What's going on down there?

On neurophysiology of losing ourselves

We're born with billions of neurons, but little communication between them – their "branches" (axons, dendrites) are way too short. This means having a huge unrealised potential for all kind of physical and mental operations, which can only come to live once the connection between necessary cells is created.

Once kiss our mother's womb goodbye, those branches of the brain cells begin to spread out, axons growing rapidly towards each other. For an obvious reason they're programmed to build long-distant connections first – say, between the spinal cord and the tip of the toe. It is much easier to establish this kind of connection while the body length is at its smallest – it would be a greater challenge to connect the toe to the brain later. Thus we can see how effortlessly the infant moves each of their toes and fingers, long before they can coordinate their spine and larger body parts. Due to the dominance of these long-distant connections, babies cry, sneeze and digest their food with the whole body.

As we develop into adults, the focus of brain wiring shifts towards building much more sophisticated structures, specifically inside our cerebral cortex, which is, our consciousness and mental capacities. This is something that is not primarily dictated by anatomy of the body itself, but is a mechanism of adaptation to the culturally conditioned environment. Our cultural values shape the development of our brain and nervous system, and therefore, our relationship to our bodies and sensitivity. Since the priority now is given to the synaptic development in the cortex, every year of our life we become more and more detached from the far-away regions of the body. Symbolically speaking, we lose the attention in the longer axons of the lower body to the the faster, shorter synapses that administrate our mental activity.



Some people I worked with find it hard to even properly feel what's going on below their belly button. At the very best, we concentrate on our sexual organs when they're being stimulated – yet we often find it hard to own this pleasure in its fullest. And when the itch of anxiety, fear or sexual frustration hits us in the stomach, we do not know how to get rid of it. In Tibetan tradition, we talk about the system of "winds" which is somatically represented by the number of systems (primarily nervous system). Anxiety is described by the inability of the "wind" to move upwards, creating tension, usually around abdominal parts. We all know too well how it feels: the unpleasant tingling sensation in your guts whenever you feel unsettled, afraid, uncertain. We all know how it feels to stress eat or be unnecessarily sexual in times of anxiety in order to quieten, to slow down the "wind" inside our lower body. Now what if I told you that establishing a better connection between the lower and the upper part of your body would actually help you with overcoming your anxiety?

The trick is to give your longer axons, your more distant neurones connections some value again. To feel how it feels on the tip of your toe. To explore movements of each place in your body you completely forgot about. This can be done by doing some sort of "toe yoga" (
for example this one), massaging your feet and consciously shifting the weight on different parts of your soles. Feel how your ankle is connected to your ear, how your soles are connected to the skin on the top of your head. One more trick is to apply imagination. I often ask a person to really feel what does their left pinky toe want to tell to their right nostril, etc. How does it feel under their knee? Even as dancers, we often treat our feet only as a means to achieve a certain posture or to make a certain move, which is: purely instrumental. Thus detaching ourselves from whatever message the periphery of the body might send us. It is extremely important to feel our soles and treat them as equals to our eyes, palms and ears, which normally "steal the show" of our attention. When any system become too centralised, it become authoritarian, and as much as it might be needed times to time, a prolonged state of authoritarianism is never good. This is true for the history of the human, this is also true for the history of the human body. Regressing into the state of the newborn who's enjoying their whole new world of receptivity, spread throughout their whole body, might be just the right pill if you struggle with anxiety, backpains, insomnia and stiffness. And generally, "what's going on down there?" is the right question to ask at any time of the day.