Published in Eternal Solutions
Take stock of your mind and body with Brain Gymnastics
Sanaa’s one leg appeared shorter than the other. She wore special shoes in that leg to avoid limping. At the end of a Brain Gym course in which she participated, the transformation was amazing! Sanaa’s short leg actually seemed to have “stretched” and she no longer needed the special shoes! The fact was, there was actually no physical deformity of the leg at all; it was merely that Sanaa’s body was so squint because of stress, that her hip was actually lifting up one leg, making it appear shorter than the other! The stress was so intense that it made her muscles contract in such a way that one leg appeared shorter, reveals Life Coach and Brain Gym practitioner Susan Castle, native of UK.
Brain Gym was developed in the late 1970s by Paul Dennison, an educational specialist. The left and right sides of the brain have different functions and various studies reveal that about 80% of people with learning difficulties have problems transferring information between their left and right brains. Dennison developed Brain Gym as a series of 28 targeted exercises that are movement-oriented that can integrate the right and the left brains into an efficiently functioning whole brain. Falling in the realms of educational kinesiology, Brain Gym exercises are as much fun, pleasant and enjoyable to do as they are powerful and effective in tapping the body’s potentials. These exercises enable people to enhance and strengthen their progress towards achieving their desired objectives. The results have been phenomenal in several instances, in both children and adults.
In fact, erstwhile scientist, Einstein did not actually walk until he was 3; he only crawled! Indeed, it may not really be a matter of pride to have your little ones walking or reading much ahead of their time! On the other hand, it may be more damaging to the learning process as the child grows, says Susan. “A lot of children when they are taught to read too early, they only read in one part of their brain. And this causes learning challenges; it leads to the brain not programming reading correctly. Reading is a very specific activity and can only be done when the left and the right brain are connected. And up, until the age of 7, those connections are physically not there. So, perhaps, a kid should not start reading before the age of 7. Because if they learn to read before this age, some children can read only in their dominant brain. This means we are effectively cutting the brain function to half!”
Brain Gym exercises are particularly useful for children who are strapped to car seats for long periods of time, reveals Ms.Castle. Being strapped to the seats while the car is stationery, actually deprives the children from various natural movements, hand-eye coordination and thereby may lead to serious learning problems in later life. For the same reason, it is not advisable to have infants walk early with walkers and such other equipment. In fact, crawling promotes a lot of muscle movement in children and also integrates the brain, facilitates or promote vision, eye-coordination and enhances reading skills later on.
Some children have a tendency to lean on walls or on other things because they can’t hold themselves upright and tend to fall over a lot in trying to do so. One of the reasons for this is because their balance system which normally gets integrated when they are in the mother’s womb, is not integrated. This integration in the baby comes with the mother moving around. Hence, the more movement a mother does during her pregnancy, the more likely the baby is to have its balance system well integrated and therefore, to not have the problem of falling over when they begin standing or walking. Specific Brain Gym exercises enable pregnant women to prevent this problem in their children.
Brain Gym is about helping the brain and body work more effectively together by using certain structured pattern of physical exercises which are pleasant and gentle, exercises which can be done even by pregnant women during their full term of pregnancy. Brain Gym exercises integrate the two sides of our brain and body in such a way that a lot of people who are naturally right-handed, after they get initiated to Brain Gym exercises, can actually write with their left hand as well!
Brain Gym exercises give the mind and body a second chance at completing its development by opening new neural pathways, allowing a person to take control of his/her life. As a result, many emotional, academic or physical problems can be overcome or even made to disappear completely. The exercises of Brain Gym are founded on the principles that learning is a pleasant and natural activity that is lifelong and that blocks to learning arise when people are unable to cope with anxiety and stress and label an activity as being “too tough” to be learned. Also, learning is restricted by the absence of mobility during the learning process. So Brain Gym exercises involve gentle movements.
The techniques of Brain Gym rest on the premise that our body is very much a part of all our learning, and therefore learning should not be seen as apart from the "brain" function. In actual fact, the entire network of nerves and cells in our body, contribute to our intelligence and learning capability. The exercises are thus meant to help create new neural pathways in the brain which allow one to move on beyond old negative habits and beliefs, whether they be emotional, physical or cerebral, and to take control of life in a positive, constructive and creative way. The pattern of movement of muscles and body enable the brain to release any tension and allows it to work effectively. The movements for the most part, are relaxation exercises which help to re-establish the neural networks between brain and body, thus facilitating the electromagnetic flow through the body. The exercises help to balance and enhance communication between the right and left hemisphere of the brain, between the forebrain and the brain stem, and more.
