The Anat Baniel Method International (ABMI) is an educational method
that utilizes movement.
The Anat Baniel Method evokes life changing learning for people of every age and condition. Some, who were never expected to walk, or make sense of their world or create lives for themselves, do walk, perceive and communicate clearly and direct their own lives.
ABM helps individuals become more comfortable, more mobile and more confident.
It is valuable for people in various stages of life and health. It promotes healing and helps people raise their skill level in sports, careers, the arts, and relationships.
How ABM works
ABM employs highly specific, unique NeuroMovement® that provides our brains with valuable information about how we move. Our brain responds by becoming more differentiated and accurate, eliminating unnecessary brain activity and creating or recreating more efficient movement. The brain changes triggered by this form of movement-based learning have a profound impact on all brain function.
ABM is offered in two ways- Either an ABM practitioner introduces movement through gentle touch, or the practitioner provides instructions so that his or her client can initiate the movement themselves.**
The Anat Baniel Method (ABM) is a fundamental departure from traditional beliefs about the best way to learn.
Here are some principles of ABM.
1. **Slow movement with attention provides information to the brain that the brain uses to self organize.
2. *Movement, the most direct way one can communicate with the brain, facilitates learning.
3. **Subtle movement (moving with greatly reduced force) will lead to incomparably greater learning because it provides highly use-able information to the brain.
4. Better brain organization achieved through movement, has the potential to improve every aspect of comprehension and action.
5. Pain, discomfort or lack of safety interfere with learning. Our brain prioritizes our survival and cannot participate in a positive reorganization when it perceives possible danger. Babies do not hurt themselves as they move. Everyone’s exploration of movement can be equally rich and pleasurable.
Our brain uses information to better form itself and become more efficient.
Neuroscience has verified the brain’s ability to change and refine itself. As Dr Merzenich*** states in his book, Soft Wired, “We [Dr. Merzenich's research group] described ‘adult’ plastic changes [....] they actually changed physical and functional structures in the brain.”
Our brains change functionally and structurally as a result of how we use them. The human brain is truly built to learn and there is ample evidence that we can improve the quality of our brain function.
Let’s look in more detail at the first principle of ABM listed above.
Slow movement with attention provides information to the brain that the brain uses to self organize.
To understand the value of slow movement with attention, we must return to our first moments after birth. In the womb we were surrounded in fluid, then, at birth, we have to deal with being in the gravitational force. Other than sucking, we have no control over our movement. But, if we are healthy, we have random movement produced by random firing of neurons in our brain.
Dr. Michael Merzenich calls this “essential random movement”.***
We learn through random movement that we can expect certain results from specific movements.
As babies we move in countless directions, not just our limbs, but the entirety of ourselves. **** We pay attention to our movement and what happens to us as a result. As we push on our mother’s breast, we not only get more to milk to drink, we feel an equal and opposite push back through our arm into our spine.
Long before we walk we gain vital information about ourselves from moving while being on our backs. Anat calls the floor “Harvard for babies.” During each movement we made as babies, we felt our weight shift on the surface under us. This process provides us with countless bits of information we used to organize ourselves to walk. Here’s an example of “floor learning”.
An example of “floor learning”
Lie on your back with your knees bent and pointing toward the ceiling, with the soles of your feet resting on the floor. Lift a bent leg a little bit off the floor and drop it back onto the floor. As you plop your foot onto the floor you may feel the resulting equal and opposite force travel through you. It actually shoots you a bit in the direction of your head!
Through movement we learn what constitutes ourselves and about the world around us. We are developing our ability to make distinctions based upon our growing self perception and our interaction with our environment. Our reasoning, discernment, emotional life and creative thinking depend upon our ability to make distinctions. Making distinctions is the basis of our meaningful interaction with our world.
A more scientific way of explaining this process is that movement-based learning allows our brain to create a “map” of ourselves and our movement possibilities. We are creating new neural connections that we use to navigate well in gravity, selectively eliminating connections we don’t use.
Through early random movement we create order in our brains.
Our learning through movement is the basis of intellectual and emotional intelligence. Our ability to form intentions, explore and take action, and ultimately to live a meaningful life, springs from the order we create in our brains.
Success = Forming Habits.
Through early unintentional movements, for example, of bringing our hand to our mouth, we quickly become able to repeat the movement when we want to and this is the very beginning of our development of habitual movement. Habitual movement is vital to us. Our intentions and actions can become more and more diverse as we can depend upon our brain to automatically provide actions that support our ever more complex intentions.
Oh no! Habits contribute to less articulate movement.
By about 4 years old we have a reliable walk. We no longer focus upon our execution of moving ourselves along most surfaces. This is a great convenience and a blessing. We notice our walking less and less as we focus on our next intention. We also have learned to use our arms and legs, and use them to help ourselves get up from the floor or out of a chair. As we make greater use of our limbs, we use our torsos with less finesse. We loose some of the huge movement vocabulary of which our center was once capable. The mapping we had created of ourselves in our brain becomes less complete.
In addition, injury, illness, emotional patterns, spending less time on the floor, and even our attempts to stand “correctly” contribute to limitation of our movement. As a result, parts of our self image disappear and the high degree of accuracy in our self image, so exquisitely formed in our brain as babies, diminishes.
If we don’t know we have it we can’t use it.
