Body Movements Can Influence Problem Solving

May 18, 2010

Without formal instruction or direction young children learn to walk, acquire sophisticated language skills and become pretty self sufficient all before the age of five. However, something curious happens when formal learning begins; children come to school eager and ready to learn but after a year or two many lose their curiosity and often become resistant to learning. So, what happened? The main difference is that during their first four years children are free to move and explore their environment without restriction but then at five we not only put them in desks and insist that they sit still during instruction but dictate what and when they should learn. As a result, the older we get the more resistant we become to learning and the more difficult it becomes to adapt to changes in our environment. Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais suggested that this pattern of resistance could be reversed if we reprogrammed our nervous systems through organic learning and that flexible bodies would produce flexible minds.

A research project conducted recently demonstrated movement can influence problem solving. I find this really exciting because it corroborates the work of Dr. Feldenkrais developed over 50 years ago. The new findings offer insight into what researchers call "embodied cognition," which describes the link between body and mind. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, one of the researchers said, "People tend to think that their mind lives in their brain, dealing in conceptual abstractions, very much disconnected from the body. This emerging research is fascinating because it is demonstrating how your body is a part of your mind in a powerful way. The way you think is affected by your body and, in fact, we can use our bodies to help us think." Click here to read more about the research project. "Body Movements Can Influence Problem Solving, Researchers Report" (Science Digest)

Of course I didn’t participate in the research project at the University of Illinois but, I did take part in a four year training program to become a Feldenkrais practitioner. Unlike most formal learning which takes place sitting in lecture halls, we spent a great deal of time down on the floor relearning how to move and developing a sense of how the body and mind are linked through organic learning. Lectures were embedded into the movement lessons and this impacted on my ability to retain copious amounts of information that are still with me 15 years later. I can’t say that I have the same recall of any of the material I studied during my years of university education—what a pity!    


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