Anna Mitchell, a licensed Brain Gym Instructor and course sponsor in Dubai, volunteering to help me demonstrate the partner version of the Calf Pump for ease of focus and attention.
The amazing Ski Dubai—a snowy indoor ski lift and slope within the Mall of the Emirates—one of the world’s largest shopping malls.
My photo of the tallest building in Dubai—the Burj Khalifa, which rises an imposing 2,717 feet to hold 209 floors.
Imagine a faraway, almost mythic place—an enormous global city with impressive skyscrapers and urban landscapes, unbelievably built in the middle of an arid desert. This growing, dynamic environment cries out for exploratory thinking and a belief in new possibilities. Now imagine a group of inspired adult students coming together to discover what it’s like to “move to learn”—to set new life goals and embody vital new ideas and habits through balance and play.
This was the context for two of my fall 2015 courses: A gathering of eager learners and leaders coming from across the Arabian Peninsula to the mysterious city of Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, situated on the southeast of the Persian Gulf coast.
Behind me, a small glimpse of the Dubai Mall Aquarium, one of the largest tanks in the world.
At the Dubai Mall—like something I’d never seen before—a sculpture of divers as part of a waterfall.
The Dennison Approach to Whole-Brain Learning was attended primarily by parents and educators, including some participants who were new to Brain Gym*. We enjoyed moving, playing, and balancing* together as students learned the 26 Brain Gym activities and experienced how each supports centralization of eyes, hands, and body on the midfield for such varied tasks as sitting, standing, walking, and academic work.
A student and I enjoyed the benefits of the partner Calf Pump.
Here, we positioned ourselves to anchor one another in the partner version of the Grounder.
Drawing on my studies in child growth and development, as well as my clinical experience, I demonstrated how each Brain Gym activity supports specific physical skills basic to ease of functional learning.
Participants then experienced for themselves how crossing the lateral midline connects the body’s left and right sides for the mechanics of communication, such as reading, listening, and writing. We next explored the relationship between up and down movements and our ability to be organized and grounded, and to manage stress. Lastly, we crossed the focus midline, moving both forward and back, to experience how our focal and ambient awareness can impact our ability to plan ahead for ease of comprehension.
Participants were delighted to discover processes that they could immediately implement for themselves, as well as with youngsters and oldsters at home and at their schools.
We did the Elephant to relax neck and shoulders, and connect with our depth perception.
We enjoyed the rhythm and flowing motion of the Alphabet 8s activity. This kinesthetic, whole-body experience of the alpha and beta letters as more alike than different also highlights letter distinctions.
Students noticed differences in their reading fluency before and after doing each balance.
Course photo for Dennison Whole-Brain Learning; I’m in the back row center; Anna is far right.
After a day off and more touring, we continued with Total Core Repatterning**a post-graduate Edu-K In Depth course focusing on integration of early motor skills. The group was made up of advanced students—some chiropractors, physical therapists, Touch for Health instructors, and numerous Brain Gym instructors who were already familiar with the educational model of creating a “big picture” context through which to draw out new learning. As a group, we identified some basic one-sided habits of movement (such as reading, writing, texting) and noticed how these interfered with eye-teaming, as well as how they diminished our work skills and structural alignment in general. We then integrated these through the repatterning process, experiencing the ease and facility possible when whole-body movement provides context and centralization for near-point activities.
During the three-days, students chose goals, partnered up, and facilitated the 5-step balance* process with one another. Our in-depth activities emphasized structural alignment. We saw the impact on centralization of the Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Tonic-Neck Reflexes, as well as TMJ misalignment. The students were delighted after each balance to experience improved postural integration, a new ease of movement, and the possibility to live into their goals with greater awareness.
What a joy to share the Edu-K work with such eager and hospitable people. There was a strong feeling of love in the room as we worked and shared together.
Our Total Core Repatterning workshop graduation photo—from our multicultural backgrounds we emerged as a cohesive community. Anna, front row center; me in the back row center.
*Brain Gym courses are based on the balance process: Five Steps to Easy Learning. The Brain Gym activities are described in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA.
**Total Core Repatterning is an in-depth movement process (based on the Dennison Laterality Repatterning process taught in Brain Gym 101), for integrating primitive reflexes that interfere with learning and mature motor control.
© 2016 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International/the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an instructor near you.
