Fantastic evening at the Somatische Akademie in Kreuzberg last week, attending Adalisa Menghini's talk about her work with children who are experiencing difficulties with sensory processing. She trained at the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, Uk. The Institute was formed by Sally Goddard-Blythe author of several books fundamental to my own training so it was lovely to hear from someone who had actually trained with her. Working through movement and imagination with children is so natural and easy for them and is such an effective and non stigmatising way to deal with issues such as sensory processing, inability to concentrate, movement and spatial or sensory difficulties... issues which can have really profound effects on our personality and social engagement as well as leading to all sorts of labelling and issues in school. I'm so sad that this work is not more widely known and accepted here in Germany as yet. But I can feel the interest rising, the talk was host to several teachers and early years educators with a desire to know more. I hope Ada will develop some kind of training that shares her own particular approach which takes this reflex work and adds imagination and creative flair of dance and contact improvisation so that the children are having fun... that is so vital for learning.
I work mainly with much younger children now but back in the year 2000, I developed a programme of parent and child dance classes called Youngmovers. Fresh from an intensive workshop at the School for Body Mind Centering ® in the U.S.and building on my years as a community dance specialist in the community and cultural sectors. I was inspired to create a dance session based on the Developmental Movement Sequence (i.e: rolling, crawling, creeping, and the reflexes and patterns that support them) . I had two intentions: the first was to provide an opportunity for young children ( 2-6 years ) to revisit these movements through dance - giving them a chance to fill any 'gaps' as often these patterns are either skipped or simply not fully integrated. The second intention was to create a context where parents and children felt comfortable and happy to be physically close and connect through imaginative movement, not judgement or performance, just a space where they felt free to express themselves through movement and feel that embodied sense of being that resources us all.
These intentions were a direct response to the way movement and the body is relegated in a society that values the brain over the body and perceives the mind as some kind of static, disconnected ‘general’ that directs us. From the moment we are in school we are expected to sit still in order to learn, and this just gets worse. By the time we hit puberty our body become something that is to be forced into submission in order to look a certain way, or to be railed against and cried over because it simply can't. In adulthood we work through illness and mask physical pain because of the very real and demanding pressures of our working and family lives. Of course, this is an extreme scenario, but the idea that the body is something 'apart' from our minds is still very strong in society despite years of research both 'official scientific' or experiential and artistic that proves that mind and body are one. Not only do we have neural tissue that is not located physically in the brain, but there are a host of connections and instructions that travel through our body that do not move through our nervous system, it has even been clinically proven that our emotions physically effect the shape or our individual cells and therefore their ability to allow particular molecules to pass into through their membranes … more about all that in a later post.
So from my perspective as someone who works to help us make full use of our body-mind in our daily lives, we need to make some seed changes int he way we learn about our bodies. Here in Germany at least there is a societal appreciation of the need for young children to move - but so quickly it becomes an impetus to ‘train’ the body rather than listen to it. Dance, yoga, body-based mindfulness, a simple morning circle where children are invited to ‘show‘ each other how they feel rather than tell, a sports lesson were we explore how a muscle feels when it is stretching appropriately and how to align the bones correctly… these are all simple ways we can start to change the system. However there is a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on here… how can adults who are uncomfortable in their own skin model this kind of body knowledge for the children they are with?
My Youngmovers classes back in Manchester were just as much for the parents as they were for the children … reminding and recalling that easy and comfortable relationship we once had with the floor, the softness that is waiting in our joints, the ability to fold and unfold, challenge and explore the new and allow the forces of weight and gravity to move through our bones and interact with earth and sky… the pleasure of moving our tissues through space, of cuddling, holding and touching the world and the people around us. I’m getting nostalgic just writing this down!
My work has moved earlier and earlier… babies and parents right now - the core of the classes is just the same, being comfortable in our bodies as adults and understanding how our babies learn and grow physical, intellectually and emotionally through using theirs. Relating to each other and understanding each other using the full resources of our body-mind. I believe that it enriches our parenting experience emotionally, spiritually and on a very practical level.
This year I’m moving further towards the source and offering a class for pregnant women.
Body Mind Birth. It has always been my intention to work with women in pregnancy as I feel the very real physical demands of pregnancy are the perfect impetus for many of us to start to think and deal with our bodies in a different way ( me most definitely included), it’s taken a while to come to fruition, partly due to my ability to work evenings, but with my youngest now 12 and happily building minecraft bases ( arghhh- cry of frustration ) after school I’m starting with a weekly session - watch this space for more information!
And to finish and come back tot he original theme of this somewhat long post.. here are some interesting movement based kids classes, venues and practitioners you may want to check out in Berlin -
Contact Improvisation is a wonderful way to work with parents and children. Heike is a lovely teacher, we did our IBMT diplomas together over 10 years ago, she speaks great English and Spanish and Portuguese! http://www.somatische-akademie.de/deutsch/kalender-2/uebersicht-kurse-2016/Contact-Improvisation-mit-Eltern-und-Kindern.html
places which have nice contemporary based dance classes for kids in general:
would also recommend Capoeira classes as a lovely way to engage boys in something that looks like a ‘dancing’ martial art but is in fact about cooperation and collaboration… cool and beautiful!