These questions and answers were drawn from articles and interviews with Sharon Promislow. © 1999 Sharon Promislow and Enhanced Learning & Integration Inc.

Q. What is stress exactly?
A. Stress is anything that makes us adapt or change (good or bad). Whether you win the lottery and have nothing but riches and travel, or if you are working at a job you hate and are struggling to pay the bills, both situations are causing stress. The good news is that we need stress in our lives to move forward. Our species was designed to push the envelope. That’s how kids develop their skills and build their brain circuitry. However, if there is too much stress, particularly negative stress, it will cause wear and tear. Because all stress goes into one pot, removing even one little stressor can help keep stress down to a reasonable level. It’s important to know how to successfully handle the rest.

Q. What is actually happening to our bodies when we are under stress?
A. The classic stress response is that blood goes from the from brain to the back survival centers of the brain and starts a whole adrenal reaction for our survival. Energy from digestion goes to the arms and legs for “fight” or “flight.” Muscles tense along the back and legs-the Tendon Guard Response. Cholesterol is manufactured for energy. Heartbeat and blood pressure increase to get more oxygen to the brain. Vision becomes peripheral and our blood clotting mechanism steps up. These physical responses are brilliant to help us survive in a crisis, but if the stress is ongoing, it puts us into overwhelm and can lead to dis-ease. If we are able to act, the stress hormones dissipate with little or no wear and tear on the body. When we are unable to act, the hormones continue to build until we go into overwhelm. When we are overwhelmed we also lose brain/body integration.

Q. What is brain/body integration and how do we lose it?
A. When we are functioning at our best, clear messages feed from all parts of the body to the brain and back again to the body in a loop. Sensory data is processed in an integrated fashion throughout the brain and intentional action is easy. Have you ever played with the mathematical concept of a moebus strip? Take a strip of paper, give it a half twist before you tape the ends together and you end up with a loop which has no beginning or end, with both sides flowing continuously from front to back. This is a good metaphor for the relationship of optimal brain/body functioning.

When we are under stress, energy for the brain areas of higher cortical reasoning can become blocked, communication between the left and right brain hemispheres can break down, and sensory organs can involuntarily “switch off.” We then revert to a dominant brain organization pattern geared for our survival, which cuts off access to our non-dominant brain and senses, leaving us disconnected. Many behavioral and learning problems such as blanking out during a test when you knew the answers five minutes beforehand, typify dis-integration. We are unable to do and think at the same time. In essence we “lose it.” Everything requires more effort, and stress levels increase further. We need to re-establish communication in order to integrate our brain/body system and perform optimally.


Q. When we “lose it” how do we “find it” again?
A. It has been my experience as a Specialized Kinesiologist working in both the educational and corporate communities, that the same techniques that help support the learning challenged child to focus and read, can be used to help us all perform and function better.

Blocks to our success are caused by interference to optimal brain/body communication or what I call “stuck circuit locks.” Making the Brain/Body Connection" teaches you how to recognize where these blocks are occurring, then gives you tools from Specialized Kinesiology to remove that interference. These skills will enable you to release the stuck mental, physical and emotional blocks that sabotage you from performing your best. At the very least, these tools can clearly pinpoint areas where specific additional professional support is needed.

Q. Why did you write Making The Brain/Body Connection?
A. Recent news stories have tantalized the public with research pointing to how increased brain/body activity underlies healthier aging, enhanced learning, memory and performance, but they haven’t given any specific direction as to how you can attain these benefits. I wanted people to learn in an easy, fun way, how the brain and body work, and to give simple activities to help them work better. Up to now, I’ve only been able to share this essential information in live presentations and with private clients. I felt it was vital to get it down on paper and make it accessible to everybody who is interested. This book underscores that you don’t need expensive equipment or classes to get yourself on the road to improvement.

Q. What makes this book different?
A. Making the Brain/Body Connection explains how stress impacts your ability to function, how to identify its effects on your emotions, learning and performance, and how to restore your mental, physical and emotional balance with simple techniques that work. As well as providing the HOW - a step by step process to help people unlock stuck stress circuits in their brain/body- the book explains WHY these simple techniques work so effectively, and gives you a way to decide WHICH ones are best for your situation. We’ve laid it out so the theory is there for those who want it, but people can immediately start working wherever they feel they need improvement, be it on concentration, vision, writing, body coordination or stress management.

