Brain gym – simple exercises for a better mind and body
A simple series of exercises could help your brain function better, making you sharper, smarter – and far more confident. Brain Gym comprises very easy body movements which have been designed to coax the two hemispheres of the brain to work in synchronisation.
Apparently when our brains become balanced, our whole bodies respond, revitalising our natural healing mechanisms, restoring health and harmony. Brain Gym can do everything from speeding up your reading to boosting self-esteem. It can improve your eyesight and even increase your creativity. It gives you a cutting edge both in the office and in your personal life, improving communication skills, helping you make better decisions and even giving you a boost when you’re facing rejection or disappointment.
Brain Gym is the practical self-help side of Educational Kinesiology, a system which developed out of work with dyslexia and learning disabilities in children. Researcher Dr Paul Dennison found that very simple body movements could help to improve brain function. Kay McCarroll, whose dyslexia ruined her school days, now teaches and promotes the system in the UK. She says, “It changed my life, quite literally; I can’t put it strongly enough. At school I was always being told to “try harder” but I literally couldn’t work any harder. I was trying my level best. Educational Kinesiology changed everything. Now I have even written a book.”
However Kay stresses that Brain Gym is not just for children with learning difficulties; it can help everyone, Even those who think they have perfectly normal brain function will find the exercises will help them perform even better. Brain Gym can help everyone get more out of their brains – and more out of life.
USING BRAIN GYM: THE EXERCISES.
The following are examples of key Brain Gym exercises. They are all very simple and each only takes
a few minutes at most. The more you use them, the more your brain will respond. However there is one other important tip for improving your performance which doesn’t even require performing an exercise. “Drink masses of water,” says Kay McCarroll. Apparently water is essential for the development of the nerve network during learning. “So keep a bottle of water on your desk and sip it throughout the day.”
Place your hands on your abdomen.
Exhale through your mouth in short little puffs, as if you are keeping a feather in the air, until your lungs feel empty.
Now inhale deeply, filling yourself like a balloon beneath your hand. (By arching your back slightly you can take in even more air.)
Then slowly and fully exhale. Repeat this inhalation and exhalation, establishing a natural rhythm, during the course of three or more breaths.
** This improves the supply of oxygen to the entire body. It relaxes the central nervous system while
increasing your energy levels. It can help improve both reading and speaking abilities.
Rest one hand over your navel.
With the thumb and fingers of the other hand, feel for the two hollow areas under the collarbone, about one inch out from the centre of the chest. Rub these areas vigorously for 30 seconds to one minutes, as you look from left to right.
** This stimulates the carotid arteries which supply freshly oxygenated blood to the brain. They help re-establish directional messages from parts of the body to the brain, improving reading, writing, speaking and the ability to follow directions.
THE CALF PUMP:
Stand arm’s length away from a wall and place your hands shoulder-width apart against it.
Extend your left leg straight out behind you, so the ball of your foot is on the floor and your heel is off the floor. Your body is slanted at a 45 degree angle.
Exhale, leaning forward against the wall, while also bending your right knee and pressing your left heel against the floor. Inhale and raiseyourself back up, while relaxing and raising the left heel.
Repeat three or more times. Then alternate to the other leg and repeat.
** Improves concentration, attention, comprehension and allows you to join in activities more fully.
Start by sitting in a chair, resting your left ankle on top of your right knee.
Grasp your left ankle with your right hand and the ball of your right foot with your right hand.
As you inhale, place your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, about one-quarter of an inch behind your front teeth. Relax your tongue as you exhale. Close your eyes and rest in this posture for four to eight complete breaths.
Now uncross your legs, placing your feet flat on the floor. Lightly steeple the fingertips of both hands
together, as if you were enclosing a ball.
Keep your eyes closed as you continue to lift your tongue on the inhalation and lower it on the exhalation, relaxing in this position during the course of four to eight complete breaths.
** This exercise connects the two hemispheres of the brain and strengthens the body’s electrical energy, particularly in stressful environments such as offices. Reported benefits are increased vitality and
Standing up, “march” in place, alternately touching each hand to the opposite knee.
Continue during the course of four to eight complete, relaxed breaths.
** This exercise is wonderful for improving reading, listening, writing and memory. It co-ordinates the whole brain.
Rest two fingers of one hand under your lower lip. Place the heel of the other hand on your
navel, with fingers pointing downwards.
Breathe deeply as you look at the floor. Moving only your eyes, look gradually from the floor to the ceiling, then down again. Repeat this for three or more breaths, as you entire body and eyes relax.
** This stimulates the brain and relieves mental fatigue. It also helps to enhance your ability to focus on near objects.
Sit on a chair in front of a table, resting your forehead between your hands on the table top. Exhale fully.
Now, while slowly lifting your head, inhale deeply, breathing into the base of your spine. Your torso and
shoulders should stay relaxed. As you exhale, tuck your chin down onto your chest and begin moving your head down toward the table, while lengthening the back of your neck. Rest your head on the table as you relax and
breathe deeply. Repeat three or more times.
** This keeps the back muscles toned and the spine supple, flexible and relaxed. It improves posture and concentration and is very useful for those who work at desks and computers.
