Friday, December 2, 2016

Balancing for Group Goals: The Power of Coherence

I’m sharing this excerpt from my book, Educate Your Brain. This piece is the conclusion to Chapter 14, “Brain Gym in the Workplace.” However, as you read, please keep in mind that groups are found everywhere: sports teams, dance ensembles, study groups, neighborhood associations – even families! Wherever there’s a group that would like to function more effectively as a coordinated team, Edu-K balancing can be a valued resource. 
I conclude this posting with an addition: thoughts about what it is that makes the group balancing process so powerful. What might it have to do with the power of coherence? I warmly invite you to share this exploration with me. 
Edu-K balancing and group goals
While the balance process is used most often with individuals, remarkable shifts may also occur when those individuals come together to address a common goal. Following a balance, office staff or management teams may find themselves communicating more effectively, feeling more aligned as a group, and cooperatively solving challenges that arise.
I was invited to work with a business that was having serious cooperation issues. It was a small, recently merged office. The two owners (now partners) brought with them distinctly different personality styles and sets of office systems, and employees steeped in those disparate systems. As one of the owners stated, “The challenges for our newly merged support staff are considerable and lead to conflicts that drain our time and energy.”
The Total Team EffectivenessTM program I’ve developed uses the Edu-K model to specifically address challenges within groups. It consists of a workshop covering the basics of the Brain Gym process, followed by individual balances with each team member, and then at least one more session with the entire group, focused on a collective goal.
In the case of this company, each participant chose to use his or her private session to address a specific personal issue, with the overall understanding that balanced team members create a more balanced team. When they got together a few days later for their group session, they chose to focus on improving their ability to communicate and generate harmonious solutions.
The owners later wrote to say that their office was now more productive and focused on accomplishing their business goals. One of the office staff members commented, “It isn’t that conflict went away. We just seem to find solutions so cooperatively and easily now.”
Not all businesses have a need—or the time—for such in-depth work. Sometimes just a quick balance-boost can resolve a specific situation.
I facilitated a short workshop for the executive committee of a small private college at the beginning of a day dedicated to creating a three-year strategic plan. This school was facing a real challenge: each department’s program was growing, and the building wasn’t. There had been some very heated “discussions” among department directors about the usage of classrooms and whose program “deserved” what space. All the directors attended this meeting.
In the workshop, I briefly explained the basics of Edu-K balancing and introduced the PACE warm-up. Then we discussed what they wanted to accomplish together. The participants all knew they needed to improve their teamwork and blend the interests of the various departments of the school. To develop a group goal, I asked them to list the qualities that would help their team be more effective, which I scribed on the board. They mentioned such things as respect, flexibility, open communication, and willingness to hold a team view. Once all these words were contributed, I had everyone look at them and notice their reaction. Their comments ranged from “I can’t even look at the word cooperation” to “Making this change seems totally impossible.”
The Calf Pump
I suggested they each put a hand over any place where they noticed discomfort in their body, and soon they were covering stomachs, heads, necks, jaws, and lower backs. One man said, “I need more hands!” Then I pointed to a poster of all the Brain Gym movements (our learning menu), and invited members of the group to simply notice which movements they were drawn to. One person said, “I can’t take my eyes off the words ‘The Calf Pump.’ What is it?” I replied, “I’ll show you,” and then led the group in that movement. After a few movements done this way, I noticed everyone sitting back in their chairs, seeming quite content. When they looked again at the words on the board describing their goal, they had various comments: “My stomach feels fine and my headache is gone.” “I can do that now.” “I can look at our goal and breathe now—and even smile.” “I’m ready—let’s get to work.”
The director of public relations for this school later wrote to describe what happened during the meeting that followed their Brain Gym workshop:
We found that we were able to complete our tasks in record time with great camaraderie. Starting with concerns of “turf wars” between members of the team, we found we spent the day enjoying and respecting one another more than we could have anticipated. In fact, we accomplished the outline of our Three-Year Strategic Plan by 5:00 p.m. that same day!
