Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a yoga class or workout session wondering how you can get more out of the time you put in? You know a bigger bang for your buck? Or as a teacher of movement, have you ever wondered how you can help your students actually learn and retain better; possibly generating a bigger buck for your bang?

Whether you are in the “buck” or “bang” business, understanding just how malleable our minds are, should be at the forefront of your cerebrum. As a movement educator, your specific specialties, acquired skills and schooling are robbed of their use if it cannot be received. In contrast, as a student, your success is dependent on how well you can absorb and apply new information. Understanding the ABC’s of a brain that learns well can greatly increase your learning or teaching potential. You don’t have to be a neuro-nerd or have acquired decades of formal education to understand how basic cerebral awareness is enough to catapult you or your students into another level of motor mastery, mellow moods and magnified memory.

This is your brain on learning

This is your brain on learning

A is for: Associations & Assumptions

Located deep in our primitive brain, linked closely to our senses and lodging our most important memories; the hippocampus is responsible for storage of learned experiences and outcomes. Every memory (which was once a perception) is sorted and stored based on our individual biases and assumptions. The thing about assumptions is, they limit learning and often contaminate memories in the hippocampus. Conveniently, research is finding this deeply integrated memory mechanism can be strengthened through exercise and movement. Drawing attention to your senses while lessening your assumptions during movement further arouses the hippocampus to not only learn better but also commences a cascade of brain-building processes.

Hippocampus

B is for: Brain-body benefit

The more motor skills we remember, the better we get at ___fill in the blank___. The more we start to train our brain to become an active learning and integrating machine; the more potential we unlock. The more we live our potential, the happier we become. The happier we become, the better we relate to others and ourselves. The better we relate, the more we contribute. And the more we contribute the better we feel. This learn good, feel good phenomena can be scientifically measured post exercise by spikes of “feel good hormones” like dopamine and serotonin, coupled with the release of “brain-building proteins” like BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) coined the “Miracle Gro” of the mind by neuroscientist John Ratey, MD. Practicing pieces and parts of complex movement provides a mental training arena that allows you to rehearse the learning process in a way that honors the body-brain connection.

C is for: Change-capable.

Your evolving brain remodels itself to adapt and integrate the most useful information in an attempt to improve neural coordination. When learning, it is advantageous to acknowledge the fact that our minds are moldable and capable of change. In neurophysiology, the term “use-dependent plasticity” is used to encapsulate the theory that synapses (the connecting-communicators that allow for the passage of information from one neuron to the next) will literally rearrange and prime themselves at the mere perception of learning. In other words it “lights their wick”, it “greases the wheel”, it “sparks their interest”. It is from this theory that the ageless saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” was born. If you’ve lost it, the key is to reconnect those pathways or find new routes for synaptic synergy. Doing the hard thing and practicing the remote, the abandoned and sometimes uncharted territory of your capabilities actually grows your abilities. Ironically, uncertainty is one thing the brain has evolved to avoid. Despite the fact that it holds the space for our learning potentiality, and is the only place we can truly see things differently.

All of that which we learn, that actually sticks, becomes a habit. If you have habits you’d like to kick, it is far more beneficial to untangle a bad habit, than to just break it. Working with the mind rather than against it can reframe your setbacks as exciting chances to grow your potential. Push your boundaries of learning by putting these brainy ABC’s into action, in the follow-up blog Patterns of Potentiality. While healthy movement can be far more complex than you know, you have more built-in capacity than your think.

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