As an educator, I’ve long been interested in how simple movements can be used to prepare an individual for successfully learning specific academic or sensorimotor tasks. I developed the Optimal Brain Organization course (OBO) out of work I did with laterality in the 1970s at my learning centers. The course provides a safe place for people to notice how they’re using their eyes, ears, hands, and whole body for everyday functions, and discover greater ease and specialization for such sensorimotor skills.
A woman I’ll call Christy, a student in a recent OBO course, was a volunteer for the Dexterity Balance. Christy’s goal was to be able to find her way home. Christy explained that her husband doesn’t like to let her use the car, as he’s afraid she’ll get lost. For example, when she parks at the mall, she often can’t find her vehicle after shopping, and has had to get security to drive her around looking for it. More than once, it’s been on the other side of the mall from where she thought that she had left it.
In a pre-activity, Christy sat in a chair and pretended to drive back to her hotel from the course venue. As she thought about driving, she became confused about whether to turn right or left. In additional pre-activities for this balance, she had difficulty facing someone and pointing to their right ear, left eye, right foot, and so on, which she says commonly happens, making it difficult for her to work with students on their directionality.
I explained to the course participants that knowing left from right is more than memorizing which is your right hand and which is your left, and that finding one’s way is more than following directions or reading a map. In order to easily follow external directions, we need to have an internal map. This internal map is built through our proprioceptors—what I call the brain cells in the muscles—that give us the location of our head, hand, or eyes in relationship to other areas of the body.
Extrinsic clues or strategies can help us in finding our orientation. Yet once a person is able to feel her center from within—to identify where she is in terms of the proprioceptive map, she can feel herself moving in space, actually making an extrinsic map also more readable. Consider how an infant that is free to move spends most of his time exploring this map. Through micromovements he nourishes his 650 some muscles (with oxygen, blood, electricity), experientially coding them for further ease of movement. Yet when he (or anyone) is sedentary for long periods, the ability to distinguish features on the map may be lost.
The balance I had the privilege of facilitating for Christy included doing The Cross Crawl and The Lengthening Activities from the Brain Gym® 26 to help her sense the movement of her whole body and also activities to specialize for her one-sided (asymmetrical) movement, such as using one hand or foot at a time. After the balance, Christy suddenly discovered that she could separate the signal from her left side to her right, relaxing one side as she activated the other, which she had previously been unable to do. She could now tell her right from her left without thinking about it, and could follow directions involving one hand or foot without automatically using the other hand or foot.
Christy said she had never imagined that she could know where she was from inside her own body. I asked her to now pretend to drive to the local health food store: She turned left, right, left, right as if she were moving from a familiar, intrinsic map—aware of her body moving within the big picture of the city. What a thrill to celebrate with her and the other students this new learning about moving in space!
Note: The theme of locating oneself spatially, through the proprioceptors, is explored in all Brain Gym® courses.
© 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.
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