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Improving spine movement and mobility with The Sea Squirt

It's a peculiar title for a blog post, I know, but bear with me.

Do you know what a Sea Squirt is? I'm sure for the overwhelming majority of you, the answer is no. However, I can already count a handful of people within the Crawl Project community who studied marine biology, so I'm pretty confident they will have heard about these fascinating creatures.

The Sea Squirt belongs to a taxonomic class known as The Phylum Chordata (fancy, I know). Phylum Chordata, or chordates, are animals with flexible neural rods at the centre of their anatomical structure. It includes many species, including fish and mammals like you and me. So you and the Sea Squirt share a commonality and quite a crucial one. The Sea Squirt has quite a bizarre lifecycle, in that it is tadpole-like in its formative stages of development and can swim freely but as it reaches maturity it latches onto a rock and ceases to move on its own accord. At this point in the lifecycle, it ingests its brain.

What does this tell us about why we have a brain? According to neurologist Daniel Wolpert, it is a massive indication that the reason animals have brains is to conduct and coordinate complex movement patterns. Our dear Sea Squirt has decided to use its brain as food because it no longer needs to generate movement. Here is Daniel Wolpert's complete TED Talk

This talk and subsequent learning about the Sea Squirt inspired me during my movement research practice especially when exploring various spine-focused mobility and somatic pathways. You see, as I said before, we also fall into the Phylum Chordata but unlike the Sea Squirt, we need our spinal cord throughout the entirety of our lifecycle regardless of whether we wish we could imbed ourselves onto a rock and consume our brains or not.

The spinal cord is the central axis of all somatosensory information that is interpreted, processed and coordinated by our bodies. As the old saying goes, "You are as old as your spine."

While working through some Handslides patterns, I uncovered what I have affectionately named the Sea Squirt as a homage to our distant chordate cousin.

Handslides are a somatic movement practice that allows us to utilise continuous tactile feedback mechanisms to help understand basic but sometimes unclear movement pathways. I utilise these exercises to build deeper neurological awareness and enhance the brain's understanding of articulating parts in coordinated rhythmic motion.

The Sea Squirt is one such Handslide exercise that allows us to explore the intricate and nuanced motion of the spine as it relates to the pelvic and pectoral girdles and the motion of the eyes. You can read more about eyes-to-spine relationships in a previous post I wrote named: The eyes lead the head the head leads the spine.

But for now, promise me that you will take a moment or ten to feel into the motions of the Sea Squirt and start to unlock the nuanced expressions of your spine. Until next time, keep moving.

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