Articles and Reviews

Confluence at the 2015 International Kinesiology Conference

Gail and Paul Dennison

Gail and Paul Dennison

Confluence, the theme for the 2015 International Kinesiology Conference to be held in beautiful Banff, Canada, literally means to flow together.  We send our hearty congratulations on the many and diverse streams of Specialized Kinesiology that will be meeting and joining together there, September 23 – 27, to celebrate mutual cooperation, body wisdom, and wellness through movement! We offer our deep appreciation to the CANASK network, Educational Kinesiology Foundation staff members, and to all who will be contributing to make this year’s conference an outstanding event.

We’re excited that you’ll be experiencing keynote presenter Dr. William Tiller, as he speaks on “The Power of Human Intention.” Dr. Tiller is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at Stanford University and the author of ground-breaking books on psychoenergetic science.*

The program will include presentations from many wonderful leaders in the world of kinesiology, including numerous Educational Kinesiology Faculty Members (click here for names and topics).

We’re sending our wishes to participants that all will find hearty ways to celebrate throughout the five days of conference events and additional pre- and post-conference workshops. Like the rivers and hot springs that come together in Banff, may the diversity of offerings there flow seamlessly together to create a confluence of health and healing!

To update you on our own focus this year: Paul taught here in Ventura, California, as well as in Australia, Indonesia, Montreal, Brazil, and will travel (this fall) to Japan and Dubai. Meanwhile, Gail continues working on blogs and the latest book project.

As we continue to develop a Brain Gym® and Educational Kinesiology presence in the social media (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), we appreciate these avenues as a grassroots opportunity to update parents and educators with the latest research on movement, play, and learning, as well as a way to connect with so many of you. Thank you for your support!

In today’s technologically driven world that requires both near-point focus and passive sitting, the Edu-K work is becoming more important than ever—not only for schoolchildren but for people of all ages. Research daily calls each of us to action by way of bringing increased movement, play, and structural alignment to our everyday activities, and especially in the learning environment. Where Edu-K once pioneered the field of movement-based learning, there are now many “move to learn” programs. The 26 Brain Gym activities, the Brain Gym 101 course, Seven Dimensions of Intelligence, and our other fine courses remain unrivaled in scope, simplicity, and a regard for the learner through self-actualizing activities. Research in neuroscience continues to catch up with our commonsense recognition of the interrelationship of the human body and optimal brain function.

Please acquaint yourselves with our learning resource site, Hearts at Play: Move, Learn, Bloom, that offers blogposts and videos to answer many of the how, what, and why questions about the Edu-K work that you’ve asked us throughout the years. We trust you’ll find this site useful in creating immediate interest in your courses and private sessions. May your lives be touched by the “confluence” of moving to fulfill your personal and professional goals, and may we all keep moving with joy!

Love to all,

Paul and Gail

*Dr. Tiller is the author of Science and Human Transformation: Subtle Energies, Intentionality and Consciousness, Conscious Acts of Creation: The Emergence of a New Physics, Some Science Adventures with Real Magic and Psychoenergetic Science: A Second Copernican-Scale Revolution, as well as more than 150 published papers. Continuing his psychoenergetics research, he currently directs the William A Tiller Institute for Psychoenergetic Science in Arizona.

 

Book Review: Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says, by Katy Bowman, M.S.

Propriometrics Press, © Katy Bowman 2013. 447 pages. Softbound. This informative book retails for $21.95, or $9.99 for the electronic version; both are now available on Amazon.com. Bowman is also the author of Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet, another great reference for your home library.

Katys-Book-Large (1)

Gail E. Dennison

When I first heard Katy Bowman lecture some six years back, I immediately knew that she is a force for positive change. And now, reading Katy’s latest book has affirmed for me the value of her innovative work as a biomechanist and leading expert on alignment. I so appreciate her unique understanding of physical function and her commonsense, humorous, and altogether appealing vision of wellness and vigor.

Besides all that, Katy is a no-nonsense coach, even getting people (like me), who weren’t chosen in childhood P.E. games, to do squats every day and take on new movement patterns for physical resiliency.