You might also enjoy these articles by Paul Dennison:
Why I Chose Action Research Over the Ivory Tower
Learning Calls for Physical Skills: The Role of Movement-Based Teaching
In Celebration of Handwriting
Although I’ve taught in more than 20 countries during the past 35 years, mid-July of this year I experienced my first trip to Moscow. In the 1980s biologist and educator Carla Hannaford of Hawaii first took the Edu-K work to Russia. She was followed there in the 1990s by educators and Brain Gym® instructors Joan Spaulding of Colorado and the late Dorothy H.L. Carroll of Pennsylvania, who taught hundreds of students. Psychologist Svetlana Musgutova, a resident of Moscow at the time, became a Brain Gym International Faculty member and continued to develop the community there for many years. Today, the major leaders of Edu-K once living in Russia have moved on to other locales. So Elena, my sponsor for this trip, requested that I bring my latest thinking to the Brain Gym Instructors and new enthusiasts there.
I found Moscow to be a sprawling city with a multitude of beautiful botanical gardens. On my first day there, Elena and her daughter, Knesia (also my translator), took me walking in the beautiful Tsaritsyno, the Queen’s Garden. On day two my dear friend of many years, Renate Wennekes from Germany, a Brain Gym International Faculty member, arrived to co-teach with me. That evening, we four enjoyed dining on the Moscow River cruise ship and sharing stories about our experiences teaching through movement.
Another evening Renate, Elena, Knesia, and I enjoyed seeing the rousing Russian National show “Kostroma!”* which includes vigorous Cossack dancing—something I’ve always loved to watch. Yet another time we walked around the city center seeing Red Square and the Kremlin, along with its red walls and towers. I was delighted to see St. Basil’s with its unusual architecture of four palaces and four cathedrals—many topped by golden or multicolored cupolas—which I had long heard about.** Wherever we went, I met people who were vigorous and robust, and who seemed typical of suburbanites everywhere, busy pursuing their day-to-day lives.
Active Independence or Passive Compliance
For me, the real excitement of this journey began when I gave a public introductory talk at the Alpha Hotel. I noticed a woman whom I’ll call Ruth, sitting with friends in the center front row of the conference room. Through translation during the question and answer period (the participants spoke little English), I learned that Ruth was a 2nd grade teacher who had been using the Brain Gym activities with her elementary school students. Ruth expressed anger and frustration as she asked me why doing the activities hadn’t helped one seven-year boy in her class. This student, she said, refused to read his history assignment because it was on the topic of war. Even after he did the Brain Gym activities, he still refused.
I explained that the purpose of doing the Brain Gym activities is not to control someone’s behavior. Instead, it’s to give individuals the tools they need to become . Each of the specific 26 activities teaches a physical skill needed for classroom learning, such as sitting, head-turning, hand-eye coordination, and accurate use of tools—for example, how to best hold a pencil for writing and how to access eye-teaming skills when holding a book for reading. I elaborated that when the stressors around the mechanics of functioning are addressed, the natural mental acuity needed to learn is more available. I told Ruth that I think it’s wonderful for a seven-year old child to feel that he can choose what he will or will not read. This shows an active independence instead of the passive compliance we see in many schools and societies. Ruth nodded in understanding and agreement.
The Joy of Eye-Teaming
The next day, with Renate assisting, I began teaching my two-day course: The Dennison Approach to Whole-Brain Learning. I especially enjoy sharing this introduction to my Edu-K work with teachers, as they recognize the challenges to learning and can appreciate seeing people overcome them. It’s thrilling to watch students as they discover their learning profile and then use simple Brain Gym activities to access the learning midfield and make immediate and significant improvements in reading, listening, and writing skills.
One experience was especially meaningful for me. During the opening circle for the course, the participants introduced themselves, again through translation. When I asked who would like to improve their reading, Ruth (from the previous day) eagerly volunteered and told the group that, as a child, she had been told she had a lazy left eye and could do her best with her “good” eye. I had Ruth read aloud. She slowly and precisely read the Russian text left to right, focusing from her right visual field and carefully pronouncing every word. Afterwards, I asked her to say something about what she had read. She could not verbalize any of the content. I checked her ability to track, which requires crossing of the visual midline and seeing in the midfield where the left and right visual fields overlap. She was unable to access this skill.
I encouraged Ruth to choose from the Midline Movement category whatever Brain Gym activity she felt called to. Together, she and I did about 30 seconds of Belly Breathing as the first part of the Learning Menu. Suddenly, Ruth joyfully exclaimed: “I cannot believe it; I can see with my left eye again!” We continued the menu by doing the Lazy 8s and the Cross Crawl.
