I had the rare privilege of learning how to use movement to rewire the brain from Anat Baniel a few evenings ago. Anat, a clinical psychologist and dancer, has developed a Feldenkrais-based method of using movement to help patients, from five days old to ninety years of age, move beyond brain-based limitations to greater brain integration, thus greater flexibility, strength, energy, and awareness in their bodies. [An experiential exercise in “movement with attention” she led us in is described below.]
In her quite fabulous book Move into Life, Anat devotes a chapter each to the Nine Essentials for Lifelong Vitality:
- Movement with Attention
- The Learning Switch
- Flexible Goals – Making the Impossible Possible
- Imagination and Dreams
Considering movement as the most fundamental language of the brain, Anat uses movement to prime the brain to perceive differences, organize information differently, and thus encode new neural connections, i.e., “learn” new behaviors. We were able to watch videos of Anat applying these principles to children with autism and cerebral palsy, watching the children come into more integrated brain functioning, and thus movement, in the course of a few lessons.
Movement With Attention
- Stand comfortably, feet hip width apart. Gently, slowly lift your left arm forward from your side to over your head (No strain! Stay within your comfort zone) and lower it back down to your side. Repeat once or twice to get a baseline range of motion.
- Focus your attention on your lower spine as you raise and lower you left arm twice again. Notice movement, sensation, expansion in your lower spine as you raise and lower your arm.
- Focus your attention on your upper spine between your shoulder blades as you raise and lower your left arm twice again. Notice movement, sensation, expansion in your upper spine as you raise and lower your arm.
- Imagine there is an invisible thread connecting your left hand with your navel. As you raise and lower your left arm, imagine this thread is slowly pulling your belly forward (and tilting your pelvis back) then tucking your belly back in (and tilting your pelvis forward).
- Raise and lower your left arm again, noticing any change in range of motion.
What may not be so visible in the moment is the increased complexity of brain functioning this movement exercise has trained, which leads to increased capacities for clarity, concentration, creativity, problem solving and improved memory in the brain.
For more information on moving the body beyond pain and limitations and improve the mind and body at any age:
Enjoy your new vitality!