gravity project article
The Gravity Project by Brian W. Fahey, Ph.D. (©1992)
When was the last time you felt light on your feet and had bounce in your stride? The majority of Americans haven't felt that way since childhood. The degree to which we have any "spring" left is a function of our body's relationship to gravity over the years.
GRAVITY X TIME = AGING
Gravity is the most pervasive, least understood and most influential factor affecting our quality of life. We begin a life-long relationship with gravity at conception and end it at death. In utero our first preconscious relationship is with the pull of gravity. In utero, the most significant developmental events occur with our head down, floating in a fluid-filled bag. The primary occupation of our evolutionary brain is to develop a healthy relationship with gravity - to develop appropriate muscle tone and span in response to gravity's pulls and changes of acceleration. We bond with gravity first and our mother second. the brain develops from the bottom first, with the limbic system (emotional brain), continuing to the brain stem, cortex and neo-cortex (seat of higher intelligence). In much of this development, the brain is literally pulled along towards its final formation by the pull of gravity.
Vestibular nuclei (part of our gravity balancing system) are functional by ten weeks and by twenty one weeks our gravity vestibular system is our only mature sensory system. Forty seven percent of all neural activity in the first six months is composed of vestibular sensations.
One of the predominant evolutionary challenges for modern man is to develop a conscious and harmonious relationship with the forces of gravity. This adaptive capacity creates more neuromuscular complexity and causes the brain to organize itself at higher levels of functioning. According to Drs. Lipsitz and Goldberger, the loss of complexity in neuromuscular capacity leads to "an impaired ability to adapt to physiologic stress". A loss of complexity and adaptive capacity is the key indicator of physiologic aging.
Compression is the main mechanical factor contributing to joint, muscle, organ and circulatory aging. Compression on the body may be the only thing that a sedentary and active life-style have in common. For example, sitting at a desk job every day contributes to a cumulative increase in intradiscal pressure and has the potential to cause as much pain and dysfunction as lifting weights does. When seated, for every centimeter you head is forward on your neck, the pressure on the lumbar muscles is tripled. A 170 lb. person lifting only a 70 lb. barbell for 5 reps causes an internal pressure of 1,000 lbs. in the discs of the lower back. So whether we are active or sedentary, the compressive effects of gravity take their toll.
Gravity is the problem, but it is also the solution. The simplest way to counteract the progressive and deteriorating effects of our life-long relationship with gravity is to literally change our relationship with gravity. By inverting our bodies for a few minutes each day, gravity can become a positive, uplifting, decompressive force, re-energizing the body and rejuvenating stagnant energy flow.
Inversion is a multi-dimensional antidote to deterioration in the body caused by gravity. Inversion activates deep and surface muscles that do not get positively effected by daily living or by exercise. Inversion is a high level vestibular challenge which helps organize our neuromuscular system. Inversion stimulates the brain to more complex levels of sensory processing and integration. The nervous system becomes more highly organized and more adaptive when it has to process more complex muscle, nerve and vestibular *balance) signals. Inversion satisfies the body’s innate drive for diversity, challenge, integration and complexity in processing impulses (data). This is sensory integration at its highest, compelling the body to find effective responses to the forces of gravity in movement. These processes lead to refined functioning in muscles and nerves, and to increased movement awareness and skill mastery.
Stiff, squeaky joints are a sign of premature aging. Hydration of the joints is essential to health and regeneration. In the inverted position, the body’s cartilage and discs draw in needed fluids and flush out unneeded toxins more effectively. Inversion creates an internal shower, stimulating lymphatic drainage and increasing fluid flow to dry joints and brittle tissues. Pliable, smoothly functioning joints are a sign of longevity and high level wellness.
Inversion exercise is part of a training revolution designed to counteract the long-term compressive effects of repetitive impact activities, such as running, aerobics, exercise machines, cycling and weight training. Without inversion exercise, cross training can actually accelerate the aging process. Inversion exercise can counteract the problems created by repetitive exercise.