Q. How do we acquire blocks to learning & success?
A. Current research suggests that memory does not just live in the brain: it lives in every cell of the body. Events in themselves are neutral . However, when we experience an event, we humans filter it through our own mental perceptions, then color it with our own meaning and emotion as part of our innate reaction. For example: you are walking down the street and a snarling dog lunges toward you. Gasp! You perceive danger. Your heart starts pounding and you experience fear. All the neural circuits firing at the time of the perception of danger — the exact position of your body, the muscles that were being used, the direction of your eyes and especially the emotions you felt and your reaction (freeze? run?) during that event become fused into a circuit of cellular memory. I term that a “stuck circuit lock.” It doesn’t matter if the dog stops short and licks your hand. From that moment on, each time you fire off any part of that circuit — use the same muscle sequence, look in the same direction, experience a similar event or feel the same emotion—you will fire off the whole sequence of reactions that was part of your survival response during that first instant you saw the dog lunge –– even if the initial event has long since been forgotten. Depending on the person involved, the key by-product may be (1) a mental block (a limiting belief –– “I don’t like dogs” or “animals are dirty”; (2) an emotional block (anxiety attack! –– “I HATE and FEAR... dogs, animals, walking down the sidewalk, sudden movement toward me”) or (3) a physical block (“Gosh, I have a.... headache, back ache, or leg cramp. Guess I can’t go for a walk today!”).

Q. You said that you provide a way to identify those non serving circuit locks?
A. Specialized Kinesiologists use muscle checking as a way to get a deep energetic body response. Another way is to develop the objective habit of Noticing. We think of Noticing as an information sandwich. Top slice: How are you currently functioning? Notice any pains, or tension? How are you seeing, hearing and feeling? Filling: Do one or more of the stress relieving activities in the book. Bottom slice: Go back once again to notice how you are functioning. Do you feel better, are you more effective, are things easier? You will not only notice the difference, you will be establishing powerful new habits of action, rather than reaction.

Q. So you are saying that our feelings, attitudes, wellness and behavior are all holistically tied into a “stuck circuit lock?”
A. You bet. And what makes this work different, is that by simply re-educating the brain/body’s reaction to stress, you can achieve breakthrough shifts in your learning, performance and attitude. You can achieve what appears to be “instant change.” It only seems from the outside to be an instant change. In actual fact, by re-educating those stuck circuits you are undoing a whole neurological response and creating new paths for future responses. Your body is making major shifts. This shifting of “stuck circuits” has a great application in the area of addictions and habit change.

Q. Why does it seem so hard to change? To quit smoking, or stick to a diet?
A. Interestingly, the actual chemical withdrawal to let’s say nicotine or sugar, is only a matter of days. The major part of successful habit changing lies in re-educating our life coping mechanisms, once we remove the old habit.

On the simplest level it can be a matter of self sabotage, where one or both of your brain hemispheres don’t agree with your goal, or your body muscles and sensory circuits start shutting down as a result of your change in habit. That’s why re-educating these stuck inappropriate circuit locks to integrate the whole body/brain can make such a difference to the ease with which we can move toward and accomplish our goals. We then must also deal with the life stressors which in the past triggered our non-serving behaviors. You must have a willingness to deal with these non-serving behaviors as they crop up and cause body reactions, but it is infinitely easier re-educating these reactions than simply trying to handle it exclusively by force of will. I think of it as getting the body and senses to come along for the ride, with our conscious intent.

Q. How does movement impact better brain function?
A. As my book explores in much more detail, body movement stimulates the “feel good” chemical messengers of our system. Endorphins are the natural opiate manufactured by the body, and production is stimulated by movement, as the famous runner’s “high” confirms. One side of the body is controlled by the opposite brain hemisphere, so when you move and opposite arm and leg, you are stimulating better neural pathways between your two brain hemispheres, which are like the super highways for better brain associations. The more interconnections you have, the smarter you are.

Q. How does this affect Attention Deficit Disorder and learning?
A. Slow cross-lateral movement stimulates the manufacture of dopamine in the frontal lobe of the brain (affecting our ability to see patterns and to learn faster), in the limbic area (controlling our emotions) and in the basal ganglion (intentional movement). This is one of the neurotransmitters for which millions of children, diagnosed as ADD or ADHD, take Ritalin to Balance. The educational implications are staggering. We can use targeted body movement and natural process to help enhance the manufacture, balance and transportation of informational substances (and the flow of subtle balanced energy) in the body. Nutrition, junk food and sugar also undermine the children's biochemistry, and are important to look at as well. But yes these processes are very effective with ADD.

