Understanding, Coaching, & Body Learning

Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I will understand.
Confucius 2500BC

Either/Or is the greatest impediment to progress on the planet because it is the invisible default of the conceptual mind and constitutes the very structure of language.

We are aware of 3 basic learning styles;
a.  Auditory
b.  Visual
c.  Kinaesthetic (Body learning)

I am guessing that many of you think that these learning styles are relatively independent?  Maybe you have been told that you have a learning dominance.  Most people say to me that they are visual learners.

Guess what the above 3 are also inputs to stability:
a.  Balance (linked with auditory mechanism)
b.  Vision
c.  Proprioception (Bodily intelligence)

The relationship between the auditory and vestibular apparatus is both anatomical and functional.

The inner ear comprises the auditory and vestibular systems. Both contain hair cells that transduce appropriate stimuli (sound in case of the cochlea, linear acceleration in the sacculus and utriculus, rotational velocity in the semicircular canals) into a receptor potential.

The inner ear is called the labyrinth because of the complexity of its shape. The three semicircular canals, utricle, and saccule integrate to provide the sense of equilibrium, and the cochlea is specialized for detection of sound waves.

The eyes are wired to the spine and to balance mechanisms.  There are several types of eye movements that have distinct anatomy and physiology. Pathways for voluntary horizontal gaze and for voluntary vertical gaze are distinct from one another and have independent innervation. The vestibulo-ocular reflex is critical for stabilizing the eyes when the head is moving and utilizes many of the same neuronal pathways used by smooth pursuit or tracking eye movements.

Proprioception is the catch all term for the neural input coming from muscle spindles, golgi tendon organs, and joint receptors.  The contractile apparatus is modulated based on the above inputs.  Muscle tone is the actual communication of the nervous system.  When this tone is even, we have even movement.  If you are ‘jumpy’ in certain areas when touched, this is hyper-tone, and is a sign that the area is over-working.

In simple terms the body wants to maintain balance between tonic and phasic muscle systems, and to avoid damage to joints via contraction speed.

From a developmental perspective, respiration, stability and movement unfolds via maturation of a program in the brain and nervous system.  This involves a 3 step process;

1.  Sagittal stabilisation occurs first and involves differentiated understanding of the back and front of the body and function of the upper and lower limbs via stabilisation of thoraco-lumbar junction. (Supine, Prone and most Gym exercises are sagittal)

Sagittal stability using wall hang


2.  Ipsilateral stabilisation begins with the ability to reach across the midline of the body to begin turning or rolling and differentiates the left and right sides of the body. (Swimming, paddling, left jab in boxing, Triangle pose in yoga and side-lying exercises are ipsilateral)






Side Support to Reaching









3.  Contralateral stabilisation begins with ability to support the body diagonally and differentiates the diagonal opposites and oblique slings of the body. (Crawling, Walking, Running, Throwing, Right cross in boxing, Open stance forehand and Rotated Triangle in yoga are contralateral)

Boxing right cross, left leg is the support for this punch, hence its contralateral set up

The common denominator in the above 3 stages is deep system stability or as the Prague School have recently termed it; the Integrated Spinal Stabilising System.

Why all of this may sound complicated, it is none other than your intrinsic stabilising system which simply wants to function throughout a life-span.

  • What if the majority of our training involved learning as well as metabolic work?
  • What if we could start to liberate ourselves from an image-based sense of identity and could become a curious body-based learner again, like a child immersed in the task.
  • What if we could give honest feedback about where our global understanding was ambiguous.
  • What if our coaching practice could transcend ‘tell and do’, to exploration based learning guided by skilful coaching.
  • What if it was possible to maintain full function through the latter years of life.
  • What if movement and exercise was inherently satisfying; and that I could abolish the carrot and stick!

I hope this New Year reminder evokes something in you.  I include some of the physiology only to provide evidence of the deep interconnectedness of the body-brain.

If you are interested in this view and the practical ways of working with it, please contact me via the website, or consider attending some of the classes I will be running through the year.

All the Best for New Year,


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