As a post-check, I asked Ruth to track across her visual midline and focus in her midfield, which she was now able to easily do. She then read a new text, with ease and fluency. She was able to put the text into her own words without difficulty. I could see that Ruth was able to move her eyes smoothly over the words while listening to herself say them–that is, she was able to think while looking, and so access her comprehension.
Ruth said, “Now I understand what you mean by the physical skills of learning. Now that I can see without straining my eyes, I can hear myself thinking and I can trust my eyes to see the information I need.”
Although during the course the translation into Russian had sometimes sometimes presented a challenge, I felt that for most of us that day the language of movement transcended any linear thinking.
*See a segment of this dance on YouTube.
**See our facebook page for a photo book from Paul’s trip.
To discover more about Paul’s approach to teaching, see Brain Gym® and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning, by Paul E. Dennison, © 2006.
See also Discovering the Reading Midfield
Research Nugget: Visual Skills and Reading
Reading a printed page presents its own issues, as there is much more to reading than simply looking at an object. Experts have said that the eye muscles can move nearly 10,000 times in an hour of reading; that means the eyes must be able to refocus effectively in order to take in information without backtracking. http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/muscles.html
© 2013 by Paul Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.
For the last two days I’ve taught the Dennison Approach to Whole-Brain Learning. It’s always a pleasure for me to relax with students into this basic course after going into considerable depth in the more advanced ones. Having experienced the graduate-level work, learners can now better understand the intricacies of these seemingly simple balances. Of course, some students here are recently new to the Edu-K work. I welcome their interest and initial hesitation, and I enjoy the interplay between those still questioning the learning that they’re witnessing in my demonstrations and those who have already experienced it through and through many times and just want to learn how I teach the concepts.
In the Action Balance for Reading, the volunteer, whom I’ll call Karen, was amazed at the difference after she did the Lazy 8s, Brain Buttons, and Belly Breathing, among the other Brain Gym® activities used for the balance. Karen was immediately able to read on the midfield with both eyes together instead of inhibiting the vision of her left eye to avoid the midfield. When Karen read after the balance, students heard a dramatic transformation from one-word-at-a time, linear decoding—without understanding—to energetic, expressive reading that engaged both the listener and the reader herself with full comprehension!
© 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.
November 12: Today I received photos from a friend, artist, student of kinesiology, and photographer Christa Ostertag, bringing back memories of one of our special workshop events this year. Under the sponsorship of CIKA (Centro Integral de Kinesiología Aplicada®) and organized by Margarita Ehrensperger, our longtime friend, fellow kinesiologist, and Brain Gym® International Faculty member, Paul taught The Dennison Approach to Whole-Brain Learning course to an enthusiastic group of 90 parents and schoolteachers in colorful Mexico City, followed by my teaching the Double Doodle Play and Double Doodle Teacher Training courses to dozens of Brain Gym® Instructors in nearby Coyoacan.
Paul and I loved seeing the imaginative Double Doodle* images and hearing the stories created by our south-of-the border students, who had great fun using both hands together to draw and paint. Margarita has already completed her portfolio of artwork and taught her first course of Double Doodle Play—congratulations to Margarita and others who are on their way to teaching this fun and creative course!
*In the 1960s, Paul learned “bilateral drawing” from developmental optometrist G.N. Getman, author of How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence; in the 1980s, we elaborated on this playful activity and renamed it Double Doodle, including it as one of the 26 Brain Gym® activities.
© 2012 by Gail E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.
October 28: Yesterday I taught the first day of the Dennison Approach to Whole-Brain Learning—happy to be focusing once again, after the exuberance of the last few days, on the basics of getting new students grounded and reading. In the evening, having completed a long day of teaching and a late supper, I arrived at my hotel looking forward to some deep sleep. As I still had one more day of teaching, I was surprised when the concierge asked me at what time I would be checking out tomorrow. She clarified for me that all guests would be ending their stays the next day, as the hotel was closing for a two-week holiday. In 50 years of travel abroad, this was a first; I have never heard of a hotel closing. As I also well know, Europeans take their holidays quite seriously!
Today, before class, I moved all my things to the Hotel Rosli, a charming old bed and breakfast nearby. I’ve stayed here with Gail, and we always enjoy it. This time I was in the slanted attic room, three flights up, with a tiny shower that I’ve heard stories about, so I was prepared for the adventure of bending my head down to wash. Throughout the trip, I have enjoyed the church bells that chime every quarter hour. Somehow they’re especially resonant today.
(C) 2012 by Paul E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.