Turning On The Light - Learning & Gravity

Learning and Gravity Print Version
stress gravity balance
A Story of Hope Unlocking our Full Potential

by Beverly Hunter

From five months after conception to the moment you die, your ability to understand and learn is linked to how you are relating to gravity.

Our very first sensory system to fully develop is the Vestibular system - which controls the sense of movement and balance. There are several small organs involved in vestibular sensation and from them we gather information about the head's position relative to the ground. These are the most sensitive of all the sense organs and they lie in the Mastoid Bone (the lump behind the ear lobe) and are part of the inner ear. As we take in information through these specific organs in the inner ear, it goes to the brain. Then the brain monitors and makes corrective adjustments to our different muscles by telling them when to tighten and when to relax and very importantly, it tells our eye muscles how to move so we look in the right direction. All this happens instantly and automatically so we don't loose our balance or equilibrium.

This connection between the vestibular system , the brain, the eyes and core muscles is very important to the process of learning. As babies, we move our limbs, head, eyes in the direction of sounds. Then we reach, grab, crawl, walk and run; we roll down hills and spend long periods of time on merry-go-rounds and swings. The sensations of gravity and body movement form a basic reference for all of our sensory experience, and this is reflected in our neurological pathways.

Sensory Integration is one of the most fundamental organizing principles both of our experience and of our brain. It allows us to piece together all the different bits of information that we perceive, and to make sense of it. The smell of an orange, the orange colour, the rough feel of orange peel, the squishy sounds it makes as we peel it and the taste of it, are all automatically combined into our experience of a single orange. Without sensory integration, we might not make the connection between the orange that we see and the orange that we smell, taste, or touch. Our experience would be an unorganized chaos of countless separate sensations.

Research has shown that children who have difficulties coordinating movements on both sides of the body (bilateral integration) often show problems with integration of their vestibular system and their body√s internal sensory receptors, as well as with sequencing. Balance is a bilateral sense - Just as we have two eyes for seeing and two ears for hearing, we have two vestibular organs for sensing gravity. In order to maintain our balance, we need to coordinate input from both vestibular organs at the same time.

At Turning on the Light Learning Centre we use a tool called a Balance Board. Maintaining equilibrium while standing on the Balance Board trains coordination of the two hemispheres. It is impossible to stand still on the Balance Board using only one hemisphere at a time. Movement and vision exercises requiring the equal cooperation of both sides of the body are enhanced when practiced on the board. Various balance board activities are used to develop rhythm, sequencing, motor coordination, visual and auditory processing. They can release emotional stress and trauma; and they can create shifts in behaviour that enhance self-esteem.

I'd like to share a story about my older son who is a natural athlete. His sense of balance and coordination is unbelievable. We asked him to stand on the board perfectly still with his eyes open for one minute. This he did without any problems. Then we asked him to stand with his eyes closed and very much to our surprise, he fell off within 10 seconds. He then worked on various balance board activities, including the eyes-closed exercise and quickly added this unknown skill to his repertoire. The most wonderful, intriguing outcome of this new skill was that he learned to fall asleep at night! Ever since babyhood, he had trouble falling asleep. I can remember lying down with him and I would peek my eye open to see if he was asleep. His eyes were wide open! I would tell him to just close his eyes and he would fall asleep. His reply: "I do mom! But they keep popping open." Since the balance board exercises, he is asleep within minutes. The problem had been that this child did not have a sense of where he was and did not feel safe with his eyes closed.

Balance board training is built on the principle of adaptive learning. It starts with the challenge of balancing on an unstable surface: if you don't balance, you fall off. As each level of challenge is mastered, more activities are added: visually tracking a pendulum ball, passing a stick behind the back, throwing and catching two koosh balls with both hands. Visual challenges lead to visual brain organization. Movement challenges lead to motor brain organization Bilateral challenges lead to better bilateral brain organization. A session of activities on the Balance Board leaves the brain in a more organized state. The balance board can be used for learning any new skill, from studying a new language to learning timetables. Studying while standing on the balance board increases the coordination of both sides of the brain to work together with processing, filing and storing. The more senses that are added to the learning process the more the brain is used. I personally use it when I am reading new material because I learn it faster and retain it longer. If someone in the family is stuck in a bad mood, the balance board helps to balance out their feelings.

How are you relating to gravity? Are you connecting with it? Fighting it? Working with gravity and using it to our advantage in learning situations is a gift , which leads to a sense of balance and integration. The more integrated we become the more we connect with our true nature and feel that inner direction.

Learning and Gravity ! What a wonderful discovery !


1. Hannaford, Carla. Smart Moves. Great Oceans Publisher. 1995
2. Reycraft, Eva & Associates. Training Manual