Research done in the UK discovered that every single child with learning problems, has what is called Unintegrated Reflexes. When a child is born, it is born with a whole bunch of automatic reactions. These responses should normally enable the brain to develop vital neural pathways that are needed for the proper functioning of the brain. As the child grows, these reactions stop becoming automatic and start becoming conscious. But somewhere along the path, the process of change stops for some reason, in some of the children. In children with dyslexia and other learning disorders, these reflexes are not integrated; hence the learning disabilities. If a child or adult still has these infant reflexes, it indicates that important early stages in the development of the brain haven’t occurred or have been reversed by highly stressful experiences or illnesses. This leads to various forms of stress – physical or mental stress and many of the associated problems. With regular Brain Gym exercises, these children are known to overcome the various learning disabilities. It also enhances memory, concentration and body co-ordination, relieves eye-strain, chronic stress, and phobias. It enables children to overcome low self-esteem and self-confidence, to overcome dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit and various other behavioural problems.
Since its founding, Brain Gym has been used successfully in individuals with learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder), insomnia and autism. Artistes in various fields are known to use these exercises to good effect to boost their confidence, energy levels and performance.
Various schools in the UK have integrated Brain Gym as a part of their regular curriculum and have found amazing results with it. In a certain school in England, where the students did only Cross Crawling, their test scores were phenomenal. While the kids at the bottom improved up to 70%, kids who were already on the top, with 80 plus scores, improved further by 10% to 15%.
Patients with chronic backaches, most commonly brought on by stress, are being benefited by Brain Gym. The logic being, Sore back and several physical ailments are stress-induced. Our bodies hold memories and every experience in the muscles. So if you are holding on to tension, it’s because it’s in the muscle. Brain Gym very gently releases that tension and relieves pain and sore backs.
Stroke victims have been able to overcome their paralysis with Brain Gym. The logic: Most of us, normally on an average, barely use 10% of our brain potential. When a person has a stroke, usually only a small part of the brain is affected. So Brain Gym realigns the pathways in the brain so that impulses get re-routed via the realigned pathway, to enable stroke victims to recover a lot of their mobility.
The exercises involved are neither tough nor time-consuming. Nor is it necessary for an individual to do all the 28 exercises. Individuals can mix and match exercises according to their specific needs and do them for any lengths of time without any adverse effects – from as little as 30 seconds to some minutes, to obtain their benefits. A set of the basic four exercises: drinking water, brain buttons, cross crawl and hook ups, would take just about 2 – 3 minutes! But their results would be significant and enriching.
Some simple Brain Gym Exercises
Drinking Water: Before setting out to perform a stressful task, as for instance, giving a public speech, attending an interview, et al, it is important to hydrate the system well by drinking water. Since water comprises more of the brain than any other organ of the body, drinking water before stressful situations is believed to have a calming and positive effect on the person.
Brain Buttons: One of the first exercises in Brain Gym, this involves massaging the spot into the slight indentation below the clavicle or collar bone with the thumb and index finger of one hand, while resting the other hand on the navel – only for 30 seconds! This rubbing movement is believed to stimulate the carotid artery and enhance the flow of blood to the brain. The increased blood flow to the brain improves concentration power and skills required for various tasks, particularly reading and writing. Basically, the movement stimulates the neuro-transmitters in the brain.
Cross Crawl: This involves placing the right hand across the body to the left knee as you raise it and placing the left hand across to the right knee, either while sitting or standing. Repeat the movement for 30 seconds or more. The exercise helps to coordinate the right and left brain by exercising the flow of information between the two hemispheres of the brain.
Hook Ups: are again extremely useful while confronting stressful situations, for circumstances that cause nervousness. The exercise helps to calm the turbulent mind and improves concentration. If you’ve got disruptive children, just get them to do this exercise and they quieten down within no time. The movements involve crossing the right leg over the left at the ankles. Similarly, cross the right wrist over the left wrist and link up the fingers so that the right wrist is on top. Bend the elbows out and gently turn the fingers in towards the body until they rest on the breast bone. Remain in this position for a few seconds while breathing.
Double Doodle: This is a bilateral activity which makes you sketch images with both hands. This technique improves learning skills involving mathematical calculations, understanding of writing symbols and accuracy in spelling.
Figure of Eight: By activating the brain, this simple exercise is used to improve eye muscle coordination, vision and reading skill and speed. The exercise involves using your hands to draw horizontal “eights” in the air.