Katy’s new book, Alignment Matters, is a collection of blog posts from katysays.com, written during the five years that began in 2007. While teaching us to keep ears over shoulders over hips over knees over ankles in optimal alignment, Katy weaves a narrative fabric to explain how the musculoskeletal structure of the body ideally functions as a unified collective. Did you know, for instance, that the way you walk could be damaging your knees or that the way you position yourself at your computer screen could be the cause of headaches as well as back or hip pain?

Katie emphasizes to her readers that “Your muscles are not just for exercise (they’re not even FOR exercise!), but drive every function in the body.”

A passionate movement advocate, Bowman explains that how we move our muscles is ultimately how we nourish our blood, achieve osteogenesis, restore oxygen to our tissues, and keep our electromagnetic human physique in prime working order.

To build bone and muscle, we don’t need to lift weights, Katy clarifies. Since we’re already carrying our body’s weight, why not learn to carry it correctly, with our large muscles, instead of burdening the small muscles of the back (whose job this isn’t)?

In this in-depth assessment of human movement, Katy also includes an important section on pregnancy, childbirth, babies, and children. Her research is invaluable in helping us guide infants and youngsters toward wellness and resiliency, as she navigates such diverse daily-life topics as why to go barefoot, alternatives to sitting, and the difference between baby “wearing” and baby carrying. Regarding shoes, clothing, furniture, and baby gear, Katy points out culturally induced habits that can create a long-term trajectory away from organ vitality, bone health and density, and optimal circulation of blood and lymph. She gives us viable remedies for the sedentary patterns our culture has fallen into, and explains how even a child’s tennis shoe can create structural misalignments. She shows how the example we adults are setting is preventing our children from being as strong and active as they could be, and points us toward viable alternatives.

Katy Bowman began her teaching career right here in my California town, so I had the good fortune to learn from her directly. She opened my eyes to the difference in wellness that a mere fraction of an inch of positioning can make in one’s ability to straighten the knees, untuck the pelvis, point the feet forward, and keep the body’s weight back over the heels. Katy points out how the sacrum, pelvic floor, and gluteal muscles play a central role in supporting nearly all bodily functions, and shows us how to strengthen these vital areas. (As she says, “It’s simple, not easy,” and it begins with not sitting so much.)

Bowman’s work reflects her conviction that exercise and movement are two entirely different things. She provides the research and the logic to help us shift our mindset from “fixing” ourselves to making beneficial lifestyle changes. She tells her readers how to stop using exercise as compensation for sedentary hours and rediscover their natural enjoyment of moving and breathing, giving us a wealth of options for discovering the new territory of dynamic movement.

As Katy so eloquently puts it, “. . . not moving is not an option for those of us who know that the body is a self-winding clock. . . . Pain with movement is a signal to be heeded. The signal is saying, The way you’re moving is doing you harm. The muscles on your frame are not supporting you. You can fix the way you move or you can just lie down now. Which makes more sense?”


Reviewers note:
Click here to read Katy Bowman’s original blogs online for free.

Neurodiversity, Play, and the so-called ADHD Child

Thomas Armstrong - Cropped (eSpeakers)(1)This blog post was written for Hearts at Play by educator Thomas Armstrong, whose innovative work we’ve advocated for many years. On his own site he adds: The Dennison’s are the co-founders of Brain Gym® which has helped so many kids with learning difficulties achieve success in school, home, and life. I am happy to connect with them on this very important topic of the misdiagnosis of millions of children as ADHD:

In May of this year, the American Psychiatric Association released a new revision of its “sacred text”—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—used by mental health professionals, insurance companies, HMOs, and other power brokers in determining whether a person has a psychiatric disorder.

In the DSM – 5, they have expanded the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to include children who began showing symptoms of ADHD as late as twelve years old (the previous criterion was seven years old). This is going to open the floodgates for many more children to be identified as ADHD, and millions will be diagnosed and stigmatized with a negative label (the label has three negative words in it: deficit, hyperactivity, and disorder).