Q. Are you saying that these processes can affect Attention Deficit Disorder and learning?
A. The educational implications are staggering. We can use targeted body movement and natural process to help enhance the manufacture, balance and transportation of informational substances (and the flow of subtle balanced energy) in the body. Nutrition, junk food and sugar also undermine children’s biochemistry, and are important to look at as well. But yes these processes are very effective with ADD. Movement is very important to learning.


Q. So you’re saying movement is a key to learning?
A. Yes. A growing brain actually needs it to develop. It is a bit scary to see the badly beleaguered educational system cutting back on phys-ed, music and art programs which are actually instrumental in building up the hardware for better brains in young children. Good teachers have always known we learn better when we have stimulated our multiple intelligences, which include music, movement, drawing, inter and intra personal skills as well as verbal and logical skills, as we have more hooks into long term memory. The newest brain research supports this, and is also showing that even the most focused person should concentrate only as many minutes as we are years old, up to a maximum of 20 minutes. Then take a break. It can be as simple as stretching, having a snack, or doing one of the brain/body integrators in my book. Another key principle of Brain Based Learning is simple: I can either have your attention, or you can be learning. The learning only happens when you internalize new information into the context of what you already know, and is done through feeding back the information, written or verbally, or through physical movement.

Q. Earlier you mentioned a dominant brain organization pattern. What does that mean?
A. Most of us are aware of being either right handed or left handed. But did you realize that we also have a dominant foot, eye, ear and brain hemisphere? When we are under stress we revert to a very individual “default” setting, or what Brain Gym¨ calls our Personal Brain Organization Profile. It explains why, under stress we keep on perceiving and reacting in a preset way. We can learn how to access our whole brain/body for optimum functioning, even under stressful situations.

Q. Are there any techniques you could describe here that people could use at home?
A. Absolutely! A great technique that will benefit everyone is called Cross Patterning. As mentioned, if you move an opposite arm and leg, you are “firing up” both brain hemispheres. Educators have long used cross march (or crawl) for this stimulation. If we do this deliberately and slowly, we are stimulating better neural netting between the two brain hemispheres. After we do that 6 or 7 times, we move on to the second part- a same side arm and leg movement, imagine you are a puppet on a string, left arm an leg up and down. Then right arm and leg up and down at the same time. By doing this we are shifting to a more one sided processing, like a computer parallel processes. After 6 or 7 sets we shift back to cross marching-opposite arm and leg. This not only helps coordination, but helps the brain share information between the detail and whole picture brain hemispheres, helping comprehension. This supports myelination in the brain to assure you never get locked into one thinking pattern. This technique can also be used as you memorize data. It helps integrate language into the whole body/brain for deeper layering of information.

Q What drew you to this work?
A. I have a son with a learning disability, and was lucky enough to be introduced to Specialized Kinesiology as a tool which proved of great benefit to him. I was tremendously stressed personally at the time and as a by-product, I discovered the incredible power these simple techniques had to help me handle my own life, to get me feeling better, focused and calm.. That’s what’ s great about Specialized Kinesiology: it helps level the playing field for those who are under stress and performing below par. It also enables high performers to get even better!

Q. What is Specialized Kinesiology?
A. Specialized Kinesiology is a field that looks at how mental, physical and emotional factors can affect muscles, movement and posture and vice versa. Unlike the medical model which responds to symptoms, we choose instead to concentrate exclusively on restoring natural energy flow and movement to the body, releasing the classic stress response. Specialized Kinesiologists use muscle checking as a low tech stress/no stress biofeedback from the brain and central nervous system. It is not used to measure the strength of a muscle itself, but rather to evaluate the organization of the nervous system controlling the muscle’s function. We use that information to pinpoint areas that need improvement, or to confirm that improvements were made.

Q. If I want to know more, what should I do?

A. In the reference section of Making the Brain /Body Connection or in our Specialized Kinesiology resource directory, I have provided a description and contacts for all the major entry level branches of Specialized Kinesiology. There are practitioners and instructors for Educational Kinesiology (Brain Gym), Touch For Health, Three in One Concepts, as well as a number of more therapeutic models world wide. All the addresses, phone numbers and web pages are there so people can seek out more information. For those interested in learning more about the services that Enhanced Learning & Integration provides, check out our workshops page and facilitator program to explore further training.


