You may think, “I already have one good hand. Why need another?” Having an extra good hand on a rainy day sounds like a nice perk, but the benefits of practicing mirror movement development (MMD) are much, much greater than that.
MMD grows your brain and aligns your body, increasing your physical and mental capabilities. Simply put, blood flows to the other side of your brain when you practice MMD. This blood flow carries oxygen, which causes brain growth, namely of neurons, synapses, and the fibrous communication ‘bridge’ between the two hemispheres, known as the corpus callosum.
Two great books for individual case studies on practitioners of MMD (referred to by the authors as ambidexterity) are Whole Brain Power, by Michael J. Lavery, and Creative Brain Training, by Diego Irigoyen (a student of Michael J. Lavery). Lavery has over 25 years experience working with people to develop their non-dominant side. The areas of improvement associated with their practitioners (as well as myself) include:
- Weight loss
- Reaction Time
- Spatial Awareness
- Memory Recollection
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- New Movement Ability
- High-Precision Balance
- Neuro- and Synaptogenesis
- Athletic, Musical, and Fine Motor Skills
- Creativity in Art and Concept Development
- Prevention/Onset Delay of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Endosteroidogenesis (Natural, Internal Creation of Steroids)
Let’s dive into some of my favorites…
Memories are stored differently between the two brain hemispheres. Since MMD engages both hemispheres, your ability to recall memory increases. You’re still far from perfect as an MMD practitioner, but it’s wild experiencing an increase in ability to recall names, alphanumeric patterns, dates, details, etc.
When you make habit of choosing your non-dominant side in all activities, your ability to react increases since you now have two sides from which you can meet a situation. A great example is if you need to catch something unexpectedly. The average, unidextrous person needs to figure out how to get either their dominant hand there in time to catch the falling object or risk trying to catch it with their non-dominant hand (if that’s the closer hand). But, if you have two trained hands to choose from, you can react with less effort. I describe it as, “You kinda get there before you get there,” like a Marvel Comics sort of ‘Spider-sense.’
Da Vinci’s spatial awareness is, perhaps, his most defining characteristic; best seen in his art, engineering, musings, and sketches. If you can better understand the movement of your body, you can better understand your body’s relationship to the space around it.
MMD has caused me to fall more in love with symmetry, as seen in my street chalk art. I also started doing lots of normal things differently. For example, when peeling oranges, I now love shaping them into stars, zig zags, and spirals. When playing the block tower game, Jenga, I love making symmetric ‘X’s’ all the way up. I also now love walking backwards, frontpacking (opposite of backpacking), ping pong dancing, and doing handstand/monkey bar inversions.
Developing equal, mirrored movements of your appendages, on both a micro (e.g., handwriting) and macro (e.g., throwing/kicking) scale, fine-tunes the mechanics of your body, aligning everything toward the center of your spine. This produces uncanny, physical balance.
The greatest I’ve experienced this is with urban rail walking (URW). I never thought of walking down handrails until 35 years-old. To date, I’ve since learned walking rails backwards, over gaps, and with 360 spins. I encourage URW to only be done on round rails. Round-rail URW is the most symmetric activity I know. It equally exercises, in a high-precision way, both sides of the body. Often, URW can beautifully feel like a chiropractic adjustment.
MMD naturally produces steroids within your body (Whole Brain Power, pg 153). The book Whole Brain Power has some interesting case studies on this, particularly the story of Chuck Mellick. At 38 years old, Mellick aspired to be the first pitcher in history to throw 90 MPH with both his right and left hand. While practicing Michael J. Lavery’s ambidextrous routines, Mellick reported seeing and feeling results that caused him to have to “eat like a horse” just to maintain his weight (WBP, pg 212). Lavery theorizes that his ambidextrous, golf-ball-bouncing, dual-sledgehammer drills force his central and peripheral nervous systems to intensely myelinate axon sheaths. This, in turn, accommodates the body with new ability to perform said activity. His research indicates that this myelination produces unique chemical interactions, leading to the natural synthesis of steroids (aka, endosteroidogenesis).
Mellick even went through a growth spurt since starting his ambidextrous training, needing to get a larger hat, shoe, and ring size.
By this point, Mellick’s story was getting picked up by various Bay Area reporters, including a CBS affiliate. Before airing the story though, the station discussed with the local medical community this claim of endosteroidogenesis, who responded that it’s impossible for a 38-year-old man to be experiencing such changes in his body without taking anabolic steroids. So, the story never aired.
MMD-generated endosteroidogensis may explain my own increase in energy. Today, at 38, my favorite days include skateboarding, URW, wallball, juggling, monkey bar inversions, backwards walking, soccer, and chalk art, most of which are still new activities for me.