THE ENERGY YAWN:
As you begin to yawn, lightly press the fingertips of each hand against any tight spots you feel where your cheeks cover your upper and lower molars.
Make a deep, relaxed, yawning sound while gently stroking away any tension.
Repeat three or more times.
** This relaxes the jaw, releasing tension and also stimulates and relaxes the eyes. It is said to even improve creativity, as there is a relationship between ease of jaw motion and ease of expression.
Stand with your legs a little less than one leg-length apart. Point your left foot straight ahead of you;
point your right foot towards the right.
Now bend your right knee as you exhale, keeping the left knee straight. Your body should face squarely
to the front. Do the movement over three or more complete breaths, then repeat facing the opposite direction. ** This increases comprehension, short-term memory, self-expression and organisational skills.
As you draw the 8, focus your eyes on your thumb, keeping your head upright, facing forward and moving only slightly. Start tracing your 8 by beginning at eye level. Move your arm up and over to the left, around and back to centre, then to the right.
Do three full 8s with one hand, then three with the other and finally three with both hands clasped together.
** This integrates both visual fields, improving balance and co-ordination. Many people report better vision after this exercise.
While breathing deeply, relax your shoulders and drop your head forward. Close your eyes while slowly
and easily rolling your head from side to side.
At any point of tension, relax your head while making small circles with your nose and breathing fully. Do three or more complete side to side motions.
** Improves breathing, relaxation of vocal cords (for more resonant speech). Helps all kinds of verbalising or thinking.
Above the centre of each eyebrow and halfway to the hairline, you will find a slight indentation. Lightly place
three fingers of each hand on each of these indentations.
Close your eyes and hold the points lightly, pulling the forehead slightly taut, during the course of six to ten slow complete breaths.
** These points diffuse the “fight or flight” reflex, releasing emotional stress. Touching these points allows a more rational response to stressful situations.
Sit on a padded surface (use a mat or towels) on the floor with your knees bent and your feet together in front of you.
Lean back, with your weight on your hands and hips. Rock yourself in small circles, or back and forth, as you focus on melting away tension in your hips and back of legs.
** This increases the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to the brain, thus improving the ability to focus, concentrate and comprehend.
Rest two fingers above your upper lip.
Place your other hand, pointing downward, on your lower back, with your fingertips touching the tailbone.
Breathe deeply as you look up at the ceiling. Gradually lower your gaze to the floor, then look up at the ceiling again. Repeat three or more times as your eyes and the rest of your body relax.
** Holding these points improves attention, focus, motivation and intuition for decision-making.
THINK OF AN X:
Close your eyes and visualise the letter X. Notice how your vision is like the X – your eyes co-ordinate to connect left, right, upper and lower visual fields around a point of focus.
Also notice the X-like symmetry and organisation within your own body, as each hip co-ordinates with each shoulder.
** The X reinforces whole-brain and whole-body co-ordination for ease of thought, communication and performance.
THE THINKING CAP:
With one hand at the top of each ear, gently “unroll” the curved parts of the outer edges of both ears at the same
time. Continue all the way to the bottom of the ears. Repeat three or more times.
** This helps you tune out distracting noises, it increases listening ability, short-term memory and abstract thinking skills.
THE SEVEN-MINUTE TUNE-UP.
This is a simple series of Brain Gym activities which should be performed every morning. By doing the
tune-up every day before work, you will “feel better and function better than you ever have before,” says Paul Dennison.
You can also use the tune-up anytime during the day when you need an energy boost – or whenever you need to feel at your absolute best. Use these exercises: Belly breathing; Brain buttons; Cook’s hook-ups; Positive points; Cross-crawl.
GIVE YOUR BRAIN A BOOST.
We all have times during the day when we need some extra help. Use the brain gym exercises
suggested below for those tricky times.
STAYING CALM: Earth buttons; Cook’s hook-ups; Positive points.
PROBLEM SOLVING: Cross-crawl; Balance buttons; Neck rolls; Positive points.
KEEPING POSITIVE: Positive points; Cook’s hook-ups, Balance buttons.
GOAL-SETTING: Brain buttons; Cross-crawl; Cook’s hook-ups.
PUBLIC SPEAKING: The energy yawn; the Thinking cap; Cross-crawl; Cook’s hook-ups;
BEING ASSERTIVE: Positive points; Cook’s hook-ups; Balance buttons.
BEFORE DRIVING: Balance buttons; Lazy 8s; Cook’s hook-ups; Positive points.
BOOSTING SELF-ESTEEM: Positive points; Cook’s hook-ups; Balance buttons.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: Positive points; Think of an X; Belly breathing.
DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT: Positive points; Cook’s hook-ups.
KEEPING A SENSE OF HUMOUR; The Rocker; Thinking cap; Energy yawn; Cook’s
COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY: Calf pump; Lazy 8s; Energy yawn.
KEEPING ENTHUSIASTIC: Cook’s hook-ups; Calf pump.
SPEED READING: Calf pump; Cross-crawl; Lazy 8s; Think of an X.
HANDLING REJECTION: Belly breathing; Neck rolls; Energy yawn; Positive points; Cook’s hook-ups.
Check out The Official Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym website: http://www.braingym.org.uk/