by Deborah Scott Studebaker
I love Lazy 8s! Tracing this simple, flowing infinity pattern connects the eyes to the hands to the hemispheres. As a poetry teacher, I have seen it encourage writers of all ages to release their ideas onto the page. As a Brain Gym consultant, I have watched the movement literally transform behavior. But I had never felt the extent of its physical power until I started working with a very unique young man.
“Vincent” is a 13 year-old who came to me for issues of focus and attention. He loved books and stories, and his imaginative drawings showed the mind of an inventor. Vincent’s inner life was his safe haven. His mother said she was looking for creative ways to help him manage his tasks and confidently interact with the world.
At our first meeting, Vincent quietly explored my office, head down. He was polite and cooperative; willing to engage in all sorts of movement pre-checks. Sustaining eye contact or conversation was harder; “I don’t know” was his default response to any question. With verbal noticing* and goal-setting clearly unavailable in that moment, I turned immediately to the drawing out model: a magnificent Brain Gym method that engages both client and facilitator in curiosity and discovery.
My job was not to “fix” Vincent, but to empower his self-awareness. I would offer him choices, and follow his lead. I knew that Vincent’s mind/body system would chart our course. Where to begin? With movement and play!
Our first session took us into PACE**, onto the balance board, then over to observation and word games. Vincent was drawn to my wooden Lazy 8 track, and began to guide a marble around the pathway. He then chose a Dennison Laterality Repatterning from the learning menu (a process that invites core stability and contralateral movement.) After the balance, Vincent was newly aware of his hand position, and the pressure of his pen. He observed: “I’m usually going at a faster pace, but now I have more time for the ideas.” At the end of our first appointment, I noticed that he seemed taller. Were his eyes a bit brighter too?
Our work together had begun. Each week, I would offer Vincent his choice of movement games and activities. We tossed beanbags and bounced balls; we batted balloons around the room. He jumped on my mini-trampoline, drew fanciful characters, and arranged magnetic poetry tiles.
When it came time to pick a Brain Gym movement, Vincent usually chose Lazy 8s. And while he could easily draw the horizontal pattern in the air, he would draw it vertically on my white board (see image at left). I resisted the impulse to correct him, waiting and watching his mind/body intelligence at work.
So we turned my office into a virtual construction zone! Vincent built dens, hideouts, and passageways using tables, chairs, blankets, buckets, blocks and anything else in the room that could be repurposed.
I saw that, by arranging and moving around in his surroundings, Vincent was developing skills of grounding, centralized awareness, and self-organization (see Editor’s note).
Over time, Lazy 8s continued to be Vincent’s go-to movement. He walked the pattern, enlarged, on the floor, drew it on paper, and controlled the wooden track with his hands, his knees—even his head (I’ve noticed that, when exploring sensory and motor skills, people are often led to do surprising things!)
On the day of our fifth session, as Vincent stood at the white board, his Lazy 8s became horizontal! With each loop of the marker, I saw a newfound ease and grace settle into his body: 8s made with one hand, then the other, then both hands. It was a breakthrough moment.
Vincent’s growth has continued. Now, when he arrives, he comes in with a sense of purpose. He sits across my table, fills out a written pre-check form** and we chat. While I still initiate most of our conversations, I get a kick out of his quirky sense of humor. He draws his pictures, and frequently looks up and smiles. He seems happy and relaxed in his own skin.
A few weeks ago, we talked about school starting up again. Vincent said he was excited. I felt an opening in which to ask what he might like to work toward achieving in 7th grade. He told me that he’d “like to feel good about this year, and solve problems as they come along.” I was heartened by his wisdom—and the fact that he was able to articulate a goal.
Vincent’s Lazy 8s keep on evolving too. Recently, I asked him to draw a picture, do some 8s, and draw again. He created his horizontal 8 on the white board with a large, fluid, full-body motion. But it was the difference in his picture afterward that astonished me. Where his fanciful pre-sketch was cute and comical, his highly detailed post-sketch was drawn in a much more grounded and sophisticated style! And he wasn’t finished yet.