While it’s true that these kids do have neurological differences when compared to typically developing children, these are developmental differences only. The best research we have suggests that the brains of kids labeled ADHD mature on average three years later than the norm (Shaw et al., 2007).

This finding from neuroscience makes sense. Kids diagnosed with ADHD generally seem to act younger than their years. Among other things, they’re more playful than kids their own age. The larger question here should be: Is this such a bad thing? Play, after all, is one of the most important activities that human beings engage in. Great scientists, artists, and thinkers have frequently compared their own creative process to that of children at play.

When children play, they inhabit the fertile world between actuality and possibility. They take something that is from their own fantasy (say, a trip to the moon) and combine it with something real in their environment (perhaps an empty cardboard box), and out of that encounter they create something new (like a “rocket ship”). This is the creative process. And the fact that kids diagnosed with ADHD hold on to this playfulness for a longer period of time than the average child should be regarded as a mark of strength, not disability.

Recently, I’ve been writing and lecturing on the topic of neurodiversity, and I think this new idea is tailor-made for making sense of the abilities of so-called ADHD children. Neurodiversity says that we should look at brain differences such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism in the same way that we regard diversity in nature or diversity in culture. Instead of using a disease-based paradigm focused on deficits, we should be using a strength-based approach that regards these kids as part of the wonderful diversity of life.

This approach puts the emphasis on the positive. In this instance, it places the focus on the playfulness, curiosity, imagination, and other childlike characteristics that kids with ADHD seem to hold on to for a longer period of time than “neurotypical”’ kids. There’s actually a term that’s useful for describing this youthfulness: neoteny. It means “holding youth’” and refers to people who act younger than their age. Eminent thinkers like Harvard University evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and Princeton University anthropologist Ashley Montagu have pointed out that neoteny is a positive evolutionary step in humanity. It’s the direction toward which evolution is moving. These children identified as ADHD are not disabled; they’re actually the vanguard of our species!

With play being under attack these days from a culture steeped in too much technology (kids sitting in front of a screen instead of out playing cops and robbers), too much testing in the schools (tests don’t reward students for creativity or playfulness), and too much fear of litigation (playgrounds are getting more and more minimal because of fears of lawsuits), we need the playfulness of kids to renew us, to keep us flexible, to bring us alive. It’s only a testament to the times we live in that we take the very children who are the most alive and playful, slap a medical label on them, and say they have a disorder.

The disorder is in our culture, folks, not in these children. We need a paradigm shift so that children who are being labeled ADHD can be recognized for the amazing kids that they really are. We should take the cue from them and learn to be more playful in our own lives, whatever our age. We should regard these kids not as disordered but as wonderfully diverse children who can wake us up from our dogmatic slumbers and transform the society in which we live.

Reference:

Shaw, P., et al. “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation.’’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 4, 2007, Vol. 104 No. 49, pp.19649–19654.

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., is the director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development and the author of 15 books, including Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life. You’ll find more information on his website. You’re welcome to contact Thomas with your response to this article at thomas@institute4learning.com

HAP_Edu-Kinesthetics_thomas-armstrong_neurodiversity

Book Review: The Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention

The Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention by Dawson Church, Elite Books, 2007, 362 pages

Paul E. Dennison

As I was studying for my doctorate in the 1960s, the debate in my educational psychology classes was that of the influence of “nature versus nurture”—the relative contributions of genetic inheritance and environmental factors to a child’s unfolding. Yet, as a mentor and educator, my definition of “nurture” is always to teach. All learners are unique, with varied gifts and strengths. I believe in the power of the learning process to bring out a person’s best, so my intention is always to nurture, no matter the circumstances.

On reading educator and researcher Dawson Church’s book Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention, I felt a growing excitement as Church revealed recent scientific research showing the startling malleability of our genes, which can change from moment to moment according to our thoughts and feelings. In my own years of teaching, I have daily seen how new learning—which can occur in an instant—has a direct impact on vitality, motivation, and well-being. Church makes the case that we can influence our cells and bodies—our health—by “claim[ing] responsibility for the quality of thought and feeling we host, selecting those that radiate benevolence, goodwill, love, and kindness.” “Nurture” even affects and changes those genes that were believed to limit us!

