What is Brain Gym?
Brain Gym was created by Paul Dennison in the 1970’s. Having grown up with severe learning challenges, Paul found that through ‘movement’ he could overcome these challenges, and hence Brain Gym evolved. The 26 Brain Gym exercises of which Brain Gym consists, have helped thousands of people overcome difficult learning challenges; and improve their academic performance, through increased concentration, awareness, self-expression and confidence. The benefits of Brain gym exercises can be reaped by adults of all ages, but especially by children and students.
Brain Gym is easy for anyone to do at home, in a classroom or even at work. The movements are explained in great detail in Paul and Gail’s book called Brain Gym, Teacher’s Edition, and are absolutely practical to integrate into everyday lives. Some schools actually use Brain Gym exercises in the classroom to help their students calm down and “switch on” their brains. See below for some example Brain Gym exercises.
What Are Brain Gym Exercises and How Do You Do Them?
There various types of Brain Gym exercises and a good activity to start with is ‘PACE’. PACE is a series of 4 movements designed to “switch on” your brain so you’re ready for learning, or to simply help you prepare for the day ahead. I use PACE every day, and especially before I see each client. I also get my own children to do PACE most mornings before school, dance classes or soccer practice, and if I find they are struggling with their reading at night I will get them to do it again. It helps all of us.
So what is PACE?
PACE is a series of 4 activities that are done in about 5 minutes. PACE stands for:
The exercises related to each word are done in reverse (note, a visual example of how to do these exercises can ve seen in the YouTube video link below):
How: Drink a glass of water. Why? Sipping water helps to restore hydration, especially when we let the water sit in our mouths to absorb a little before we gulp it down. We are made up of about 70% water and it is a conductive medium. Water improves concentration, alleviates mental fatigue, relieves stress and enhances communication and social skills.
How: Rub your brain buttons. These points are on the Kidney meridian (K27). They are the two bones at the bottom of your throat with a little bit of space between. Place your thumb and index finger on these points (one on each bone) and rub in a circular motion. While stimulating these points it’s important that at the same time, you move your eyes right and left into the periphery (ie the far left and right of your visual field). Do this for about 1 minute. Your brain buttons are electrical reflex points for the eyes and this exercise helps to restore your centralised vision, as you satisfy the scanning reflex impulse to look away from the midline. It also increases blood flow to the brain.
How: Do the Cross Crawl. This movement simultaneously activates both sides of the body, firing neural pathways in the left and right cerebral hemispheres. This movement also stabilises the pelvis, while mobilising and stabilising the shoulders, thus supporting the walking-gait reflexes. Once stable and coordinated, gross-motor activity provides a comfortable movement pattern that we can maintain as we later sit and do tasks involving fine-motor control. It improves listening and attention. You can do the cross crawl by lifting your left knee and touching it with your right hand, and vice versa. Repeat this for up to a minute.
4. Positive Hookups
There are 2 parts to this.
- Stand straight with feet hip-width apart and arms by your body. Then cross your right leg in front of the left. Part 1 activates the vestibular system and balance-related muscles, supporting us in restoring equilibrium after emotional or environmental stress. It draws blood and attention away from the body’s periphery and fight-or-flight reflexes and back to the body’s midfield, inhibiting reflexive behaviour and supporting higher-order thinking and decision making.
- Now with your legs crossed, place your arms out in front of you and cross the right arm over the left and bind the hands together. Then turn your hands in and your elbow out, bringing your hands close to your heart (repeat part one and two on each side for about a minute). Part 2 offers a metaphor for the connection of the cerebral hemispheres through the corpus callosum. It activates deeper respiration and improved circulation. It calms and relaxes.
For more on Brain Gym exercises for kids, or Brain Gym exercises for the classroom (or further explanation of the exercises explained above) this You Tube video does a great job at visually explaining these simple and effective Brain Gym exercises for children and adults.
Have you or your children used Brain Gym to help facilitate better learning, concentration and education? Share your stories via the comment section below.
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