The Brain Gym® program is committed to the principle that moving with intention leads to optimal learning. Promoting learning through play and the principle of drawing out innate intelligence, the emphasis is on building awareness and the solid physical, emotional and mental foundation to empower learners of all ages to reclaim the joy of creative self-expression as self-responsibility is encouraged and supported.
Brain Gym addresses the physical aspects of learning. We use the empowering synergy of clear intention, awareness and movement to draw out the innate potential in people of any age.
Brain Gym® activities help us to switch-on our muscles and integrate our involuntary reflexes to make learning easy. Dr. Dennison says, “When we do Brain Gym® movements, we’re building a neural network upon which to embed new learning experiences.” This facilitates our innate ability to learn and function at optimal efficiency.
- Develop the neural connections that support whole brain processing.
- Access and organize sensory modalities (auditory, visual, kinesthetic)
- Support completion of developmental stages for effective co-ordination of eyes, ears, hands and the whole body.
- Improve memory (what we learn).
- Become responsible for our own learning
- Relax and enjoy learning or Rediscover the joy of learning!
Brain Gym® (or Educational Kinesthetics) considers:
- the body and brain as one whole system
- the muscles and senses as working in synergy.
- effective learning is based on physical experience and a firm foundation of sensory and motor skills.
- using movement to support, draw out and develop innate intelligence for learning
Brain Gym® is for everyone who would like to live, learn and move with more ease, effectiveness and enjoyment.
Brain Gym® is used in schools, corporations, elder facilities, athletic training programs, as well as for personal and professional growth.
It is learned in classes and workshops.
It is experienced in one-on-one sessions with licensed Brain Gym® Consultants who use our educational model to draw out the noticing you need to explore your goals, clarify your intentions and integrate your body mind system to achieve them.
Improved performance, self-regulation, concentration, organization, coordination, balance, communication, academic skills as well as stress relief, are some of the benefits people often experience.
- Struggling with self-regulation, hyperactivity, ADD, ADHD?
- Dealing with developmental or learning challenges?
- Looking for solutions to ease academic struggles?
- Facing anxiety and stress-related issues?
- Concerned about memory, balance and cognitive decline?
- Seeking clarity in some areas of your life?
- Wanting to come to terms with complex emotions?
- Working through a traumatic experience?
- Letting go of challenging negative thinking patterns?
- Focused on personal growth?
If you answered ‘Yes!’ to any one of the above questions, the Brain Gym Program is for you!
By addressing the underlying physical, emotional and mental foundation of these challenges, Brain Gym restores balance and access to optimal learning.
- Retained reflexes can drain energy.
- When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it responds as if there was imminent mortal danger, using all resources for survival and thereby compromising access to the frontal lobes and inhibiting any new learning.
- Learning under stress triggers stress when accessing the learning.
- Lack of whole brain co-ordination may result in inefficient compensations.
- Lack of vestibular and proprioceptive development may mean relying on vision for stability, leaving less visual resources available for reading and writing.
- Excessive involvement in two-dimensional activities (e.g., TV, video games, reading, computers), encourages uni-hemispheric
Brain Gym® offers tools to integrate our brain-body system, regain the joy of movement and learning and take charge of our lives.
60 years ago, children spent most of their waking time moving until they were school-aged. Once they started school, most of their play time was still focused on physical activity, often vigorous – especially for boys. Much of this was unsupervised and included self-directed exploration and imagination. They developed courage and self-reliance in the absence of overly protective and fearful attitudes.
Unbeknownst to us, all this movement served to mature and integrate our childhood reflexes, providing the physical coordination, balance, control, stability and neural networks needed for effective academic learning.
Many students today do not have this foundation and lack the focus, control, organization, coordination and communication skills to learn easily and effectively. The noticing skills and simple movement activities of Brain Gym® allow students to take responsibility for their learning. They will notice for themselves when they need to use Brain Gym® tools and which ones are most effective for them.
