In Part 1 of this article I talked about the background to Brain Gym and the success stories that it has made possible in sport and education. In this article I want to give you the references and tools to enable you to try out Brain Gym for yourself.
In her review of the literature on Brain Gym,
as part of a postgraduate study, Margaret Dunn states that Brain Gym consists of simple movements similar to
the movements which in fact are natural in the first three years in life. She says we can consider it a
useful tool in a classroom situation because it does not require sophisticated
pieces of equipment or large areas of space.
Dunn says that Levine (1987) affirms that writing is, still, an
important method of learning and expressing knowledge in schools and that the
motor act of writing involves a broad array of fine motor and visual-motor
skills. Furthermore, Arter et al.
(1996, p26) state:
“No child will be able to produce the fine motor movements for writing
with a pencil until he or she is
able to control . . . larger movements.”
Likewise, Thomas (1997) noted that the Physical Education curriculum in France plays an important part in the teaching of handwriting and P.E teachers use physical activities which are closely linked to the teaching of handwriting.
Rosenbaum, (1998) also suggests that studies of
the development of children with disorders of motor functions afford
opportunities to understand the importance of motor function to overall child
Ms. Dunn’s study concludes that normal classrooms depend on activities which
utilise verbal or analytical intelligence but that when a child is allowed to
use the body, it encourages the brain to make use of a variety of intelligences
including rhythmical and visual-spatial intelligence. Further, long-term recall
also seems to be enhanced by this kind of practice.
Dr. Dennison was the person who discovered
the empowering effects of Brain Gym movements. One of the basic references of his
model is that of Laterality. This is the ability to coordinate one side of the
brain with the other, especially in the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic
midfield, the area where the two sides overlap. The vertical midline of the body
is the necessary reference for all bilateral skills and midfield
coordination is fundamental to the ability to read, write and communicate. It is
also essential for fluid whole-body movement and for the ability to move and
think at the same time.
To ensure coordination in this crucial
midfield area Dennison developed The Midline Movements which help to integrate
binocular vision, binaural hearing, and the left and right sides of the brain
and body. Many learners beginning school are not developmentally prepared for
the bilateral, two-dimensional skills of near-point work required in reading and
writing, for example. Sometimes a student is coordinated for play or sports
activities (which involve three-dimensional space and only demand binocular
vision beyond arm's length), yet is not ready to use both eyes, ears, hands, and
brain hemispheres for near-point work, such as reading, writing and other skills
involving fine-motor coordination. Other students show coordination for academic
skills or near-point activities, yet are not ready for whole-body coordination
on the playing field. The Midline Movements enable learners to integrate
fine-motor and large-motor skills.
Cross-motor activities have been used to
activate the brain since our understanding of laterality began over a century
ago. Noted authorities such as Orton, Doman, Delacato, Kephart, and Barsch have
used similar movements successfully in their learning programs. Dr. Dennison
drew from his knowledge of these programmes in developing the Midline Movements
series. Some of them have also been adapted from behavioural optometry
activities used to increase brain-body coordination. Others are borrowed from
sports, dance, or exercise programs. Others are totally unique to
Edu-Kinesiology and are the innovations of Dr. Paul Dennison.
Whole Brain Integration Edu-K, helps people
of all ages to experience more integrated learning, body co-ordination, sports
performance and daily living. The importance of movement across the midline of
the body is the focus of Whole Brain used to quickly and easily correct
homolaterality – the lack of left/right brain integration. In order to read
fluently and with comprehension; to write creatively; to spell and remember; to
listen and think at the same time; or to perform at our athletic peak, we must
be able to cross the midline which connects the left and right brain.
It's interesting to note that among the
population identified as "learning disabled" we find that 80% or more fall into
the homolateral category. Living in
a homolateral state leads to frustration and the need for extreme effort, often
resulting in “acting-out" behaviours. Academic achievement is very difficult.
Brain Gym® movements help repattern both brain hemispheres to work
simultaneously and cooperatively, creating the smooth neural functioning that
leads to emotional ease - and academic effectiveness.
