Following on from reading Norman Doidge's The Brain's Way of Healing I followed up on one of the people he mentioned - Stephen Porges. I then watched a video link with him and then set out on a mission to learn more about his theory and I must say I find it VERY engaging, very intelligent and very therapeutic.
In one his interviews (embedded below), he talks about his personal experience of being a clarinettist and learning about the movement of the facial muscles and the connection to the small muscles in the middle ear which control the bones that conduct sound to the rest of the hearing structure s and then to the brain.
What are the implications for Tai Chi practitioners?
the ear seems to open a little
When we practice Tai Chi - we are advised to hold our tongue behind the teeth just at the start of the hard palate. If you want to know what that does for us then practice now, see what happens to the jaw, then put your fingers onto the muscles of the cheeks. If you are very sensitive you will also notice that the ear seems to 'open' a little. Using Stephen's poly vagal theory we can see that the softening and releasing of these muscles triggers the myelinated vagal system. Add to this the Tai Chi breath, using the Dan Tien to breath we have a system for training emotional resilience (without us knowing it). Further into the video Stephen talks about pranayama as a way to trigger the supra-diaphragmatic vagal system - this means we can self-calm.
trigger this supra-diaphragmatic vagal system - this means we can self-calm
I have no evidence for this 'theory' because as far as I know it has not been tested.
However, fMRI research on meditators has demonstrated the power of mindfulness meditation to change emotional states. A large part of mindfulness meditation is to limit our internal responses to the mind's desire to be engaged in every and any thing by focussing our attention on our breath limiting ourselves to a very small area on the surface of the skin at the triangular junction between the nostrils and the upper lip.
The slower you move the easier it is for monkey mind to distract you
Tai Chi is mindful movement - if you lose concentration you stumble, or lose your place in the form. The slower you move the easier it is for monkey mind to distract you. The faster you move the more aware of your breath you must be.