"But I’m very healthy – I exercise four to five times a week!", you say. The sport and fitness activities we select over a lifetime significantly influence our aging process. Exercise can magnify the effects of gravity, both positively and negatively. Disorder and breakdown are synonymous with entropic aging. Entropy is a physical law stating that all living things gradually deteriorate over time. Entropic exercise accelerates the aging process when it:
- compresses and dries out joint capsules
- keeps muscles in a state of contraction, even when not in use
- compresses spinal discs and vertbrae
- increases fibrous content of tendons and ligaments
- diminishes nerve, blood and lymphatic flow in areas of compression
- displaces muscle mass, so it is not as dynamically usable
- diminishes joint range of motion by overloading the fulcrum point
- overdevelops one plane or depth of a muscle, thereby short-circuiting its natural kinetic chain.
Entropic exercise is inefficient, incomplete and detrimental to our health.
Accelerating the aging process is precisely the opposite of why we choose to exercise in the first place! There is a solution. We can have our cake and eat it too! As a companion to our favorite entropic exercises, we can add Inversion Exercise, which is syntropic. Syntropic is a physical law stating that there is a natural drive in human systems to pursue excellence, complexity and ever improving levels of order and function. Inversion Exercise is syntropic because it promotes lengthening of the joints, muscles and vertebrae. Inversion Exercise improves circulation and removal of waste products and increases flexibility in the whole body. Inversion also activates the intrinsic (deep)musculature, while allowing the over stimulated and over contracted extrinsic (surface) muscles to relax their grip. This elongates the body and promotes balanced muscle and strength development. The pumping action of fluids in the body is increased during inversion. This causes the discs and cartilage to draw in vital fluids and nutrients more effectively. Hydration is a key factor, essential to tissue repair and regeneration. Inversion creates a natural organ massage, and releases gravity’s constant drag (prolapse) on pelvic and abdominal organs. During inversion exercise the pelvis is stablilized and supported so that the deep abdominal musculature (iliopsoas) are engaged. One inverted abdominal curl tones the abs at a five to one ratio of greater effectiveness than conventional sit-ups. Regular inversion activates the most important muscle complex in the body – the double spiral, a natural body spring which simultaneously lengthens the neck/shoulder and lower back muscles.
Poor posture is a result of giving in to gravity’s downward pull. Inversion aligns the shoulder and pelvic girdles’ centers of gravity with each other, thereby reversing the distortions of gravity and creating a natural, relaxed posture.
Inversion Exercise is the fastest, safest and most effective means of counter-balancing the cumulative effects of compressive (entropic) exercise. Inversion Exercise assures that the compressive effects of your favorite forms of exercise do not accumulate day after day. This is the accumulation that causes premature aging. Regular inversion enhances the positive benefits of your favorite exercise, while minimizing the compressive and deteriorating effects. Regular inversion activates the muscles that suspend and elongate the body, while releasing the muscles that shorten and compress it. Adding Inversion Exercise as an essential component to your total exercise program will do more to lengthen your athletic life span and increase your enjoyment of your favorite activities than anything you can do for yourself. Investing in Inversion Exercise now will insure your future health. The natural ecology of the body is elongation, not compression. Our relationship with gravity is lifelong. The evolutionary challenge for our species is to find appropriate responses to the relentless forces of gravity on the body. Inversion Exercise is the most effective response to this challenge.
The astronauts have taught us a lot about gravity, but only by leaving its sphere of influence and travelling in space. They experienced losses in bone density and muscle tone, as well as shifts in hormonal levels, changes in blood pressure and heat rate, mood swings and sleep disorders. So we know from this that gravity’s effects are quite pervasive. Chinese, Japanese and Indian cultures have sung the praises of inversion for centuries. However, the plow and the headstand, the most well-known inversion postures in yoga, have never really caught on in the United States because most people have weak and compressed necks. Now people can receive the benefits of regular inversion without damaging sensitive tissues in the neck. Inverting regularly on the Back Revolution® gives us the same benefits as the plow and headstand postures in yoga without the risk of hurting sensitive areas of the neck.
(©1992 Brian W. Fahey, Ph.D., THE GRAVITY PROJECT. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of this copyrighted article by permission of author only.)