A recent study (Dr. Robert Eyestone, 1990)
found that more than 95 percent of individuals in groups labelled as "at risk"
(teen mothers, juvenile detention, ADD/ADHD, in learning disabilities classes,
drug rehabilitation, alcohol support groups) were operating in a homolateral
state, as compared to 8 to 13 percent in random groupings.
As we saw in the first part of this article dramatic changes in behaviour are seen when this homolateral state is addressed and an integrated neural state is achieved. Whole Brain Integration can help this group to join the laterally integrated population, which is able to learn with the whole brain more easily. Being integrated helps us to remain calm and alert, even in stressful situations (exams, job interviews, performances, etc.). When we are relaxed and calm we make better decisions, we feel better about ourselves, and those we interact with, and we are more productive.
If you feel that Brain Gym could enable your
students and would like to experiment by building Brain Gym exercises into your
own classroom practice Ruth Schmid has a practical proposal. She recommends you
start with the Brain Gym Mini-Menu below. For best results she advocates
doing them twice each day in the
order outlined below.)
Drink a glass of water. This increases energy, improves
production, concentration and test taking ability.
This exercise stimulates the blood flow
through the carotid arteries to the brain to "switch on" the entire brain before
a lesson begins. The increased blood flow helps improve concentration skills
required for reading and writing. It also increases overall relaxation.
Make a 'C' shape with your thumb and index
finger and place at either side of your breastbone, just below the collar bone.
Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds while placing your other hand over your navel.
Then change hands and repeat.
This exercise helps coordinate right and left
brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is
useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension. It also
improves left/right coordination.
While standing, alternatively touch your left
knee with your right hand then the right knee with the left hand. Continue for
10 to 15 repetitions. (Variation 1 - touch opposite elbow to knee. Variation 2 -
reach hand behind back to opposite foot.)
This works well for nerves before a test or
special event such as making a speech. Any situation which will cause
nervousness calls for a few "hook ups" to calm the mind and improve
concentration. Diffuses stress; improves self-esteem; establishes a positive
orientation; promotes clear listening and speaking; aids in ability to function
calmly in test taking; improves typing and computer work; helps reading, writing
Sitting on a chair with legs outstretched,
cross one ankle over the other, stretch your arms forward with the backs of
your hands facing one another, thumbs down lift one hand over the other (now
palms face one another) and interlock the fingers roll the locked hands straight
down and in toward the body so they eventually come to rest on the chest rest
your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the teeth (the hard palette).
other, stretch your arms forward with the backs of your hands facing one another, thumbs down lift one hand over the other (now palms face one another) and interlock the fingers roll the locked hands straight down and in toward the body so they eventually come to rest on the chest rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the teeth (the hard palette).
(This position connects emotions to the
limbic system with reason in the frontal lobes of the cerebrum thus giving
integrative perspective from which to learn and respond more effectively.)
Another way . . .
Another way of introducing Brain Gym into a
classroom routine is through balances. A balance is a five-step learning process
that models the lesson plan most often used by effective teachers. A short
balance can be completed in just minutes; a longer balance may take an hour or
A balance involves:
1. Getting ready to learn,
2. Setting a goal or intention,
3. Pre-activities which playfully identify aspects of the learning that need more focus for integration,
4. A way to integrate the learning into physical movement (in this case, through the Brain Gym movements)
5.. Post-activities to identify the new learning.
The final, unnumbered step is to "celebrate
the new learning." This is the step of play, exploration, innovation and
implementation that is essential to creative learning, yet often omitted in the
classroom, where learners are pressed to begin a new task before even
acknowledging the skill with which the previous one has been accomplished.
There is a variety of Brain Gym movements
which you can use to integrate learning through movement. The following are
descriptions of how to put them into practice with indications as to the way in
which they can influence your students’ learning.
Lazy-Eights (or Double Doodle)
Helps with: reading, speed reading, writing,
Extend one arm in front of your face. With
one thumb pointing upwards, slowly and smoothly trace the infinity sign (¥) in the air. Keep you
neck relaxed and your head upright, moving only slightly as you focus on the
thumb and follow it around. This relaxes
the muscles of the hand, arms and shoulders and helps visual
Helps with: spelling, self awareness,
short-term memory, listening ability, abstract thinking skills.
