My husband introduced vestibular resets to me about a year ago and I have recently taken them more seriously and feel the need to share with you how my body's strength and balance has improved since doing these exercises.
Vestibular resets are simple and basic developmental movement patterns. These are the patterns that babies use as they develop the ability to move through the world, like rolling over, nodding the head, crawling, and eventually walking.
But first, What is your Vestibular System?
In short, it is the apparatus of the inner ear involved with your balance. It includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements. If the system is damaged by disease, aging, or injury, vestibular disorders can result, and are often associated with Vertigo and dizziness, among other things.
The vestibular system detects head movement and the central nervous system then uses this information to coordinate body and eye motions.
Why is it important to train?
Vertigo is not the only reason we should include the vestibular system in our thinking. Even small amounts of vestibular input can have significant effects in the body. Many studies have linked vestibular stimulation to sympathetic (fight-or-flight) autonomic nervous system activation and physical reactions such as higher blood pressure, respiratory changes, and increased muscular tension throughout the body.
When disturbed, the vestibular system causes sympathetic fight-or-flight activation, anxiety, tension, and unrest; however, there are positive effects of manual touch in regards to the vestibular system too. When soothed, supported, and steadied manual therapy is applied, the vestibular system can trigger a relaxing and calming response instead.
Vestibular reset exercises can help retrain the brain's ability to compensate for the imbalance, much like a weak muscle needs to be exercised to regain its strength. Vestibular resets involve specific exercises to improve balance and reduce the feeling of dizziness.
There are sets of movements that help to reset this system too. With most people living sedentary lifestyles with work, driving to work, watching TV, etc., our bodies have muscle amnesia when it comes to moving freely, how we were designed to.
More on this topic, when you get a chance, read this awesome article on outsideonline.com, where Steve Maxwell is interviewed by Christopher McDougall.
A little excerpt:
About Vestibular Resets:
"His (Steve) breakthrough came when he discovered a link between the brutal training of Hindu wrestlers and the odd spinning rituals of Sufi monks known as whirling dervishes. The holy men weren’t just dancing, Maxwell realized; they were taking a page from the brawlers and rehabbing their bodies.
Monks were the couch potatoes and Internet addicts of their day, spending insaneamounts of time frozen in prayer and hunched over texts. All that butt time takes a toll on backs and knees and hips. Maxwell believes the monks picked up a self-healing tip from their spiritual brothers—the wrestlers—who were also considered a sacred caste.
Maxwell calls the technique “vestibular reset,” after the internal gyroscope we all have in our inner ears.
Sit too long, and your vestibular system gets out of whack. You lose your sense of where your body is in relation to the ground; that’s when the fuse starts sizzling toward an injury.
“Because everyone slumps in their own way,” Maxwell explains one afternoon. We’re in the shed behind the house where I work. He’s assessing the way I typically sprawl in my desk chair. “It’s not just the fact that you’re sitting that causes problems. When you stand up, the way you slump—the way your back has molded around the chair—is going to affect the way you move.”
So what are the movements?
Below is my demonstration of the Leopard Crawl. Keep in mind that I have practiced the Baby Crawl for a couple of months and feel strong enough to move on to the next progression. There are other contra-lateral movements, head nods, head rolls, body rolls, etc. that you can find online too, if you feel inspired!
I still have a lot of progress to make, as you can see in my video my hips are a bit too high and they sink a bit side to side. So, take your time, this is resetting years of poor posture, balance, etc. And it is fun!
A few things to consider:
a. try to keep your head up
b. try to keep your butt down
c. knees move inside the arms (as opposed to the Spiderman Crawl, where the knees move to the outside of the arms)
d. goal: to crawl for 10 minutes straight. Take your time, take breaks to get to this point.
e. go forward AND backward
f. listen to your body, and breathe!
Since I have been doing this for about a month, more consistently, I feel stronger and more balanced. It is a great exercise that can happen anywhere, anytime. Seriously, do it anywhere you feel like you need to reset yourself...post office, grocery store, airport, etc...you'll make good conversations!
As always, thank you for reading.
Feel free to call, text, or email with any questions or comments, or to book your massage therapy appointment.
1. Yates et al., “The Effects of Vestibular System Lesions on Autonomic Regulation: Observations, Mechanisms, and Clinical Implications,” Journal of Vestibular Research 15 (2005): 119–29.