When you hear “movement” what you think of? Probably something kinesthetic, something related to the human body in motion. This is a great beginning – and a limiting definition. Movement is related to everything. Digestion is the movement of food through our body. Speech is the movement and articulation of air pressure through our vocal cords. The perception of speech is the movement of our neurons for the purposes of interpreting that air pressure. The human body breaks down and reconstructs the entire skeletal system over the course of every seven years. Neat, huh? Movement really is everywhere and everything we do.
This is relevant because it is an entry into the conversation of learning. Whether we’re talking about learning to ride a bike, drive a car, interact socially, eat food, or behave in a way that society deems normal, improving movement improves learning and improves life.
If I am standing up my brain has to process the floor, the air around me, and whatever it is that I can smell and see and hear. If I’m wearing shoes my brain has to make sense of the shoes on my feet, the shirt I’m wearing on my arms, on my chest, on my back, on my belly. Not to mention that I am standing! If I am lying on my back on the floor I/my brain can take more time and attention to process the feel of my back on the floor, my bottom, my legs, feet and head. Our brains are constantly organizing and making sense out of all of these inputs–that is a lot of work!
Play some music that you don’t ordinarily listen to. Play louder than you usually listen to music. Begin to jump up and down out of time to this music. Simultaneously, your right thigh with your left hand. Blink your eyes open and closed very quickly. And now finally add in reciting aloud your 13 times tables. Hard to do, right? In juxtaposition lie on your back on a comfortable floor in a quiet room and see if you can, easily and gently, count your 13 times table. It easier to do? To do something that is challenging or to learn something that is new it is much easier to decrease the demand we place on the brain. In other words, when you are trying to learn something new, try less hard and you’ll get better results.