Vincent then went back to the board and erased the center of the 8, leaving an empty space between the two sides. I wasn’t sure what he was doing. Moments later, he cross-hatched the opening, as if to build up a bridge between the two sides—just as we teach in Brain Gym, that the Corpus Callosum can be seen as a “bridge” between the brain’s two hemispheres. I was flabbergasted—it’s nothing Vincent and I had ever discussed.
Perhaps Vincent’s most dramatic experience with Lazy 8s immersed him in the movement for a full 15 minutes. The rhythm, flow, and the sound of the marble on the wooden track took him into “the zone.” Slowly, it transitioned into a shared activity: we each held one end of the wooden track in the air between us. We operated it together, sensing the shifts in tempo, weight, and hand position required to keep the momentum going. I was literally “in the loop” with Vincent, a part of his creative process. I will never forget that moment of collaboration.
In Educational Kinesiology, we learn that doing Lazy 8 is an opportunity to define the left and right visual fields and the point midway between them, where the two visual fields must overlap. Using both left and right sides of the body this way appears to connect the two hemispheres. We often see improved eye-teaming skills and a lessening of letter reversals and transpositions. I’ve also seen how doing the 8s can relax the muscles of the hands, arms, and shoulders, and support balance and coordination.
Working with Vincent in this organic, collaborative way has shown me that drawing Lazy 8s can have a profound social, emotional, and creative impact that grows alongside the physical skills of learning.
Before I came to Brain Gym, I thought that everyone had to live with struggle and limitation. And even though I had experienced blissful moments of mind/ body integration, I didn’t have reliable tools to help get me back there when I drifted out of sync. Now I understand that movement, self-awareness, and intention bring enormous gifts for positive change. This happy sense of possibility fuels the work I am lucky enough to do with Vincent and my other clients.
Vincent chose the Lazy 8s for a reason unique to his own mind/body intelligence. I can’t wait to see what he chooses next.
Deborah Scott Studebaker is a Los Angeles writer, educator and speaker who is deeply curious about the link between language and movement. She is a Licensed Brain Gym® consultant and a certified Touch for Health Kinesiologist. Deb serves as Poet-in-Residence at The Willows Community School in Culver City, and also holds a certificate in Social Emotional Arts Education through UCLA Arts and Healing. In her workshops with young people and/or adults, Deb presents the physical skills of learning as a powerful context for creativity and social/emotional development. Deb is the founder of Inner-Genius, a consultancy that helps clients of all ages imagine, achieve, and succeed. To learn more, contact her via email@example.com or read about her work at www.movedtowrite.com.
*Working with Vincent has inspired me to find alternatives to spoken noticing, a process we learn in Brain Gym 101. One fantastic way to elicit a client’s thoughts and feelings is with a written pre-check/post-check form. Karen Petersen uses this technique with seniors in her lovely book, Move with Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body. I modified her form to use with clients of all ages.
**PACE: An acronym for doing four simple Brain Gym warm-up activities that help connect with a state of feeling Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic.
***The Brain Gym activities are described in depth, along with suggested applications, in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition (2010), by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. Inspiration for the activities was drawn from many sources, including Developmental Optometry, dance, long distance running, child development, the postural work of F.M. Alexander, the Touch for Health process, and the Dennison’s own inventiveness. The Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition and Brain Gym activity cards can both be purchased at Brain Gym Bookstore.
Editor’s Note: Author, educator, and researcher David Sobel, Antioch University, writes about children’s building of tents, dens, and hideaways as a way to expand their sense of self and their knowledge of the social and natural world.
© 2017 Deborah Scott Studebaker. Adapted from an article in the Educational Kinesiology Foundation Newsletter, Volume 1 Issue 6. Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym International www.braingym.org.