Even though several weeks have passed since our retreat, members of the Executive Committee are openly using the techniques in front of our employees and discussing the benefits of the processes with their staff. Many of our employees have sought out the Brain Gym® for Business books that we brought back with us so that they, too, can benefit from the exercises.
We hope to include you in a future all-school meeting. In the meantime, we are all ambassadors for “Brain Gym” techniques!
Whether it’s a quick productivity boost or in-depth balancing, Brain Gym and Edu-K can help to transform the atmosphere of your work setting. It’s amazing what can happen when individuals really prepare themselves for success, and teams balance to hold a shared vision.
How to explain such profound changes in camaraderie and teamwork?
Over the last twenty years using Brain Gym, I’ve found that when people do these movements together, and especially when they engage in the balance process together toward a shared goal, positive shifts take place in group dynamics.
Teachers have shared that their classroom environments have been transformed once they began introducing the Brain Gym movements and making them a regular part of their day. This email from a special-education teacher is a good example:
“My students (many of whom I knew well, as they had been in this special class last year also) were suddenly shifting their attitude and getting along so well together. They cooperated in ways I’d never seen before, and the typical nagging and teasing almost vanished. They really became a learning team and seemed to enjoy the victories and gains of their classmates as much as they enjoyed their own.”[1]
And balancing is effective if your group is just two people! One of my Brain Gym students remarked that she and her husband were getting along remarkably better, ever since they came to me for a “partners” balance around the topic of communication. She said, “We seem to respect each other’s communication styles so much more; we’re more patient and understanding with each other. Our marriage is much more harmonious now.”
What’s the source of this kind of change?
Many of you who follow the Brain Gym work may know neurobiologist Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., from her book Smart Moves – Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head, in which she explains the biology of the learning process, and why physical movements like the Brain Gym activities are so vital for developing our capacity to learn.
She followed this book with Playing in the Unified Field – Raising & Becoming Conscious, Creative Human Beings. In this volume she takes a much more profound look at the forces (now verified by physicists) within us, and around us, as we experience our everyday lives. One topic she turns to again and again in this volume is coherence, which she describes as “an ordered, consistent, congruent, harmonious functioning within any system.”[2]
In essence, when we are in a state of coherence, we feel comfortable, connected, and happy; when we are in a state of in-coherence, we feel stressed, separate, and distressed.
Given these definitions, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the outcome of any individual’s Edu-K balancing session is a state of internal coherence, in regard to the goal they were addressing. (In the Edu-K/Brain Gym work, this is called a state of “integration.”)
I believe that what is happening during a group balancing session is that the group members are coming into a state of coherence – individually and together – around a topic in which they all have an emotional investment. When an entire group is in a coherent state, the need for defensive stances and chronic oppositional thinking simply falls away, and cooperation becomes spontaneous and natural. 
What’s creating this state of coherence, and how is it that it carries on as a lasting pattern? The balance process itself is a potent medium for change: preparing ourselves for new learning (the PACE warm-up) and setting a focused intention for change (setting a goal); noticing how and where we feel stuck (so the mind-body system knows what patterns to re-educate), and then doing Brain Gym movements, each of which has its own manner of releasing the effects of stress in the body and returning us to a more balanced (coherent) state; following this with noticing again (Wow – I feel different now!). Celebrating our change is the final step.
A powerful combination: 
• The Brain Gym movements themselves help us shift into a more integrated, coherent mind-body state. 
• The Edu-K balance process harnesses the power of focused intention for making a specific change, so those changes are deep and long-lasting.
Carla Hannaford describes the balance process this way: “elegantly simple.”
Is this exactly what’s happening when we balance? Is this all there is to it? Actually, I don’t know. It’s one way of looking at possibilities.
For me, what’s sufficient is to know that it works. Edu-K balancing works – for individuals and for groups, as well.
What opportunities are there in your own life, for exploring the possibilities?
With all best wishes,


Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain

[1] Brown, Kathy. Educate Your Brain. Phoenix: Balance Point Publishing LLC, 2012. p.180
[2] Hannaford, Carla. Playing in the Unified Field. Salt Lake City: Great River Publishing, 2010. p.22.
Original article from Educate Your Brain Copyright© 2012 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved
Photographs Copyright© Laird Brown Photography. All rights reserved. 
©Copyright 2016 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation  •  Ventura, CA  •

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Brain Gym®: Potential for Changes Over Time

As I review my postings on this blog site, I see many of them are about the surprising and sudden shifts experienced in a single Brain Gym® session, that reveal abilities that have been waiting to be tapped.
I want to share that this is not always the case. Sometimes, what’s available and appropriate for the mind-body system is to make smaller shifts, over time.
To illustrate this concept I’m taking this opportunity to share an excerpt[1] from my book, Educate Your Brain, drawn from Chapter 12, “Make Lasting Change with Edu-K Balancing.” This selection begins by discussing where challenges to whole-brain integration come from, and goes on to answer the key question about changes over time.
Does balancing make a permanent change?
As we’ve discussed previously, I find that challenges seem to arise from two main sources:
• lack of initial patterning (due to issues such as retained infant reflexes or insufficient time spent crawling, for example)
• learned reaction patterns that are developed through trauma or stress
When a block exists because the person never got the movement he needed in infancy or childhood, the changes that result from balancing are, in my experience, lasting. It’s been six years since Henry’s balance, and he hasn’t slipped back into not being able to read. (Click here for Henry's story.)
When a block exists because of emotional trauma or stress, for which we learned a survival-based compensation, my experience is that a balance helps us return to a more integrated, whole-brain state and creates the strong awareness of the change we’ve made. In many cases, especially when we are really ready to change, this is enough to completely resolve the old situation. However, we still have the choice of whether to use the new pattern or the old one.
Do you need to keep balancing for the same goal?
The answer often is, “That depends.” I like to say that some clients arrive with an “issue” and others arrive with a “project.” Phobias, fears, and the emotional charge around certain specific situations or people in a person’s life typically fall into the “issue” category. They are usually resolved very well in a session or two, and the change is often quite remarkable. Over time, the person may recognize that addressing the issue again (perhaps from a different angle) would be helpful, but in the meantime, the change achieved is enough to be a tremendous relief. Alexa’s resistance to studying English grammar was an “issue.” (Click here for Alexa's story.) 
“Projects,” on the other hand, are situations that are grounded in a deeper overall challenge. Progress of some kind may still be seen by the end of the first session, but additional sessions are often necessary for the kind of change the client (or her parent) is seeking. Depending on the nature of the individual, it may take several balances, or a series over a number of months or even years, to do the re-learning necessary to resolve her key challenges.
Of course, it’s impossible to know ahead of time if a client is dealing with an issue or a project. I would never have believed that Henry would go from not reading at all to reading fluently in a single session (although by now I have seen that kind of shift again and again). As a Brain Gym consultant, I can make my best guess, but I’ve learned never to think I know something for sure; I continue to be surprised.
Changes over time
Here’s the story of a “project” that continued over about two years, with a learner who had many challenges to overcome.
I started working with Brandon when he was about to enter second grade. Born prematurely, he’d been late in achieving key developmental milestones and still had significant coordination and learning issues.
Our first sessions were a slow introduction to a variety of Brain Gym movements, one or two at a time, interspersed with playing with the various balls, streamers, and hoops in my office. His mother and I always participated along with him.
Initially, our sessions were simply an immersion in these activities. I’d share a new movement, like Lazy 8s, which he would draw over and over on my whiteboard. Then he’d make a beeline for his mother’s lap and curl up for several minutes, evidently taking time out to integrate and incorporate this new learning. Then he’d get up and want to do it again. Often he’d continue to do his new movements at home.
Informal goals would arise out of our play experiences. For example, one day Brandon asked for a ball-tossing activity, but he was consistently missing his catches, so I asked, “Which Brain Gym movement do you think will help you today?” He pointed to his choice on my learning menu chart, and his mother and I joined him in rubbing Brain Buttons and then doing a bit of Cross Crawl and Double Doodle. Sure enough, his next attempt showed more coordination, his hands closing more successfully around the ball. Before long, he was catching much more reliably.
Soon he was arriving at my door with his own goals: “I want to be able to run fast!” He’d dash across my office, all elbows and knees and feet stepping unevenly. But after a playful Dennison Laterality Repatterning, his arms were more in sync with his legs, and his stride was more even as he ran.
A bit at a time, I could see that Brandon was building a stronger foundation for coordinated movement. His success was evident in the look on his face as he ran and hopped, skipped and rolled during our sessions. His teacher began reporting that Brandon was participating more fully in physical activities at school, as well, and that his focus was more easily sustained in class.
At this point, Brandon’s mother took the Brain Gym® 101 course, where she learned how to support him at home with these simple movements and use a modified balance process to address his goals between our sessions together. She also provided Brandon’s teacher with a copy of Brain Gym® Teacher’s Edition, and soon his whole class was benefiting from the movements as well.
After about six months of sessions, Brandon gained interest in reading. He’d had special help in school and coaching at home since first grade, and he knew the basics of sounding out words, but he’d resisted reading on his own. Now, rather than insist that his mother read to him, he began taking up books himself, spending time immersed in stories.
As we continued our work together, our sessions became focused on his desire to improve in reading, writing, and math. Our bi-weekly sessions had drifted farther apart, to every four weeks or so.
By the end of third grade, Brandon declared, “I think I’m done.” Indeed, he’d come a long way. He was now reading at just about grade level and was taking joy and pride in his ability to write and do math. He was also more coordinated as a runner and enjoyed sports activities, at which he was rapidly becoming skilled.
Brandon’s mother still brings him back for occasional sessions, but the bulk of our “project” feels complete. She said, “It seems like he’s caught up with where he is supposed to be. I’m so happy to see the way he’s learning and how pleased he is with his own accomplishments.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Edu-K "balance" process, you have several choices.
• Book an individual session with a Brain Gym instructor near you. Instructors around the world can be found at this link
• Learn to facilitate Brain Gym balance sessions yourself! Take the Brain Gym® 101 course, which is  also offered around the world. 
• If you're in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, or would like to visit, I have a Brain Gym® 101 course coming up on November 11-12-13, 2016, and will soon have others posted for 2017. 
• You can learn a bit more about the balance process by reading Chapter 12 of my book, Educate Your Brain. 