Our movement becomes less efficient because some of our “movement team” is unavailable to us. Just as some basket ball players sit on the bench during a game, some parts of us are not actively participating in our movement because we have lost access to them. But unlike a basket ball team, we have to account for our whole team every time we move. Imagine the Warriors having to carry the guys who normally sit on the bench, as they run, pass and shoot!
We have no choice but to meet this greater demand. So we consciously or unconsciously devise less efficient movement to compensate for our less defined self image. Parts of us must function in ways that defy our functional structure. It is no wonder we develop pain, and feel limited and less spontaneous in our movement over time.
We aren’t aware of the impact on our cognitive, emotional and creative function.
The sometimes funny, often jaded jokes about the gradual loss of virtually all of our functions as we age is as close as our culture gets to understanding the connection between movement and cognition. Losing organization in our movement represents an overall loss in our brain organization. Declining organization in our brain means we are also losing optimal capacity for thinking, emotion, memory and creativity.
Many of us confound ourselves further by attempting “good posture”. Smart competent people often repeatedly “correct” their alignment, duplicating and re-enforcing a pattern that has contributed to their pain in the first place.
Assume we choose an anatomically sound alignment theory. One that is not static, but includes movement. How do we embody it when our brain automatically uses established movement habits?
Our brains have stored information about how to move, having concluded it is reliable enough, whether it serves us well or not.
Our conscious attempts to use ourselves more efficiently often involve attempting to counteract what we believe is our “bad” habit in order to “correct” it. So we exert more effort. We work to layer another habit over the first one. We might end up in a fight with ourselves. There may or may not be improvement. We are working harder, though, to maintain our idea of how to move better. We may not feel more vital, more present, or freer.
To truly change our habits, and exert less effort in moving, we need to get out of the realm of habit.
Habits reside outside of our awareness, where we have no say in them. Habits are tremendously useful, but like appliances, relationships and city streets, over time habitual movement needs upgrading. Habitual movement is the result of our creative process but, once formed, is outside of our creative process. We are on automatic.
We can’t change habitual movement as long as we function within it.
One powerful way to open ourselves to new possibilities is to slow down.
Our habitual movement is absolutely associated with the rate of speed with which we usually move. If we slow down we are no longer moving entirely within the confines of habit. Our brain perks up. This is something new! We have begun to escape the powerfully built neuro connections that keep us moving the same way. We are less bound by a pattern that is outside of our control and more able to perceive our sensations as we move.
A second, significant quality of habitual movement, is that it operates outside of our awareness. Think about the first steps of a toddler, how intent they are, how aware they are of their balance and their readiness to make corrections. We no longer apply that level of attention to our experience of walking. Unless we have an injury or are carrying something unwieldy, we just go. As long as we can count on our current version of walking to get us where we want to go, that is good enough for our brain.
Paying attention to our physical sensations delivers pertinent, powerful information about how we move ourselves to our brain.
In conjunction with moving slowly, noticing our movement, as we did when we were babies, is an essential component of transforming the quality with which we move. Moving slowly makes it possible for us to increase the accuracy and detail with which we feel the impact of the way we move ourselves.
By paying attention to *subtle sensations while moving, we dramatically increase the quality of information our brains receive.
The ability to sense ourselves subtly is a valuable skill we can continue to develop throughout our lives. The resulting increase in mental clarity and refined movement are based in learning. We have perceived new information and utilized that information to change ourselves in ways we enjoy and can employ to live more fully.
1. Our initial learning is through movement. We can, at any time, recreate most of the elements of our early learning experience.
2. A vital component of learning is paying close attention to our physical sensations as we move.
3. We can continually upgrade our movement through cultivating curiosity and developing our ability to sense ourselves clearly.
4. Sensing ourselves in movement frees us from habitual movement and helps us grow a healthier, stronger brain.
Slow, subtle movement with attention** provides our brains with information about ourselves, especially in conjunction with the unique movements* of the Anat Baniel Method. With that information, our brains organize at a higher level, resulting in freer, more comfortable and precise movement. Refinement in brain organization allows us to more easily make connections necessary to thought, emotion, creativity and memory.
It is an amazing gift to learn that we can literally grow our brains and our ability to move through life through gentle, pleasurable movement!
The **9 Essentials of the Anat Baniel Method
When used together, the **9 Essentials form a powerful learning environment in which both children and adults learn optimally.
Movement with Attention
The Learning Switch
Imagination and Dreams
*** If you would like to feel the benefits of movement introduced by a Practitioner, schedule an individual appointment with me!
Call 510-282-3071 or email me at rosalie@YourThinkingBody.com
If you are interested in moving yourself uniquely, join us Tuesdays, 6:30- 7:30 pm, for a Transformational Movement Class.
Call 510-282-3071, or email rosalie@YourThinkingBody.com to join us!
**** Dr. Michael Merzenich, PhD is a Professor Emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco. Often called the father of brain plasticity, he is one of the scientists responsible for our current understanding of brain change across the lifespan.
*****When we are very little we flex making ourselves concave, our center moving back relative to our shoulders and pelvis. It is the natural way for little babies to move. This normal period of spinal flexion is the reason “Tummy Time” , (an unexamined practice) promoted widely, is so stressful to babies and obstructive to their ability to move and develop as they were destined to.