Join me at the Educational Kinesiology Conference in Fort Collins, CO on Sunday, July 27 (or hang out with me for the whole conference!) I’ll be teaching a workshop on reflex integration: From Fight, Flight, Freeze! to Breathe, Smile, Move!
Here’s the beginning of a new reflex integration rap, using animals to suggest the movement ideas. I’ll go through a variety of verses in these next few posts, correlating the integrative movements with the animals who perform them.
The actions are right there in the lyrics! But if you prefer, you can just do the chorus, and then call out the animals and model the actions with the children. Correlating the movement with the animal – and the reflex - is the important part.
Wave to the Animals
Chorus: Wave to the sky, wave to the ground,
Wave to the animals all around.
The Reflex. The “wave” is for visual stress, stimulating the Fear Paralysis Reflex. Fear Paralysis first shows up at 5-8 weeks in utero as a “freeze” response, when the fetus experiences something traumatic enough for it to stop moving. But we can freeze in this reflexive function at any time in our lives. A math test, bad news, a piano recital, an angry parent or spouse . . . Think of a little fawn hiding in the brush, not even breathing, so that the mountain lion doesn’t know it’s there. Fear Paralysis about surviving by pretending not to be alive.
I like to begin with this reflex, because it is usually underlying just about every other movement. You can see it in every child who is afraid to come into the classroom, or afraid to participate in any context. The eyes are a good place to look for this freeze response; they will not meet your gaze. Whenever a child is not taking in information, no matter how carefully you explain it, Fear Paralysis is involved.
By waving “to the sky” and “the ground” (vertical tracking) and “to the animals all around” (horizontal tracking}, we are causing the eyes to see the slightly disturbing wave, and to integrate it throughout the brain.
Eye movement is a wonderful tool. As they eyes move, they “light up” the opposite part of the brain. One big problem with devices is that, because the eyes move so little, the brain gets over-activated in one small area and other areas remain dormant.
Looking up and down (vertical tracking) is a centering and grounding activity. Looking side to side (horizontal tracking) helps the two sides of the brain communicate with one another. So in this deceptively little chorus, we are activating Fear Paralysis, and then integrating it with eye and hand movements. And with a story. Because the animals pique our interest. Curiosity releases fear. Who are are these animals? And what are they doing? Let’s find out!
Gorilla takes two hands
And taps on his chest.
(Open mouth and fast exhale)
Huh! Huh! Huh! Huh!
Huh! Huh! Huh! Huh!
The Reflex. Fear Paralysis integrates into the Moro Reflex at 9 -12 weeks in utero, bridging the first and second trimesters. Where Fear Paralysis is a freeze! response, the Moro is fight or flight! One aspect of the Moro is when the hands fly up. The gorilla uses the two hands, symmetrically, and taps on his chest, thumping the thymus gland. This relieves stress, both in gorillas and people.
Moro is also the way we get our first breath. The head drops out of the birth canal, the chest expands, the hands fly out and the air rushes in. The fast breathing of the gorilla (“Huh! Huh!) expels that air and releases the Moro.
Where Fear Paraylsis is the frozen child, Moro is the over-reactive child. Moro is the child who can’t stop running, or knocking into things (and people), who can’t stop long enough to listen, who seems to repel calm. The “gorilla” actions serve to bring this hysteria down to a point of calm.
Moro also includes the legs and feet, for running away, and you can include this activity, too! Releasing the calf muscles, which tighten up for running away, can tell the brain that the danger is over and it’s safe to calm down. So as you’re tapping on your chest and expelling air, you can also jump around the room. Or alternate these motions, if it is too complicated to do them all at the same time.
Next verse coming: integration with monkeys and ducks.