What is brain integration?
In order to understand the benefits of Cross Crawl you first need to understand more about the brain. The main part of the brain is the cerebrum and is divided into two parts which are connected by a bridge of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum. This allows the two parts of the brain to communicate with each other. Each side of the brain is associated with different functions. The left side is associated with the spoken and written language, numerical and scientific skills and general reasoning skills. The right side is associated with music and art, spatial awareness and imagination.
Movement on one side of the body is controlled by the opposite side of the brain. This means that movement on the right side is controlled by the left brain and movement on the left side is controlled by the right brain. When there is movement on both sides of the body simultaneously, both sides of the brain work at the same time. This integration of both sides of the brain helps to open up new nerve pathways in the brain and is fundamental to good comprehension and communication.
The movement of the eyes is also important. They are considered to be an indicator of the brain's processing and this fact is used in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Looking up and to the left tends to relate to logical left brained thought processes, which is associated with remembering facts and figures.
Looking down and to the right tends to relate to creative right brained processing, such as remembering a pleasant holiday or picture.
When the eyes move with body motion, different memories may be triggered. If these are unpleasant, certain areas of the brain may not be activated properly. The movement of the eyes could then interfere with physical balance and brain integration. Exercises that help physical co-ordination will also have a positive effect on the eye movements and hence brain function.
What is Cross Crawl?
One of the main techniques used is called cross-crawl and is based on the original concept of integrating the two sides of the brain through co-ordinated movement.
When a child is born its first movement is unilateral, that is, it moves in a wave like motion. Gradually the baby gains control over its muscles and begins to crawl. To start with this tends to be unilateral as the arms and legs on the same side of the body move together. As the child becomes more competent, opposite arms and legs move together.
If a child misses this stage in its physical development from non-movement to walking, then the brain misses the development of essential co-ordination. This can lead to future dyslexia or other communication problems. It can be made worse by the use of baby walkers, as the child misses the vital crawling stage. Hence cross-crawl is one of the fundamental brain exercises.
Cross crawl involves 'crawling' in a standing position, crossing the right hand to left knee and left hand to right knee. It can be made more interesting by varying the position of arms and legs, to the sides, behind, and across the body. This also has the advantage of activating more areas of the brain.
The benefits are increased if eye positions are also incorporated. When these exercises are done to music it becomes a really fun activity for children to do.
How can Cross Crawl help?
When I teach my mixed therapy course as an evening class, I include cross crawl in the Kinesiology session. There are 2 stories I would like to recount to show how powerful this simple technique is.
On one occasion, I demonstrated X-crawl to the class and then encouraged everyone to join in. Not having a copy of 'Knees up mother Brown' I use a Status Quo song which has the same beat. Not to everyone's taste, but it serves its' purpose!
In the class was a rather large man who found it difficult to join in, even without the music. I found out later that he was diabetic. I suggested to the students that they continue practising X-crawl, especially if they found it difficult.
At the end of the 15 week course, the man told me that he had followed my suggestion and had continued practising every day. Now he could do it for 2 minutes and felt a lot better. But to my surprise, he had also managed to reduce his insulin levels!
In the second case, one of the class was an elderly lady who had had a stroke 2 years previously. It had affected her right side and prevented her from sleeping properly.
The previous week we had discussed the use of Bach flowers. So I suggested that she tried X-crawl while holding the Rescue Remedy in her mouth. That lesson she found it very difficult to differentiate between unilateral and cross lateral movements and was quite awkward.
Next week she reported that her husband had helped her by putting her hands on the opposite knees for her. She was so pleased because for the first time, she had slept properly. By the end of the course, she was able to do the X-crawl by herself and was more stable generally. She felt so confident that, with her husband help, she had started to practise X-crawl behind as well.
There are many ways in which to do cross crawl in your every day life. Walking with your arms swinging naturally beside you is the most obvious but many people walk with so many things in their hands that their arms do not swing.
Another great way to 'cross crawl' is to dance. I really enjoy Scottish Country Dancing. Before dances we warm up with a whole series of Cross crawl exercises so that our brains are ready to tackle the complex moves involved.
I also teach Tai Chi, which again uses both sides of the brain to perform a moving meditation sequence.
The list is endless and beneficial
I hope this will remind us all to KISS - it really can work.