With all best wishes,


Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain

[1] Brown, Kathy. Educate Your Brain. Phoenix: Balance Point Publishing, 2012. 130-133. 
Original article from Educate Your Brain Copyright© 2012 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved
©Copyright 2016 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation 
Ventura, CA  •
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Priming the Brain with Movement: The Power of PACE in a Special Ed Classroom

In this posting I'm revisiting a story I shared a number of years ago, as an answer to the question, "Just what can a few Brain Gym movements possibly do?" The "PACE" portion of this story also appeared in my book, Educate Your Brain, in Chapter 6, "PACE: Bringing It All Together." 

The simplicity of PACE can be a bit deceptive. PACE, like all of Brain Gym®, is not costly, time-consuming, or elaborate; it is easy to learn and requires no special equipment. In just a few moments, the basics can be implemented right where you work, study, or play every day. For these very reasons, some people say it looks too simple to be doing anything. "Elegantly simple" is the phrase that Carla Hannaford, neurobiologist and author of Smart Moves, uses to characterize it.

Doing the four movements of PACE helps us find our own unique timing and flow - described by the Dennisons[1] as "the relaxed, unstressed, self-initiated pace that allows for optimal learning."[2] As we settle in to our own best pace for living, we give ourselves permission to slow down and become present. Then we can give our best to whatever we do.

When we make PACE a daily practice, we remind ourselves again and again about how to be in our best rhythm for learning and moving. People who use PACE regularly will tell you how well it works, no matter their age or ability level. Here's the story of an impressive shift experienced by a group of children with learning challenges:

I was invited recently to do some demonstration work in the special-education classroom of an elementary school. The teacher, Mrs. Cole, had heard about Brain Gym and was interested to see it at work.

When I arrived, she was engaged with a group of third- and fourth-grade students who have a variety of learning challenges. Their labels included such things as low IQ, severely learning disabled, minimally mentally retarded, and fetal alcohol syndrome. As much as this teacher cared, and as hard as she worked to draw out their best, these children learned very slowly. Two boys in particular, Brandon and Cody, found certain aspects of learning very challenging. Brandon, diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, had never left spaces between the words he wrote in a sentence without direct coaching. And Cody, who was labeled minimally mentally retarded, had struggled with letter size and formation for years. These boys had improved only moderately over the two years they'd spent getting special help from this very skilled and caring teacher. 

I introduced the PACE process to the group and, with the fun and giggles that truly engage young children, had them do all the steps with me. The children were very cooperative and enthusiastic - and very awkward in their movements. Many had significant difficulty in accomplishing the Cross Crawl, as is often the case with learning-challenged children. The entire process of explaining, demonstrating, and doing the movements took about 20 minutes.

