Saturday, January 17, 2009

Walking Therapy (cont.)

In my last post, I described how the eye movements one makes when walking, (with the eyes darting to either side of the path, and also looking high and low, as the gaze moves from one thing to another), actually help the brain to process whatever issues a person might be working through. In fact, all of this eye movement may give us some of the same benefits as the REM phase of sleep. In addition to that, I would say that the motion of walking itself plays a therapeutic role, because walking is a whole-body activity, so having to coordinate your arms and legs and everything as you walk must surely have a brain integrating function.

I recall listening to a recent (of not too many weeks ago [?]) NPR report on wrestling, and I’m a little foggy on it now, but I think it may have been about how wrestling has helped people with learning disabilities, or memory problems, or something like that, because so many parts of the body are worked, and therefore many parts of the brain are engaged. (I can’t easily track down this information online, because my Windows 98 and rural phone lines dial-up make it painfully slow to get into sites.) If wrestling can do that for you, I would assume that swimming and bowling would too, as swimming has been described as the most complete exercise, and bowling as second best.

Brain integration is a big concern for people with Asperger’s Syndrome and other neuro-processing disorders. Activities that help to get the hemispheres and different brain modules working in tandem can help mitigate the brain fog, which so many of us suffer from. I believe that it also modulates mental energy—what one might describe as the flow of mental “chi.” When a friend whose child was suffering from migraines looked into Chinese medicine, she was told to have her child sit with her feet in a pan of water that was as hot as she could comfortably manage, as a way of drawing energy from the head to the feet. The theory here is that a migraine amounts to too much energy in the head, which is plausible, when you consider that a migraine has been described as “a firestorm in the brain.”

I believe that in Jansen’s study of “The Quest for Therapy in Lower Zaire,” some of the people described were suffering from mental breakdowns due to what some of their traditional African medical practitioners diagnosed as “too much thinking,” a state of overload ascribed to city living. I wonder if Africans who are used to an enormous amount of walking have problems re-modulating when they have to adjust to a different way of life. We ought to consider how too much energy in the head is part of the modern condition, and build time for walking back into our routines, to walk off some of that energy.

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