With your thumb and index finger, gently pull
and unroll the outer part of the ear, starting from the top and slowly moving to
the lobe. Pull the lobe gently. Repeat the whole exercise three times.
Helps with: concentration, attention, comprehension, answering questions, imagination and the ability to finish tasks. This exercise removes the sense of being held back and not being able to join in. It stimulates the reptilian brain.
Stand, arms length away from a wall and place
your hands (shoulder-width apart) against it. Extend your left leg straight out
behind you so that the ball of your foot is on the floor and your heel is off
the floor and your body is slanted at 45 degrees. Exhale, leaning forward
against the wall while also bending your right heel and pressing your left heel
against the floor. The more you bend the front knee, the more lengthening you
will feel in the back of your left calf. Inhale and raise yourself back up while
relaxing and raising the left heel. Do the movement three or more times,
completing a breath with each cycle. Then alternate to the other leg and
This activity activates all areas of the
mind/body system (highly recommended for children with ADD (attention deficit
Place the left ear on the left shoulder
extend the left arm like the trunk of an elephant with knees relaxed, draw the
infinity sign (crossing up in the middle) in front of you switch arms after
three to five signs.
A great stress reliever. Massage the muscle
around the TMJ (temporal-mandibular joint) at the junction of the jaws.
Since much stress is held in the abdomen this
deactivates the fight or flight response and allows accessibility to a new
response to a situation by stimulating the neurovascular balance points for the
stomach meridian. Thus it releases memory blocks, relieves stress, and clears
thinking and increases speaking abilities and organization skill.
Lightly touch the point above each eye
halfway between the hairline and the eyebrow with fingertips of each hand. Close
your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply.
As Carla Hannaford says, "Water comprises
more of the brain (with estimates of 90%) than of any other organ of the body."
Having students drink some water before and during class can help "grease the
wheel". Drinking water is very important before any stressful situation - tests!
- as we tend to perspire under stress, and de-hydration can effect our
All the electrical and chemical reactions of
the brain and central nervous system are dependent on the conductivity of
electrical currents between the brain and the sensory organs, facilitated
currents between the brain and the sensory organs, facilitated
Did you know that
• psychological or
environmental stress depletes the body of water, leaving cells dehydrated?
• water is essential
to proper lymphatic function (the nourishment of the cells and removal of waste
is dependent on this lymphatic action)?
• all other liquids
are processed in the body as food, and do NOT serve the body's water needs?
• water is most easily
absorbed at room temperature?
• excessive water
taken less than 20 min. before or one hour after meals may dilute digestive
• foods that naturally
contain water, like fruits & vegetables, help to lubricate the system,
including the intestines (their cleansing action facilitates absorption of water
through the intestinal wall)?
• processed foods do
NOT contain water, and, like caffeinated drinks, may be dehydrating?
(Thanks to Brain Gym® teacher, Evelyn Moniram
RGN SCM at The Art of Health, 280 Balham High Road, London SW17 7AL. 020 8682
1800. The information of the effects on the brain were provided by Bill
Tschirhart of the Canadian Curling Association based on Carla Hannaford’s
C., McCall, S. and Bowyer, T. (1996) Handwriting and children with visual
impairment. British Journal of Special Education, 23(1), p25 –29.
Brain Gym Journal. Published three times a year by the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. (http://www.BrainGym.org)
Cherry, Godwin, Staples, (1989) Is the Left
Brain Always Right?: A Guide to Whole Child Development.
Dennison, Gail and Paul, and Teplitz, Jerry.
(1980), Switching On: A Guide to Edu-Kinesthetics.
Dennison, Paul and Gail. (1994). Brain Gym: Teacher's Edition Revised. Ventura, CA: Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc.
Hannaford, Carla. (1995). Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head. Arlington, VA: Great Ocean Publishers.
Hannaford, Carla. (1997). The Dominance Factor: How Knowing Your Dominant Eye, Ear, Brain, Hand & Foot Can Improve Your Learning. Arlington, VA: Great Ocean Publishers.