In this book, Church asks some important questions, such as: “What can we teach every high school student, every worker, and every retiree that would maintain their bodies and their minds in the best possible condition for the longest possible time?” “How can we make the largest number of people as well as possible?” He then offers provocative answers to these questions by elucidating the new field of epigenetics, which links how we think and emote—our everyday consciousness—to genetic changes in our RNA and DNA.

Church’s well-researched work validates the premise that, for better or worse, our lifestyle choices do in fact affect our genes. “Nature,” our inherited genes, might play an important role in our genetic blueprint. However, “nurture,” the parental, cultural (including academic), and personal choices that influence how we think, move, eat, and self-calm, has now been proven beyond a doubt to make a critical difference in gene expression and even to alter our genes.

In this important book, the author reveals how our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions trigger the expression of DNA strands. Even the people we choose to have around us affect our genes. Church is intrigued by the early work on mirror neurons, said to fire in the brain when we witness an act done by another that calls on the same group of neurons in us. He focuses on a class of genes called immediate early genes or IEGs, which respond to life events within a few seconds. Many IEGs are regulatory genes that switch on other genes affecting specific aspects of the immune system. Distress or negative stress, whether sourced from within or mirroring another, can depress gene expression that enhances immune-system function. Thus epigenetics is explaining how thoughts and beliefs influence our health continuously, each and every day.

Church gives examples of interventions that can be used deliberately, in the moment, to shift thoughts, beliefs, energies, and perhaps ultimately one’s genes. He describes some remarkable healings done using Gary Craig’s Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which uses affirmation and meridian tapping in a way similar to Educational Kinesiology processes, with similar, often surprising, benefits. Church makes the case that emotions signify to the brain what things are important. By tapping or rubbing acupressure points, a soothing physiological signal can release stress or a catastrophic thought, breaking the conditioned association.

He further refers to the Energy Psychology work of Donna Eden and David Feinstein, and provides “how-tos” of the Cross Crawl and the Wayne Cook posture (two activities central to Edu-K, Cook’s posture being the origin of Brain Gym® Hook-ups).

The Genie in Your Genes cites hundreds of scientific studies that give a sound theoretical framework for understanding this new field. The book makes a compelling prediction that the insights of epigenetic medicine will, in the coming decade, dramatically advance not only medicine and psychology but also the vital field of education.

Video Review: Never Leave the Playground

Never Leave the Playground

Find more inspiring video, audio, and images at Growing Bolder.

Gail Dennison

Stephen Jepson, in his early seventies, says it all started when he was about seven and said one morning: “Hey, Mom, there’s nothing to do!” Since that moment, he has never been at a loss for something to do. What is his prescription? Play! “It’s never too late,” he says, “to start moving.”

Jepson’s philosophy? “Never leave the playground.” He has a dream of awakening people, especially elders, to the importance of movement. Stephen teaches people skills of balance and coordination, which he has found to be a way to build memory, motor skills, and brain cells.

A retired college arts professor and master potter, Jepson fills his days in the backyard playground he invented. He juggles, plays with jacks, flips sticks, and rolls marbles (all with alternating left and right hands), walks a tightrope, and jumps barefoot from rock to rock. An inventor, he rides his homemade skateboard or elliptical bike, goes boating in his comfy kayak, or tours the neighborhood on skates he invented. Stephen Jepson is confident and daring, and invokes aging viewers to keep moving and to “Be bold in your life choices!”

Video Review: The Divided Brain by Iain McGilchrist

The Divided Brain by Iain McGilchrist

To view the full lecture:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbUHxC4wiWk

.

 Paul E. Dennison

This lecture given by psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist, with excerpts later posted as an RSAnimate, offers an excellent discussion of the human brain in our modern world.

