, the father of modern neuroscience, Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, described the central nervous system as “an organ of coordination” that “knits together” the many separate systems of life into a solidarity – a coordinated response of the whole. Shin Shin Toitsu is the Japanese name for the style of aikido I have practiced and taught for over thirty years. Translated into English it means “heart, mind, and body threaded together as one.” The words echo Sherrington’s — the recognition not…

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