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Cross Crawl Anyone?

Want to Sync the 2 Hemispheres of Your Brain?

Neuroscience Says to Do This Daily (It Only Takes 4 Minutes)

By Melanie CurtinWriter, activist@melaniebcurtin

from (

You know those moments when everything just flows? You're in the conference room brainstorming with your team and you can just feel the energy, the cohesion. Or you're writing your book and it's just pouring out of you, the words an effortless stream of brilliance. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have more of those moments in 2020?

Imagine there was something you could do daily that would simultaneously:

• Build your core strength

• Release stress and tension

• Enhance whole-brain thinking (get your left and right hemispheres to work together)

• Calm your mind

• Energize your body

Now imagine it only took a few minutes to do, and you could do it anywhere.

There is. It's called the cross-crawl, and it's for real.

Neuroscientists have long known that cross-body movements help the left and right hemispheres of your brain to connect and coordinate. This is important because the more your hemispheres connect, the more optimally you perform on any given task.

The cross-crawl is simply a form of cross-lateral body movements--movements where you use opposition, like crawling, walking, or swimming. The magic comes from using opposite sides of the body to work together (i.e. coordinating the right arm and left leg, then left arm and right leg).

Performing the cross-crawl strengthens the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of your brain, which allows electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two. This helps with not only physical coordination, but thinking-based activities like learning a language, reading, and focusing.

According to neurophysiologist Dr. Carla Hannaford, "Cross-lateral movements, like a baby's crawling, activate both hemispheres [of the brain] in a balanced way ... When both eyes, both ears, both hands and feet are being used equally, the corpus callosum orchestrating these processes between the two hemispheres becomes more highly developed."

This can have a major impact.

In her book, Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, Dr. Hannaford tells the story of Todd, a 16-year-old who, despite tremendous effort on the part of both himself and his parents, still couldn't read.

This was, as you might imagine, a huge problem. He wouldn't be able to graduate from high school if he couldn't read. He wouldn't be able to attend college or hold any number of jobs. His life would be, in many ways, compromised.

Fortunately, he and his parents were told about cross-lateral movements. The whole family started doing the cross-crawl with Todd, daily. They did it twice--once in the morning, before leaving for school (and work); and once in the evening, before bed.

Six weeks later, Todd was reading. At grade level. 

We tend to think about our physical bodies and mental capacity as two completely separate entities. But they're not; they're intimately linked. Our biology is our life. Our life is our biology. And by changing one, we can change the other.

According to Dr. Hannaford, the reason the transformation was so quick for Todd was that he, in fact, already had everything he needed in his brain--the two hemispheres just weren't communicating. By doing the cross-crawl, he stimulated the corpus callosum, linked the two hemispheres, and got them connected.

As an adult, you can use the cross-crawl for a number of different things. Because it's both calming and energizing, you can use it to both discharge energy (as in, after a stressful meeting); or recharge your energy (before a big presentation). 

It's one of the quickest and easiest ways to stimulate your brain development and stabilize your nervous system. Basically, whenever you do it, you're reintegrating your brain and nervous system; it's like a little reboot for your bodymind.

So how do you do this magical exercise? 

An easy way is to do a sort of elaborate march. You stand with your feet apart and arms all the way out (parallel to the ground). Shift your weight to your left foot, lift your right knee and touch it with your left hand. Go back to both feet and immediately shift to the other side. Repeat in an upbeat, rhythmic way--you can even do it to music. Breathe fully. (A simple video if you'd rather see it.)

Do this for 1-2 minutes at a time (or ~30 reps), but not so long that you fully tire out your muscles. You're not looking for full muscle fatigue, just stimulation.

For those interested in more cross-lateral movements for kids (especially for those who struggle with focus issues), there are several more here.(

As an adult in the modern world, you are daily bombarded by a multiplicity of stimuli. Coworkers ping you on Slack while you get texts about your friend's upcoming birthday dinner (for which you still need a gift), plus Venmo notifications for ramen last night and an email about whether you want to split a hotel room for that conference next month. 

You need reliable, easy, and effective strategies for not only managing stress, but reliably getting to peak performance. You need to be able to turn it on when you need to turn it on.

Heading into an important meeting? Do the cross-crawl. 

Frustrated with a project or coworker? Do the cross-crawl.

Stuck on that one part of the deck that just doesn't seem to be coming together? Do the cross-crawl.

Doing the cross-crawl throughout the day is one of the best self-care activities and leadership exercises you can do. It's free, easy, and fast. Build it into your daily schedule. Teach it to your staff. Better yet, do it with your staff.

Then get ready for fireworks.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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