The less-than-12-minute video, based on the talk, shows how, although recent “left brain-right brain” constructs are an oversimplification, the two sides of the brain do actually function best when they develop different skills: on the left, more narrow, focal attention; on the right, more sustained, contextual awareness. Yet the two sides need to work together for both kinds of gifts to be available.

The lecture and RSA help us understand how, by creating simplified, static left-brain maps of the known, humans can easily get caught up in thinking from a perspective that is one-sided, analytic, fragmented, and unintegrated, and be then unable to access the right-brain gifts of compassion and intuition. McGilchrist shows how the overemphasis on analysis from the left, expressive hemisphere gives rise to a modern view that has lost sight of the contextual and integrative elements of the right brain. Dr. McGilchrist is the author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2010). His insightful view, supported in the video by delightful illustrations, explains the importance of functioning from a whole-brain perspective that honors the nonlinear right hemisphere as well as the more rationally oriented left hemisphere.

The Brain Gym ® 101 course unfolds within the context of a Dynamic Brain model that is similar in function to the one  McGilchrist describes. More importantly, the course gives participants experiential access — through safe, simple movements, pre-activities, and balances — to both the differing and the similar skills of the two hemispheres, to support a whole-brain state in which both focal and contextual qualities are given their due.

Video Review: Exercises to Keep Aches, Pains Away from Feet by Lori Corbin

Exercises to Keep Aches, Pains Away from Feet by Lori Corbin

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/food_coach&id=7294801

Gail E. Dennison

This two-minute ABC news interview of biomechanist Katy Bowman by reporter Lori Corbin identifies a common yet often unidentified source of stress and tension: shoe design and heel height. In the video, Bowman demonstrates the impact of heel height on body pitch, emphasizing the surprising influence of women’s high-heeled shoes on structural alignment.

As Corbin explains, shoes can require a postural compensation for men and children as well, because hard-soled and even thick-padded athletic shoes that have an elevated heel can cause similar challenges.

Bowman further demonstrates four easy ways to release stress and tension in the feet and improve foot stance and muscle function.

Biomechanist Katy Bowman, MS, is the author of Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet, the developer of the Aligned and Well TM DVD program, and the creator of the Restorative Exercise TM program.

For more videos on this topic, go to AlignedandWell.com to find Aligned and Well TM: Knees and Hips. For more of Bowman’s fun and informative blogs, go to Katysays.com.

Video Review: All About Your Knees by Katy Bowman

All About Your Knees by Katy Bowman

Gail E. Dennison

This homemade video, just about four minutes in length, provides insightful information from biomechanist Katy Bowman, backed up by descriptive (and humorous) sound effects. While a live model shows common knee difficulties, Bowman describes how these misalignments commonly stem from tension in the feet and hips.

Bowman also shows how to properly align the feet, provides an exercise for releasing the kneecaps, and clarifies the difference between straight legs and knees that are locked because of overly tense quadriceps.

Biomechanist Katy Bowman, MS, is the author of Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet, the developer of the Aligned and Well TM DVD program, and the creator of the Restorative Exercise TM program.

For more videos on this topic, go to AlignedandWell.com to find Aligned and Well TM : Knees and Hips.

For more of Bowman’s fun and informative blogs, go to Katysays.com.

Book Review: A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theatres of the Brain

A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theatres of the Brain by John Ratey

First Vintage Books Edition, 2002, 416 pages

Paul E. Dennison

In his book A User’s Guide to the Brain, John Ratey, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, repeatedly reminds us that movement is fundamental to the very existence of a brain, that “. . . only an organism that moves from place to place requires a brain.”

Ratey describes the life cycle of the sea squirt, a tiny marine creature that in its early life swims like a tadpole, with a brain and a nerve cord to control its movement. “However, when it matures, it attaches itself to a rock. From that moment on, the brain and nerve cord are gradually absorbed and digested.” The sea squirt, Ratey concludes, consumes its own brain because it isn’t needed any more.

In his citing of many such examples, he lends validation to the Edu-K premise that movement is fundamental to learning.