Mrs. Cole handed out paper so each child could write me a thank-you note, which became that day's writing lesson. The room became pin-drop quiet as twelve heads bent over desktops and much writing appeared on paper, with remarkably good spelling and few requests for help. Mrs. Cole surveyed the students’ work with an amazed look on her face. She sat next to Cody and asked him, “Do you notice anything different about your writing?” He replied, “Yes - it’s good! The letters are all the right size!”

Then looking at Brandon’s paper, Mrs. Cole was stunned to see that, for the first time ever, all of his letters were actually written on the line, and he had put spaces between his words. Not only that, but he was writing and writing, sentence after coherent sentence - this, from a boy who’d never written more than a line to two without help. 

Tracing Lazy 8s
I still had a bit of time left, so I taught the children Lazy Eights and then Double Doodle. Many had significant difficulty with these, as well. Mrs. Cole passed out white paper so they could Double Doodle with crayons. Brandon started with Double Doodle and then (believe it or not) began drawing superimposed Lazy Eights simultaneously with each hand going in the opposite direction. I have no idea how he contrived to accomplish this so smoothly, as he has very significant midline issues. Capable people have a hard time doing this!

The Double Doodle
Brandon kept at this, with total focus, for a full five minutes. Beside him, Cody did side-by-side Double Doodle circles over and over and over with deep concentration. Mrs. Cole couldn't believe how focused they stayed on this task. She said, “Do kids tend to really apply themselves to things like this that are good for them?”

The group left when class ended, but Brandon stayed behind. He wanted to read to us. This is the boy who’d made little academic growth over the last two years.

Brandon picked up a book and read fluently. He attempted words he'd never tried before, sounded out words with only a bit of help, and paused or stopped appropriately at all the punctuation. He began his reading as he’d always done, holding a card under each line of print to help him focus on just one line of print at a time. After about two paragraphs he set the card aside and used just his finger under each word -- and then he used nothing at all, reading just fine.

All of this after “just” PACE, Lazy Eights and Double Doodle! I actually thought Mrs. Cole was going to cry watching him read - finally. The entire time I was there, her face was a study as she watched all these children do so many things so well.

By the time I left, Mrs. Cole had copied my PACE instructions off the board, made a simple poster chart of them, and hung it on the wall. She said, “We're doing this every day from now on!” 

She was as good as her word. The next day, she had water bottles for all her students and led them in PACE. Before long, the children began automatically getting drinks of water when they arrived and working out a system so everyone could have his or her turn leading the group in the movements. Major changes began appearing in the achievement of almost every child in the group. This teacher was amazed to see how much difference just a little integrating movement had made for each of these very special learners.

If you'd like to find out more about the Brain Gym® program and how it can support change in many different ways, I have some suggestions. 

• You could read about it. Allow me to recommend the book I authored, specifically to introduce people to Brain Gym: Educate Your Brain. Click here to learn more, or to buy your own copy. (Note: The first chapters of this book are an in-depth explanation of the elements that go into this PACE warm-up. 

• You could experience the Brain Gym balance process! Schedule a private session with a consultant near you. The Brain Gym website offers information about consultants around the world. If you live in the Phoenix area or plan to visit, I'll be happy to schedule a session with you in my own office. 

• You could participate in a Brain Gym® 101 course, and learn how to facilitate this amazing process, to support yourself in making changes you'd like to see in your own life, and in supporting others as well. Consultants around the world offer the BG101 course. You're welcome to take my upcoming BG101 course in Phoenix: November 11-12-13, 2016. I'll soon have courses posted for 2017, also. Click here for my web page on the BG101 course. To stay updated on course offerings, you can subscribe at this link

A new way of moving through life, for yourself or for those you care for, could just be a few moments away! 

Wishing you all the best -


Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain

[1] Co-founders of the Brain Gym® program Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D. and Gail E. Dennison
[2] Dennison, Paul E. and Gail E. Dennison. The Brain Gym® Teacher's Edition, 27. 

Original story Copyright© 2000 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved
©Copyright 2016 Kathy Brown. All rights reserved.
All photographs Copyright© Laird Brown Photography. All rights reserved. 
Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation 
Ventura, CA  •
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