Let’s ACE It with Yoga!
Fundamentally, learning requires acquisition of new information. Our brains, the most complex part of the human body, are prepared to learn from the moment we were born. The brain requires numerous stimulations for effective learning which leads to the strengthening of long term learning abilities. Our natural inquisition that derives from our curiosity of the unusual in our surroundings is one of the driving forces of our passion for learning. And the integration of our senses reinforces these learning processes.
Let’s see how the brain develops and what happens when the brain ‘learns’
All parts of our body consist of cells, including brain. Brain cells are called neurons. The brain starts forming about three weeks after conception and by the time of birth it would have developed at least 100 billion neurons. During the first years of life, the brains of infants and toddlers undergo a magnitude of changes that can affect their learning capacity in the future. How? When we perform activities such as talking, listening, and other practices, dendrites grow out of the neurons. Like braches of a tree that grow from the trunk, dendrites can continue to grow only from a dendrite that is already there (this means that it is from something that we know prior – no branches without the tree trunk!).
New dendrites take time to grow – more accurately, it takes a lot of practice for them to grow. A contact point is formed when two dendrites grow close together and messages can be effectively transmitted across the small gaps (at the contact point) of two dendrites called the synapse. As we continue to learn, a more complex network is created. It is noted that synapses can change in number by the minute and there are strong and weak synapses. Through learning, the weak synapses will become stronger.
When we practise something the dendrites grow thicker with a fatty coating. Like a well-paved highway, thicker dendrites result in faster signals connections. The coating also helps to reduce interference. With enough practice the dendrites build a double connection resulting in faster, stronger and long lasting connections. Certainly, before the practise even begins, the new skill has to be first taught in order to build the foundation dendrites for a new topic or skill. Without these, they do not have the basis from which to grow, where they later connect and construct the dendrites for extended levels of skill and knowledge. Practise and repetition is essential. If we learn something new and do it only once or twice, the dendrite connection is very fragile and can ‘disappear’ within hours.
Now, about learning….
Often, the meaning of learning is misunderstood. Learning does not mean cramping facts and formulas and to extract them during examinations as proof of comprehension. Certainly, examinations are good methods of evaluating our understanding on the subject matter but the foundation to learning is most important.
Our brains are programmed to focus on new and unusual inputs – we, especially children, learn best when we are presented with ‘challenges’. A healthy brain yearns to learn and children learn best when they are exposed to diversified ideas, experiences and materials, and the learning process is heightened when several senses are engaged. In short, the whole learning process will be greatly enhanced when the whole body is integrated and engaged in the process – the limbs, the brains, the senses, the emotion, etc.
…And ACE-ing it!
In the Super Yoga Kids’ ACE programme, we strive to Ace it. Not acing the grades, but acing the learning process, making it enjoyable and long lasting. ACE stands to Accelerate learning abilities, Cultivate brain powers, and Enhance memory and concentration capacity.
The ACE programme prepares the whole body, mind and emotion for a wholesome and long lasting learning experience by utilising and incorporating the various functions of the body to enhance learning. It’s a fusion of the ancient techniques of Yoga with modern additions. Primarily, the programme features:
The ACE programme is a specialised extension programme born of the seven-year running Super Yoga Kids classes and is scheduled to commence in January 2015. Classes will be available for children aged 4 – 12 and are scheduled at Brickfields, Bangsar, Damansara Utama and Selayang Utama.
This article was featured in YogaMail Oct-Dec 2014 issue.