Brain Gym is an innovative program designed to help students to “learn how to learn” by stabilizing their vestibular balance, grounding their physical structure, and providing effective tools for self-calming and self-management. Specific movement activities prepare children to master the physical skills required for the more mental, cognitive, language skills necessary for higher order thinking. When the structural, physical, foundation for learning is in place the student is liberated from the tension and stress that for so many inhibits the flow of learning and creative communication of ideas and information can become a joyful reality.
The Brain Gym program (http://www.braingym.org) is enabling students throughout the world to be better prepared to learn. The program was developed by former classroom instructor and authority on reading, Dr. Paul Dennison with his wife and partner Gail Dennison, and is based on Educational Kinesiology which is the study of enhanced learning through movement.
The Dennisons wish to awaken students, parents, and educators to an understanding of the interdependence of balance, movement, and learning. The principles in the program are so widely accepted that the Brain Gym program is now the standard in many schools around the world and is recommended by tutors and teachers and those looking for a more functional, satisfying lifestyle and sense well being. Teachers who incorporate the Brain Gym movements within their daily classroom routine rediscover that joy of teaching for which they originally chose their profession.
The Brain Gym program provides a series of simple movement activities that optimize learning and performance, while integrating the mind and body. The lessons taught are profoundly simple, can be done anywhere, and work well for all ages.
The concept is so simple, yet so effective. And that’s why it works. Those who practice the exercises enjoy doing them, so they want to do them consistently. They also see positive results, which is a driving force for continuing to do them on a regular basis.
Here are some sample exercises, how to perform them, and the benefits achieved:
Cross Crawl – Simultaneously lift your right hand and left leg, lightly tapping the hand just above your left knee. Then return the hand and leg to a resting position as you lift your left hand and right leg, touching your left hand to the place above its opposite knee. Continue this back and forth pattern for a minute or so, as though walking rhythmically.
Accomplishes – Improved left/right coordination; enhanced breathing and stamina; greater coordination and spatial awareness, enhanced hearing and vision. Helps students with spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension.
Energy Yawn – While pretending to yawn, close eyes tightly and massage the areas covering the upper and lower back molars. A deep relaxed yawning sound is made while massaging the muscles. Repeat the activity three to six times.
Accomplishes – Perfect for classroom teaching as students can add to their own movements. Improved expression and creativity, improved balance, and relaxed thinking during mental work.
Lazy 8s – The student aligns his body with a point at eye level. This will be the midpoint of the 8. The student chooses a comfortable position for drawing the Lazy 8, adjusting the width and height to fit his needs. He starts on the midline and moves counterclockwise first, up, over, and around. Then from his waist he moves clockwise: up, over, around, and back to the beginning midpoint. As the eyes follow the Lazy 8, the head moves slightly and the neck remains relaxed. Three repetitions with each hand separately and then both together.
Accomplishes – Teaches visual attention and improves ocular motility skills needing for reading. Helps with the mechanics of reading (left-to-right eye movement).
Positive Points – Lightly touch the points above each eye, halfway between the eyebrows and the hairline, with the fingertips of each hand. Use just enough pressure to pull the skin taut, and hold the contact for about a minute.
Accomplishes – Helps with organizational abilities, recall, study skills, test performance and sports performance, public speaking, stage performance and reading aloud.
Arm Activation – Reach up above your head with your left arm, feeling the arm lengthen from your rib cage. Hold your arm just below the elbow with your right hand. Now isometrically activate your left arm for a eight seconds in each of four positions away from your head, forward, backward, and toward your ear. Rest your left arm again at your side. Repeat with the other arm. Now let your arms hang comfortably by your sides.
Accomplishes – An increased attention span and fine motor control for written work; improved focus and concentration (without over focus); improved breathing and a relaxed attitude; an enhanced ability to express ideas; and increased energy in hands and fingers.
When students are introduced to Brain Gym, they seem to love it, request it, teach it to their friends, and integrate it into their lives without any coaching or supervision. This movement-based system offers additional assistance to children with learning difficulties and helps them achieve their optimal potential in their academic paths.
“The teachers in the classrooms are instrumental in making the Brain Gym program work,” said Dennison. That’s why Dennison takes great strides in providing detailed instructions, informational charts, hands on workshops, and all the tools necessary to ensure the program’s success.
Detailed in Dennison’s book, Brain Gym and Me, Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning, is one pilot program and the positive results from it after implementing Brain Gym. The conclusion was that students reported learning physical skills, trusting their own bodies, plus self-esteem and easier reading while teachers expressed gratitude for this effective tool to enhance teaching strategies.
The book also details how Dennison once walked through the halls during one school visit, and saw children using Brain Gym throughout the school day without teacher direction. “That was great validation that our program works,” he said. “If we look inside the classroom, we’ll see that active learners are those who are lively and active. Such children physically reach for information and opportunities to express themselves, barely containing their enthusiasm for knowledge as they write, turn pages and relate with their peers. The children who are not moving will appear stressed, passive and bored. In either case children can’t hide their authentic feelings about learning. These feelings are apparent in their movements, demeanor and body posture.”
Patty Gottwald, a pre-school teacher at Mason County Eastern in Michigan, was quoted in an article in Ludington’s Daily News recently talking about the Brain Gym Program. She states she attended a Brain Gym session, which showed teachers how their students can activate parts of their brains through certain body movements and concluded, “It makes children more ready to learn.” http://wwwludingtondailynews.com/news.php?story_id=37300
Dennison’s book, Brain Gym and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning, which explains how to bring Brain Gym into the classroom, is currently in more than 80 countries receiving astonishing worldwide media attention recently with segments on CBC Radio’s 1 “Ontario Today” and City TV, “Breakfast Television” and a full-page article in Woman’s World Magazine, May 8th edition. It provides excellent examples of how many have succeeded and how Dr. Dennison skillfully takes them on this journey. It also explains how he overcame his own learning challenges to become an internationally known educator and authority on cognitive skills and reading achievement.