More on Stress:

Q. What do you mean by our pot of stress?
A. When you ask people what is stressful to them, most people say jobs, kids, spouses, relationships, money, time, fear etc. What we have to get people to realize is that stress is a pot - containing all stressors: Emotional: how we feel about what is happening in our lives, relationships, time, money etc; Biochemical: quality of food and water etc.; Environmental: lighting, pollution etc; Behavioral: sleep patterns, procrastination, lack of time management & organizational skills etc; Physical: injuries that cause the body to compensate, inappropriate exercise (too much or too little), poor posture etc. It's all one pot, so any little stressor you can get rid makes the whole load lighter. Also, remember that your symptom doesn't always reflect the area of stress that is actually causing the problem. A kick in the pants may cause a headache, and emotional stressor may cause a stomach ache.

Q. So anything and everything that affects us can be considered stress, but the key is if it pushes our individual buttons?
A. That's right. One man's meat is another man's poison. One person is terrified of heights, and other sky dives for recreation. Both experience an adrenaline rush, but for one it is painful, the other a pleasure. The difference is to learn not to trigger the classic stress response that debilitates the mind and body. And if we were to trigger a response, to know the appropriate energy switches that can reset our body. We can easily master the ways to make sure our body doesn't react to the triggers that blew us into the stress response in the past with a few simple energy switches.

Q. How can we learn how our own body reacts to stress?
A. Specialized Kinesiologists use Muscle Checking as a wonderful low tech. stress/no stress biofeedback from the brain and central nervous system. With muscle checking we place a muscle into isolation, and stress test it to see if it is firing properly. It can take years of training to be able to muscle check properly. Without the specialized training though, anyone can learn to notice objectively how their body is acting and reacting. This can become as effective a tool as the muscle checking because it empowers the individual to be more aware of both themselves and how they respond to the world around them. We use noticing as a tool to interpret the physical by-products of the classic stress response. Then we do activities to re-educate the body's response to these stresses, and finally notice how much better we feel - physically (pain is gone, eyes are focused); - mentally (head is cleared); and - emotionally (more happy, less angry, sad etc).

Noticing is an instant objective insight into how we are responding and interacting with our world. It gives us a chance to catch ourselves before we downward spiral into complete dysfunction. It allows us to return to optimal functioning, nipping the problem in the bud.

Q. How can we start to manage our stress?
A. It's easy. Write down 3 words, Remove...Reduce... and Re-educate. Those three words will help you lift off loads of stress. On the same page write down all the things that cause you stress of any kind. Small things, large things, medium ones, stressors of every kind, in any order. Next, choose: what two stressors can you remove from your life? It can be a relationship with a person who is an emotional vampire, it could be coffee, or sugar, or late nights. Then go on to choose two stressors that you are willing to reduce, and two stressors that you want to re-educate your body response to, so that you can keep the stressor without it causing wear and tear on your system. Keep this concept in mind and review your list over time or as you feel stress building up in your life.

Q. What can we do to reduce the wear and tear stress puts on our system?
A. Making the Brain/Body Connection is filled with specific activities to help re-educate our body's knee jerk reaction to stress. One of the simplest stress releasers and brain integrator is to drink water. We need to be properly hydrated to conduct the electrical messages from the brain to the body. Water heightens energy, concentration and mental and physical coordination. 100 to 1000 times more oxygen binds to the hemoglobin, so your lungs & heart don't have to work so hard. If you have no medical limitation, doctors recommend we drink at least 5 to 8 glasses a day, and more if you are physically active.


More on Energy:

Q. You say there are simple energy switches that can make a noticeable difference - easily?
A. Yes! The “buttons and switches” taught in Making The Brain/Body Connection all work to release stuck circuit locks in the brain/body. Some of the key methods are drawn from the Touch for Health synthesis. These are spots you can rub, hold or trace to shift from where you are to a healthier body state where energy is free-flowing and not blocked. All the techniques access and work by balancing the subtle energy systems and also affect the physical systems of the body.

Once we identify the stuck circuit locks (both obvious and subtle) that underlie our blocks to learning and success, we use energy switches and gentle process to unlock the frozen emotion, perception and physical reaction to the original event. Not until we consciously learn to objectively identify our stress reactions and re-educate our neural response to the original stimuli, are we free to experience better solutions and actions.

