So You Think You Can't Learn Because You're Older?

I frequently hear my clients tell me, "not much is going to change at my age." Thankfully more and more is being written to prove how untrue that statement really is. The older we get, the harder it can be to change old habits, and yet the more important it becomes if we want to live fully and be in control of our lives. There was an interesting article in the New York Times about how to train an "aging brain." In it they discuss how "bumping up against people and ideas that are different." Scramble the neural pathways a bit to keep your brain developing well.

Somatic Exercises make you smarter and more aware.

This is what Moshe Feldenkrais called differentiation."  He taught that doing "un-habitual" movements that we normally don't do disrupts the habits in our brains and leads to more intelligent, and controlled movement and coordination of the body as a whole.  He went on to create some powerful movement sequences based upon his discoveries.  His "seated twist" exercise, also taught in Somatic Exercise classes, is the best example of this type of learning.

When you give the brain new, different and sometimes complicated feedback, the brain responds differently. IMG_1769You are setting down new neural pathways. Give the brain the same old, same old, and your habits remain the same.  Your brain doesn't  get any “smarter”  and nothing changes.  Mix things up a bit, add more movement, done in a slightly different way, or play with a different way of doing things (like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand) and your motor output will not only be different, but it will be more coordinated.

Here's an interesting fun fact:  it’s been discovered that the cerebellum, once thought to only be involved in monitoring movement,  is also linked to cognitive growth in the brain.   Frank Belgau, an educator and psychologist, performed an experiment with a group of special ed kids. He put them on his own version of the "bongo board" and had them toss bean bags back and forth for several minutes.  Here's what he observed:  their math abilities improved, as did their balancing skills. They realized that it not only helped them hone their spatial awareness, but that their thinking skills improved as well. Cool, eh?

This is exactly what we do in Hanna Somatics: we challenge the 7-9-07-bongopongbrain with new and different input, to teach the body to do new things and to hone the skills you already have.  This is an intelligent way to improve the muscular system.  It's also fun and easy.

So try something new and different each day:

  • brush your teeth with the non-dominant hand
  • use your mouse with the non-dominant hand
  • when you turn to look around behind you, rather than just turning your head and neck, try turning at the waist, first.
  • walk backwards (be mindful!)
  • if you carry a purse or laptop bag on one shoulder, put it on the other shoulder. Notice how your posture changes
  • take a dance class

Re-connect those neural pathways,  feed the brain and prepare to feel, move and think better than ever!