Educational Kinesiology or Kinesthetics was founded by Dr. Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D. and his wife Gail Dennison. Dr. Dennison is a professional educator, a pioneer in the field of kinesiology, and an authority on the transformative attainment of cognitive and academic skills. In the 1960s Dr. Dennison began the seminal research into reading achievement and its relation to brain development that would form the basis for the Brain Gym work – the remarkable movement-based learning program that has helped people of all ages turn their learning challenges into successes. Working alongside developmental optometrists, Dennison offered his students a full program in sensory development, including a few simple movements that seemed to help with equilibrium and perceptual skills. These movements would spark the idea for Brain Gym.
In 1975 he received the University of Southern California Phi Delta Kappa award for his outstanding research for his doctoral dissertation focussing on the relationship of covert speech and reading skills. He began to develop what would later become Educational Kinesiology (Edu-k) —basing his discoveries on his unique understanding of the interdependence of physical development, language acquisition, and academic achievement.
In the early 1980s, Paul joined forces with Gail, an artist and movement educator, who would later become his wife and collaborator. They co-founded and co-created Educational Kinesiology, the Brain Gym® activities, and the Learning-through-Movement series of books and manuals, including Vision Gym®: Playful Activities for Natural Seeing. Gail E. Dennison is the originator of the Visioncircles, Double Doodle Play, and Movement Dynamics courses. She has served for twenty-three years as Executive Editor of the Brain Gym® Journal.
Sensing the need for a self-teaching element, the Dennison’s gathered some of their favorite activities for learning and moving, gave them playful names, and organized them according to the three dimensions from the advanced courses. These activities were published in a little orange book called Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning in 1986. This series of activities is known today as the Brain Gym movements, and forms the core of the Brain Gym program.
Many of the Brain Gym activities, such as the Owl, the Elephant, and Alphabet 8s, were developed from Paul’s knowledge of the relationship of movement to perception and the impact of these on fine-motor and academic skills. Others were learned during his training as a marathon runner, his work with developmental optometrists doing vision training, and his study of Jin Shin Jitsu (a form of acupressure). Dennison Laterality Repatterning and Three Dimension Repatterning are Paul’s original contributions to the field of education. Gail brought in her own movements from her background in dance, natural vision training, acupressure, and Touch for Health.
Brain Gym International (Edu-K Foundation)
In 1987, along with a small group of fellow educators dedicated to making self-initiated learning available to children and adults, the Dennison’s founded the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Ventura, California. Doing business as Brain Gym® International, and more recently as Breakthroughs International, the organization is committed to the principle that intentional movement is the door to optimal living and learning. Its mission is to support self-awareness and the ease of living and learning through safe, simple, and effective movement. Today the work is carried on by the International Faculty, each of whom is licensed by Brain Gym International.
The Brain Gym® program was initially built on the following:
- Learning theory drawn in part from the works of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Carl Rogers, Lev Vygotsky, Maria Montessori
- Alignment, reflexes, and developmental movements as described by George Goodheart, John Thie, F.M. Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, Ida Rolf, Jean Ayres, Sally Goddard, Renate Wennekes
- Visual development, ergonomics as delineated by G.N. Getman, Daryl Boyd Harmon, Arnold Gesell
- More recently, in Neurophysiology – Carla Hannaford, Norman Doidge, Elkhonon Goldberg, Ian McGilchrist.
Other authors/names whose work has either directly influenced the growth of the work or whose work support our theories include:
- John Ratey
- Katy Bowman
- John Medina
- Michael Posner
- Bruce Perry
- Jane Healy
- Rae Pica
Brain Gym® Canada – A Little History
In September 2018, the Chair of Brain Gym® Canada, Dana Luebke, was hosting a Vision Circles workshop in Calgary, facilitated by Carla Hannaford. When the course ended, everyone said “We want MORE!”, so everyone decided to stay in contact and see what we could do.