Movement is initiated in the frontal lobe of the brain. As Ratey explains, “The primary motor cortex and premotor cortex are both located in the frontal lobe, one of the most advanced parts of the brain, which is also responsible for higher executive functions such as thinking and planning. It allows us to ponder, judge, and make decisions.”

Ratey reviews what neuroscientists now know about the brain, confirming that it is, in fact, not a static or a fixed organ as earlier imagined. He explains in lay terminology the basic structures and chemistry of the brain, and demonstrates how its multiple systems help shape perceptions, emotions, and behavior. He perceives the brain as malleable, capable of growth and change.

“The brain is not a computer that simply executes genetically predetermined programs,” he points out. Ratey maintains that the adult brain is “both plastic and resilient, and always eager to learn.” He informs readers that “the brain’s motor function affects so much more than just physical motion. It is crucial to all other brain functions—perception, attention, emotion—and so affects the highest cognitive processes of memory, thinking, and learning.”

John Ratey equates intelligent behavior with the ability to read new situations, and presents an understanding of the human brain as dynamic and flexible, helping readers to better understand how their own brain affects their future. Detailing how the brain responds to the input of its “user,” Ratey helps readers create possibilities for themselves to improve the quality of their lives.

Ratey summarizes, “Our life experiences, thoughts, actions and emotions actually change the structure of our brains. By viewing the brain as a muscle that can be weakened or strengthened, we can exercise our ability to determine who we become. Indeed, once we understand how the brain develops we can train our brains for health, vibrancy, and longevity.”

Book Review: Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense

Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense by Scott McCredie

Little, Brown and Company, 2007, 296 pages

Paul E. Dennison

In this fascinating book, Scott McCredie discusses our amazing sense of balance, which most people take for granted. Our ability to move and function in gravity is a special gift that can be developed and better appreciated when we understand the physiology behind it. McCredie has done his research, and he covers the whole subject—from pilots to tightrope walkers to the equilibrium-challenged.

McCredie hypothesizes that the sense of balance is so essential to human survival and functioning that we’ve evolved with three distinct balance systems: the visual system for locating ourselves in space; the vestibular system of the inner ear for monitoring our head movement as we turn left and right; and the muscle proprioception system for continuous awareness of our body movement in space. The sense of balance depends on the interrelationship of these important systems. In the event that one is ever compromised, the other two will still provide the needed balance.

Most of us were introduced in school to the five senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, yet we rarely stop to think how important these senses are in providing us with information. Sensory information is one of the first areas to fully develop in an infant’s brain. Without the ability to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, we would be lost—unable to sense and, due to a lack of physical experience from which to develop ideas, also unable to think and learn.

The vestibular system supports the whole mind-body system, giving feedback about safety, stability, and the ability to actively function. This head-righting, labyrinthine system provides entry to the brain for all sensory experience. Physiologically, this system is connected to the digestive tract, the limbic system, the muscles of the eyes, and the language center of the brain,. A well-functioning vestibular system will thus contribute to such diverse elements as healthy digestion, emotional bonding, visual focus, and the emergence of receptive and expressive communication.

Located within the inner ear, the vestibular system is the first myelinated sensorimotor system of the human body, fully functional at birth. It’s made up of three semicircular canals and their related structures, which together comprise a navigation system for the three dimensions of movement: left-right, up-down, and forward-back.

The job of the vestibular system, then, is to sense changes in motion. It’s more of an accelerometer than a motion detector. The vestibular system senses both linear and rotational acceleration or deceleration of the head by the pull of gravity, it lets us know our position in space and whether we’re moving. Turning the head or spinning the body stimulates the release of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. Yet it stimulates the semicircular canals through such rotational movement also releasing a counterbalancing adrenaline for excitation and increased muscle tone. When there is sensory conflict and imbalance, the ability to read, write, communicate, and sustain attention is compromised. When these directions of rotational movements are integrated, in balance, and modulated, the individual can feel safe and can be open to new experiences.

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