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On Sowing and Reaping

There’s an old saying, “You reap what you sow.” A commonly uttered phrase in conversation, it is usually used to imply negative results. Rarely is the term associated with a positive outcome, with the notable exception of farming. But indeed, the cycle of sowing and reaping — planting and harvesting — is exactly where the phrase came from, so perhaps a brief examination of the cycle will benefit us as we discuss the process of sowing and reaping in terms of wellness.

The Art and Science of Farming – A Basis for Harvesting Our Health

In horticulture, great research — along with trial and error over time — has helped produce quality outcomes in the cycle from planting to harvest. Knowing what to sow, when and how much to sow, what kind of fertilizer, how much sun/shade and how much cold or heat to expose the plantings to are all parts of the process. And because of careful study and attention to detail over time, whenever a farmer plants a seed, he/she knows that whatsoever seed is planted, there will be a harvest. The intentions of the planter are fulfilled in the outcome when they “do the right thing” along the way.

Such is the case with the body. Most, if not all of us, are striving to reap a harvest of health and wellness. However, not all of us take the time to pay attention to what, and how, we sow into our bodies in our quest to reach that homeostatic nirvana. And consequently, we are falling short of the goal with injury, chronic conditions and disease processes that may have been preventable.

Sowing in the human realm – Where or what is the Soil?

Indeed, One of the primary truths we need to at least remind ourselves of is the fact that our bodies have been given a marvelously made control center, called the brain. And the brain is charged with a main directive for its body, which is homeostasis, or a balance between inside and outside environments. It has remarkable capabilities to take all of the input it receives from the periphery (both from internal and external application), evaluate and calculate that input on a moment-by-moment basis, and still attempt to maintain a harmonious balance within its domain.

With this in mind (pun intended), it would be helpful to acknowledge that the ground we sow into is the body, with the brain, along with the central and peripheral nervous systems in charge of adapting to whatever we sow. In other words, just as a seed is planted in the ground it makes a demand on the soil, the “seeds” we sow into our bodies make demands upon the brain.

Everything we sow, whether it’s physical, chemical, mental or emotional is interpreted by the nervous system as force. The brain and nervous system first must sense what type and intensity of force is being sown or applied (from within or without), and then make a series of decisions as to how to adapt to that force. In a perfect world, positive adaptation continues to take place and progression toward and/or maintenance of health rolls on. But what if that seed, in the form of force, crosses a threshold after which the brain can’t actually continue to maintain balance? Then the force becomes stress. Instead of a positive adaptation to forces, we actually start declining in our ability to adapt and either maintain or progress toward our harvest of a healthy existence. And usually at the beginning of this declination process is something called inflammation.

Inflammation: The Root of All Evil

And you thought it was love of money. No, from a human standpoint, when it comes to thriving or surviving (or not), the root of most of the disease processes we know today is inflammation. Conditions like type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis, and a host of immune system disorders are all finding their roots in an inflammatory process in the body. In fact, while we usually associate inflammation with injured tissue (like puffy ankles after a sprain, etc.) there was most likely inflammation present at a more micro level that compromised joint mechanics and/or stability to result in the injury.

Inflammation is actually a normal part of the immune system’s process of healing from injury, and part of a protective mechanism established to “guard” the tissue while the body goes forth toward repair and restoration. However, if the body ever gets into a situation where the immune response doesn’t or can’t retreat – perhaps when the number or amounts of forces encroaching on the body thresholds and becomes a stress to the system, a slow downward spiral away from health starts to occur.

The Journal of Immunology, a premier publication in the field produced by the American Association of Immunologists, dedicates an entire section in each bi-monthly issue to research progressions in immunology surrounding inflammation, providing half a dozen or more abstracts and articles on the role inflammation plays in a variety of disease processes. So while news reporters are all pontificating on the latest “epidemic”, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and the like, they really might fall under one larger and more insidious category – the Stress Epidemic – that is potentially hurting us all.

How to Reverse the Curse

So, if we do find ourselves in a realm of declination in our health and wellness, how do we work with our bodies and sow into them the proper forces, both in type and intensity, to keep the brain humming along and changing the tide in a positive direction? As mentioned, the brain and nervous system take what we sow and interpret it as force, either physical (e.g., exercise, daily activities, rest/sleep, surgery, injury or trauma, medical procedures, cosmetic procedures), chemical (food, drink, preservatives, additives, medications, herbs, supplements), mental (studies, work, reading, viewing or listening activities) or emotional (anger, rage, sadness, bitterness, etc.). The process the nervous system uses to decode the force and decide how to adapt to it can have far reaching ramifications, in either a positive or a negative direction. Our resulting health status will be our “harvest”, which we all desire to reap a positive one, but don’t always succeed.

How can we discover how are bodies are doing in our sowing and reaping cycle? There is one way that is gaining recognition and helping shed some light on the topic. Due to more than fifteen years of research, trial and error, there is a method that uses muscular system function as a barometer for the level of stress present in any given body. Created by Greg Roskopf, MA, Muscle Activation Techniques is an objective tool kit for evaluating current stress levels in the body and correcting the results from a muscular and biomechanical standpoint, thereby helping to reverse some of the effects of force that has become a stress to that person’s system.

“We have discovered in our research that no matter what the source of the stress is, the muscular system responds the same way – with muscular inhibition,” says Roskopf. “But when we appropriately evaluate and address the problems presenting in the muscles, we find we may be able to help the body start to reverse its current state and return to a more healthful existence that is better equipped to handle the forces presented to it. The process, combined with other lifestyle change and/or medical input, can have very positive results.”

As the tools in Muscle Activation Techniques are applied in a proper progression, the integrity of the muscular system gradually improves and may have more holistic positive effects due to chemical, electrical and hormonal changes that these improvements initiate in the rest of the body’s systems.

In future postings, we will be revealing different aspects of the types of forces presented to the brain and open them up for discussion based on discoveries made while people are under the care of an MAT practitioner. Part science and part art, the goal is to help people make more informed decisions on how to avoid the force-becomes-stress spiral that robs us of the healthful and vibrant harvest we all want and deserve.

Respecting the Brain

In light of this great control center we have all been given, we need to be aware that whatsoever is “sown” into the body, from either an external or internal standpoint, presents the brain and nervous system with new decisions to make. And the decisions made there may have effects on more than just the area in which we were trying to affect change. As long as we are clear on that foundational principle, we can add to our knowledge base and understanding of the body’s reactions to forces, as well as better determine when the force has crossed over into stress. Then we can begin to have more honest interaction with our bodies, sowing more appropriately and reaping more profitably.

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Jennifer Novak
MS, CSCS, is the owner and... 
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