In an average person, the brain burns 20% of the body’s energy. MMD appears to increase that burn. In his book, Creative Brain Training, author Diego Irigoyen writes of his students reporting an increase in hunger when working to learn ambidexterity, as well as his own; 40% caloric intake being consumed through his brain (CBT, pg 7). This can be associated with at least two areas:
- Neural development: people describe an “awkward, weird feeling” when practicing MMD in its’ earlier stages. That weird feeling is the brain physically working to create new neural pathways needed to perform non-dominant movements. Creating these pathways requires energy, which comes from food consumption and/or burning energy stored as fat within the body.
- Increased muscle development via ambidextrous repetitions: The ambidextrous Olympic athlete, Ebiye Jeremy, says the average player in his sport of Beach Handball fatigues after 100 throws. Ebiye, by comparisson, fatigues after 150 throws since he can throw 75 with his dominant hand and 75 with his less-dominant hand. As a result, he gets in a better workout and burns more calories.
I experience the same sense of extended endurance with long-distance longboarding. With my ability to now push with both legs, I can skate more than ever. Considering that 15 years ago I had to stop skateboarding after 10 years of exclusive, unilateral skating had completely wrecked my body, I see this ability today as remarkable.
New Movement Ability:
After years of practicing MMD, I started being able to do lots of new things. Two of these things appear trivial, but include 1) being able to separate my left-foot pinky toe from the ring toe, and 2) rolling my tongue counter-clockwise.
These capabilities speak volumes to me as someone who, simply, could never do them before. More importantly, I’m excited to continue discovering more new things my MMD-trained body can now do.
With the improved balance and practice of inversions, I’ve been able to do better handstands than ever before. With the ability to now write with either hand, I can do larger chalk drawings than ever before. With the ability to now throw with both hands, I can play wallball longer, and with more movement variety, than ever before. The same goes for kicking a soccer ball, juggling, ping pong dancing, stretching, and other skills/activities I’ve only learned within the last two years. And take my word for it; it’s exhilarating! The only downside has been finding peers on the same level to join in the fun.
Unless you make an equal amount of left and right turns over the lifetime of driving your car, the tires need periodic rotation to increase longevity. Of course, you can’t rotate your human appendages like you rotate car tires, but does the machine of your human body, with its’ symmetrically designed, bilateral structure, work optimally the same way a car does for movement? Is functional longevity increased by exercising, equally, both sides of the bilateral body?
The reality is, training one side more than the other leads to body imbalances, decreasing longevity. Most of us have imbalances in our physiques from left to right. These are not desirable, often resulting in postural problems and various other ailments to soft tissue and ligaments that can be avoided with some balancing out.
The mapping of whole body fascial and myofascial linkages, known as Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains, shows that the entire human body is connected. The same can be said for asymmetries. If your right shoulder is stronger than your left shoulder, or if the left side of your hip is tighter than the right side, then compensatory patterns will occur.
The two biggest precursors to injury are asymmetries and previous injury. Chronic injuries that take out most athletes are, usually, associated with overuse of one side. When an athlete equally uses both sides, though, propensity for injury decreases, their body balances out, and longevity increases.
By comparing and contrasting the movements of each side, your body borrows the intelligence of your dominant side to educate your non-dominant side, known as intermanual transfer of skill learning. This minimizes movement deficiencies and improves overall athletic capacity, balance, coordination, and strength, leading to longevity.
An online search of workouts associated with longevity consistently mention five activites: walking, swimming, cycling, running, and tennis. Four out of five of those activities are symmetric (tennis being the exception, unless you practice it in MMD, like Luke Jensen).
Gordie Howe, at 26 seasons, through five decades, spent more time in the NHL than anyone, even playing on the same team as his two sons. He is also the best-known professional to play ambidextrously, using a straight-bladed stick.
65-year-old, non-professional golfer, Norman White, after surgery to his right shoulder, began to focus more on his left side. Now, he plays exclusively switch and recently sunk his first switch hole-in-one. His only other hole-in-one came 15 years earlier, playing righty. After over 40 years playing the game, Norman says his best years are still ahead of him.
Like Norman, seeking rehabilitation after years of repetitive, asymmetric movement is what brought me to practice MMD. The 10 years of exclusive, single-sided skateboarding couldn’t be corrected by repeated chiropractor visits alone. Switching over to my non-dominant side is the only thing that, ultimately, straightened out my body. Now, thanks to MMD, I’ve been skating for over 25 years and see no end in sight.