In October, a small group began meeting regularly, either in person or via Zoom, and shared their big, audacious dreams for Brain Gym® in both Canada and their own lives. This group began calling itself “Brain Gym® Western Canada”; it sent out monthly newsletters, created a Facebook page, and hosted monthly hybrid (in person and Zoom) meetings (those hybrid meetings were challenging and we really were unsure we could make them work successfully). Looking back on that now, with the Zoomified experience of the pandemic, it feels as though we were pioneering something only just a little ahead of it’s time.
In May 2019, Lisa Marcovici travelled from Montreal to teach Optimal Brain Organization in Calgary. She heard about our little group and began a – successful – campaign for Eastern Canada to be included in our vision (everyone who knows Lisa knew she had been on this mission for quite some time). After a couple of meetings filled with big dreams and plans, in October 2019, Dana Luebke, Karen MacKay, Lisa Marcovici, as well as Tanya Mouland officially created Brain Gym® Canada. By December 2019, Brain Gym® Canada became a federally incorporated not-for-profit organization!
In January 2020, Lisa was back in Calgary once again to teach InDepth as well as a Teacher Practicum (it was bitterly cold, which was especially challenging for one attendee who came from Hawaii, but she and another consultant who travelled up from the United States became our first two International Members)! Little did we know that these were to be the very last in-person courses any of us would attend in a very long time…
Considering the challenges presented by the pandemic, and the very real stresses and strains it put on everyone, it seems a testament to how robust our vision of what we wanted to create in Canada has been. The desire for community, connection, and support has always been our main objective, and our commitment to focus on providing that has kept us going through the rollercoaster of the past two years.
Digital adventures followed – and by mid-2021 – our amazing Website, in both French and English, was fully launched. The blessing-in-disguise of a major server hack a mere month later, which took the whole Website down, resulted in the rebuilt we didn’t know we needed, and began our relationship with our wonderful Web support person, Sara, who came to our rescue. She became a new family member!
Brain Gym® Canada’s first AGM was held in March 2021. By then, we had bylaws, we had more members, and we began responding to what the members asked for – “please, let’s meet, let’s chat, we need each other”.
So in September 2021, we began our Meet Ups, which are held regularly, on the last Saturday of the month. We have had informational sessions, panel discussions as well as open discussions. We also celebrate our Honorary Members, which we established to recognise life-long contributions to Brain Gym® in Canada. Our first international Honorary Members are Paul and Gail Dennison, and our first Canadian Honorary Members are Irish Sullivan and Sher Smith. As our family grows, we are excited about honouring more folks who have contributed to Brain Gym® in Canada for literally decades.
We are proud to be a bilingual family, with almost as many French-speaking members as English. Because we’ve stayed committed to providing translation for workshops, Meet Ups and our newsletter, our international membership has grown (we now count folks from France, Belgium, Italy, Japan, Australia, Mexico among our extended family).
At present, our total membership (including Professional, Student, Associate and International Members) is over 50 people, and growing weekly. While our dreams for Brain Gym® Canada remain global and audacious, our commitment is firmly focused on Connection, Support, and Compassion. We are here for our family, our members, and we are committed to moving at a gentle pace that will be sustainable for many generations.
We are excited to be celebrating our second AGM with our members in April where we will, once again, listen deeply to what the family needs, and then play together as we create ways to meet those needs.
PS: This history is specifically about the creation of Brain Gym® Canada. There is a much deeper, longer, and rich history of Brain Gym® in Canada that goes back decades: Paul Dennison regularly came to Alberta to teach classes, The Canadian Summer Institute held in Ottawa was attended by many over the years, Lisa’s Rekinexion Centre in Montreal provided Brain Gym® training to so many of us. We honour this history too – it is being collated and written up so that it’s not forgotten. Watch this space for more to come!
Board Members (2021-2022)
Dana Luebke, President
Lisa Marcovici, Vice-president
Céline Bellemare, Treasurer
Karen MacKay, Secretary