Q. So you are saying this is tied into a holistic model?
A. It’s pretty widespread knowledge now that the body we live in, the way we think, how we feel, and how we act, are all part of the same package. What we are looking at is the complete and holistic fusion of physical body, mental perception and emotional feeling, which in turn drives our behavior. Change any one of these components, no matter how little, and our whole state by necessity transforms, allowing us new possibilities of behavior. Conversely, changing the behavior can also change the other components. That is how seemingly miraculous shifts in learning, functioning and feeling take place with a seemingly simple intervention. That is why kinesiology works.

More on Emotions:

Q. Since most of us think of emotional stressors, what can we do to ease our emotional distress?
A. The simplest way is to re-educate our bodies NOT to do the classic stress response, is to take our hand or hands and gently hold them over our forehead as we think through our stressful situation. There is enough warmth and electromagnetic energy in our hand to keep blood and warmth in our front cerebral cortex where our clearest thinking and creative processing is done. When we can access this part of the brain we can act without being controlled by emotion. People hold their forehead instinctively: the Oh no! response. This Emotional Stress Release activity stops the whole stress response in its tracks: blood doesn't stay back-brained, and all the physical stress reactions dissipate with no harm. So hold your forehead as you think over your stressful situation, and pre-rehearse the successful outcomes you would like to create. Run it like a movie in your head, and see it in detail, both to relieve your stress over past experiences, and to create the best case scenario.

Research has shown through CAT scans and PET scans that what we experience and what we imagine have literally the same effect on brain function, so we can literally reprogram our brain to expect an easeful time. Hold your forehead until you feel calm and relaxed, complete that list or task, or your mind starts to wander to other topics. Anytime you feel anxious, worried, or tense, get that hand on your forehead to stay front brained.

Q. Research has shown that light has a lot to do with mood as well, and SAD- Seasonal Adaptive Disorder.
A. Getting good quality full spectrum lighting can totally affect mood and productivity. particularly during the dark winter doldrums. Full spectrum lighting reproduces the wave lengths of the sun, and supports our body vitality, rather than stressing it as fluorescent does. So it pays to spend more on full spectrum bulbs in the office. Obviously, natural lighting is best, if you’re lucky enough to have access to it, otherwise choose incandescent lighting, if you can.


More on Physical Issues:

Q. We noticed that our eyes and ears are turning off and on as we react to stress. What can we do about that?
A. This is a very complex question. We mentioned stuck circuit locks, which affect our sensory integration and our Personal Brain Dominance Profile, which indicates our un-integrated default setting. A quick ‘hello’ is to our hearing is to rub our ears. There are hundreds of acupressure points on them, so its a real pick me up for our whole system. I teach many wonderful techniques for hearing and seeing, because issues of learning and memory are also involved. For the eyes, rubbing above the first turn of the skull. in the suture just above the occipital protuberance. These points, called ‘eye points’, stimulate the primary visual cortex.

Q. Breathing plays an important part in handling stress effectively. Are there any easy tricks here?
A. Yes there is. The lower third of the lungs has most of the ability to take oxygen into the blood, and when we are stressed, we tend to stop breathing or breathe shallow. Therefore take a breath deep into your diaphragm, and deliberately suck another intake on top of it. Then slowly breathe out and repeat. Deliberate, deep breathing is important for proper oxygenation. Learn to breathe deep into the diaphragm on a regular basis.

Q. How do we get better?
A. Although we categorize electromagnetic, emotional, motor and sensory balancers, the reality is you may improve your eyes using electromagnetic balancers; you may improve your emotional state by changes in physical posture and nutrition; you may improve your digestion by rubbing your ears, etc. Any switch can be the key release point of an energy blockage, the release of which reinstates normal flow and higher functioning to the whole system, even seemingly unrelated areas.

The whole growing field of Specialized Kinesiology reflects a paradigm shift in people's willingness to listen to what their bodies have to say, and to take self responsibility for positive change. For those with problems of a deeper nature a personal session with a qualified Specialized Kinesiologist can be very helpful. The Canadian Association of Specialized Kinesiology can help guide you to an instructor or practitioner in your area.


If you have a question of your own that you would like posted or answered, we would be delighted to hear from you. Simply click on the e=mail symbol. See our Quick Tips page for more self care information.


Quote of the day: " Stress equals diminished awareness. We humans make the big mistake of believing we're in conscious control simply because we're still conscious. Not so: Under stress we're into knee-jerk duplication of learned re-actions based on negative emotion. Under stress our limitations increase drastically...The worst way to handle stressors is to deny they exist." -Gordon Stokes/Daniel Whiteside,