Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Brain Dance

An animated gif of MRI images of a human head....Image via Wikipedia
Exercises from Brain Dance:

1. Breath: Take a deep breath through the nose, filling the belly, diaphragm, and lungs with air then exhale through the mouth. Repeat 4-5 times. Benefits: increases flow of oxygen to the brain; brings awareness of importance of breath for ease and flow of movement; reduces stress and enlivens brain and body.

2. Tactile: With your hands, squeeze strongly each arm and leg and the torso, back, head (whole body). Then tap lightly whole body, then slap sharply whole body, then brush smoothly whole body. Explore other forms of touch such as scratching, patting, rubbing, etc. Benefits: strengthens bonding; develops appropriate sense of touch, increases sensory integration.

3. Core -Distal: Move from the center out, through and beyond the fingers, toes, head and tail (distal ends). Then curl back to torso while engaging core muscles. Try movement involving the whole body that grows and shrinks, stretches and curls in big "X”s and little "o"s. Benefits: strengthens relationship to self & others; develops full body extension and awareness of core for correct alignment.

4. Head -Tail: Bend and stretch the spine from head to tail (coccyx) in different directions and pathways. Keeping the knees slightly bent helps release the pelvis. Twist, wiggle, and shake spine gently. Circle head and hips. Try yoga positions such as cat-cow and downward facing dog. Benefits: increases spine flexibility and neck and shoulder strength; helps one move through space with ease; creates an open path for central nervous system to function fully.

5. Upper-Lower: Ground the lower half of body by pressing legs into floor with a slight knee bend. Swing, bend, stretch and twist upper body (arms, head, spine) while varying speed, level, and direction. Ground upper half by reaching arms out into space with energy as though you were hugging the earth or keep upper body still in other shapes. Dance with lower half: try marching, bending knees, jumping, jumps, swinging legs, and other actions. Lying on stomach with legs extended, curl toes under and rest on elbows - push forward and back from lower to upper. Benefits: articulates body halves for mobility/stability, function, and expression; develops emotional stability through connection to earth with whole body.

6. Body-Side: Bend, twist, stretch, and shake the left side of your body while keeping the right side stabile. Then keep the left stabile While moving the right side. Alternate moving right and left sides by doing a body-side walk or lunging in different directions. Do the lizard crawl on your belly or standing with arms and legs open to the sides - reach left arm and knee up then right arm and knee up like a lizard crawling up a wall. To develop horizontal eye tracking, follow thumb left to right and right to left. Benefits: articulates body sides; strengthens and balances both sides of the body and brain hemispheres; develops horizontal eye-tracking (necessary for reading) and side dominance.

7. Cross-Lateral: Do a cross-lateral dance, sitting or standing, finding as many ways of moving cross-laterally as possible such as touching right knee to left elbow, left hand to right foot, right hand to left knee, left hand to right hip, skipping, etc. Crawl on belly and creep on hands and knees or do a parallel standing crawl with knees and hands in front of you. For vertical eye-tracking follow hand up and down with eyes. Benefits: integrates brain hemispheres; strengthens vertical eye-tracking; develops complex, three dimensional dancing and thinking.

8. Vestibular: This pattern may also be done at the beginning of the BrainDance. Choose a movement that takes you off balance and makes you dizzy. Vary the movements you do each week. Swing upper body forward and backward and side-to-side. Tip, sway, roll, and rock in different directions and levels. Spin 15 seconds one direction, breathe and rest 15 seconds, then spin 15 seconds the other direction. The stillness after spinning strengthens the balance system. People with compromised balance systems should do this pattern seated. Benefits: develops spatial awareness, balance, and coordination; strengthens the system that controls the five senses.

After these basics are learned, variations can be introduced such as: Lying, Sitting, Standing: Create a BrainDance sequence that is performed lying and/or sitting on the floor. Move through the patterns lying on your stomach, back, and sides, on hands and knees, and sitting. If you are familiar with the Bartenieff Fundamentals, yoga positions, Pilates exercises, etc. incorporate them into the BrainDance. Also, incorporate your floor barre into the BrainDance. The lying down variation is most successful when done on a smooth, non-carpeted surface. Another variation is to perform the first four patterns sitting on the floor and the last four standing.

Traveling: Perform all the patterns traveling through general space instead of standing in self space, or alternate self and general space. Moving the patterns through space will lead to many new ways of dancing, and new discoveries such as the difference between a body-side walk and a cross-lateral walk.

Other variations are on a DVD found at