Movement Enhances Brain Functioning

The basis of educational theory describes intelligence, creativity, and learning being housed in the brain.  However, this theory missed an important aspect of learning.  Learning does not all occur in the brain, it occurs in the whole body.  Movements, emotions and sensations are grounded in the body.  It is our body’s senses that provide the brain with environmental information to give us a better understanding of our environment.  Movement facilitates enhanced cognitive processing and grows the neural networks in the brain. This means movement enhances brain functioning.

Cross-lateral movement is crucial for learning.  Cross lateral movements are those in which arms and legs cross over the midline (imaginary line that divides the body into right and left sides) of the body.  The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body,  and the right side of the brain controls the left side.  When arms and legs cross the body’s midline, the two sides have to communicate.  This integration of both sides of the brain facilitates learning

These are some of my favorite cross-lateral moves that I incorporate into my yoga classes.

  • Children’s Version. Start in mountain pose. Extend your right arm out and cross it over the left grabbing opposite shoulders. Shift your weight to your right foot and bring your left leg over your right.
  • Teen Version. Start in mountain pose.  Take the left leg back to form a mini lunge.  Extend out your arms.  Take the left arm underneath the right arm and and bring palms together.  Bring the left leg forward and wrap it around the right leg.  Take in a deep inhale as you raise your arms to shoulder height.  On the exhale sink the hips back as if sitting in a one legged chair.
Cross Crawls.
  • Start in Mountain Pose. Alternate lifting and an arm and the opposite knee. Pretend you are climbing a ladder or hiking through the jungle.
Dead Bug
  • Lie on your back. Lift up the arms and legs.  Let them flow back and forth in big “x’s”.  A fun variation is to start is lotus pose and pretend a bug lands on your lotus flower.  Roll onto your back and begin flowing the arms and legs.
Figure Eights
  • Figure eights can be drawn in the air with glow sticks. Begin in mountain pose.  Lift the right arm and make ten sideways 8’s also known as the infinity sign.  Shift the glow stick to the left hand.  Raise the left arm and make ten sideways 8’s.  Finally, lift both arms and grasp the glow stick with both hands making sideways 8’s.  Another fun variation is to use a dry erase board and make butterfly wings.  After you’ve made 10, with the right, 10 with the left, and 10 with both hands fill in the rest of the butterfly.

Try these fun moves at home and watch your child soar to new academic heights!