Brain Gym: Part 1 By: Deb England, LIMHP, LPC
Brain Gym, developed by Paul E. amd Gail E. Dennison, is a “series of simple and enjoyable movements that we use with our students in Educational Kinesiology to enhance their experience of whole-brain learning”. The book features chapters on Midline Movements, Lengthening Activities, Energy Exercises and Deepening Attitudes, and Brain Gym at Work and Play. This article will discuss some of the exercises in the Midline Movement section and how they can be implemented to help children who are struggling. (Brain Gym, 1989)
Another one I like to use is the Lazy 8’s. This allows for crossing of the visual midline. The child should align his body with a point at eye level, and then draw a lazy 8 (a numeral 8 lying on its side), the larger the better. Chalkboards or marker boards work great for this. Then the child follows the 8, three times with one hand, three times with the other, and then both together. This can be done with chalk or markers, and even can be used with scarves swirled in the motion. This can also be done on paper, at a desk, and smaller, although it is better to begin with the larger pattern. This should help the mechanics of reading, in symbol recognition (decoding), and reading comprehension. It will also help with relaxation of eyes, neck, and shoulders, improve depth perception, and should help improve balance, centering, and coordination.
Both of these exercises can be implemented daily, and parents can make them fun for children by adding music, colors, and participating in them with the children. Both the Brain Gym book and the Teacher’s Edition are available for purchase at the Life’s Garden stores in both office locations. I will discuss some of the other exercises in following newsletters.
England, D (2005) Brain Gym. Wholeness Healing Today, 2, (1).
Brain Gym: Part 2 By: Deb England, LIMHP, LPC
This is the second part of the Brain Gym explanation. Last time I discussed the cross crawl patterns and Lazy 8’s. This time I wish to explain double doodles, alphabet 8’s, and the elephant. These are still part of the Midline Movement exercises.
The Double Doodle is similar to the Lazy 8’s in that it is done in the midfield “to establish direction and orientation in space relative to the body”. This exercise will improve hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, help in following direction and decoding and encoding of written symbols. This exercise involves the child using both hands and making “doodling marks”, or a free-form scribble. The child could use two pieces of chalk, one in each hand, or pencils or scarves, or just “air doodle”. And expansion is even doodling with the feet. As the visual convergence improves, academic performance will often improve.
Another exercise that is similar is the Alphabet 8’s and involves printing lower case letters from a through t. Each letter is superimposed on either one side or the other. This exercise, while helping to improve handwriting, will also increase peripheral awareness, improve eye-hand coordination, and aid in symbol recognition. It will also work to improve fine-motor skills, spelling, and creative writing. Other benefits may be greater relaxation and improved concentration while writing.
The elephant exercise utilizes the Lazy 8 figure. This is a larger version and actually requires more movement. The child follows the large Lazy 8 while standing with knees comfortably bent without twisting the body or moving the head. This should help improve listening comprehension, speech, spelling, and memory for sequences, as well at memory, thinking ability, depth perception, binocular vision, and coordination of upper body and lower body.
Both the Brain Gym book and the Teacher’s Edition are available for purchase at the Life’s Garden stores in both office locations. The books have easy to follow illustrations and directions for getting your child started. I will discuss some of the other exercises in following newsletters.
England, D (2005) Brain Gym, Part 2. Wholeness Healing Today, 2, (1).
Brain Gym: Part 3 By: Deb England, LIMHP, LPC
This is the third part of the Brain Gym explanation. Last time I discussed double doodles, alphabet 8’s, and the elephant. This time I wish to explain Neck Rolls, the Rocker, and Belly Breathing, which are still Midline Movements.
The Neck Rolls are to relax the neck and release tension. Have the child roll the head slowly from side to side while breathing deeply. When a tight spot is found, hold the head in that position, breathing deeply, until the neck relaxes. This can be done with eyes closed or open. One can also move in the Lazy 8 position with the head or press gently with the hand on any point of tension. As the exercise ends, imagine a warm waterfall flowing down the back of the neck. This exercise is for centering and grounding, and should help improve oral and silent reading, speech and language, as well as increase the level of relaxation.
The Rocker releases the low back and sacrum and can help to stimulate nerves in the hips, which may become tired due to excessive sitting. If the sacrum is freed to move, the brain becomes activated. This exercise should be done on a padded surface and the hands and forearms may be used for support. While seated on the floor, rock back and forth, releasing tension first in one hip and then the other. This exercise helps in centering and the ability to work in the midfield, with study skills, left-to-right visuals, and attention and comprehension skills. This exercise also helps improve body posture, develops a stable pelvis, and increases body coordination.
Belly Breathing can help children remember to breathe regularly instead of holding his/her breath during times of stress. The child should expand the rib cage, front to back, left to right, top to bottom. This should allow greater supply of oxygen, which will permit higher brain functions. It is good if the child places the hand on his/her abdomen and blows out all old air in short puffs. Then take a slow deep breath, filling up completely. Arching the back will allow the air to enter even deeper. This can be done standing or sitting, or even lying flat with a book on the belly. This can even be done while squatting or walking. This will activate the brain for centering and grounding, relaxation, and to improve cranial rhythms. This exercise aids in reading (coding and decoding) and in speech, and it also improves expression, breathing, attention, and heightens the energy level.
England, D (2005) Brain Gym, Part 3. Wholeness Healing Today, 2, (4).
Brain Gym: Part 4 By: Deb England, LIMHP, LPC
This is the fourth part of the Brain Gym explanation. Last time I discussed Neck Rolls, the Rocker, and Belly Breathing, which are still Midline Movements. The last three exercises in this category are the Cross Crawl Sit-ups, the Energizer, and Think of an X.
The Cross Crawl Sit-ups help to strengthen the abdominals, relax the lower back, and help further help both hemispheres of the brain work together. This exercise is done on a padded surface while on the back. Knees and head are up, hands clasped behind the head. Touch one elbow to the opposite knee and alternate the movement. This appears similar to riding a bicycle. This exercise can help in reading, listening, math, and spelling and writing, as well as centering and grounding, left-right integration, and becoming aware of “core, postural muscles.”
The Energizer can be done sitting in a chair or on a mat. Sitting, the child should rest his head on the desk or table, places hands on the table in front of the shoulders. Inhaling deeply, the breath should flow up the middle, lifting the forehead, neck, and upper back. Diaphragm and chest should stay open and shoulders relaxed. Then curl head toward chest, bringing forehead down to rest on the desk. This exercise helps create a relaxed nervous system, aids in binocular vision, listening comprehension, speech and language skills, and fine motor control of eye and hand muscles. It will also help improve posture, enhance concentration, and improve breathing.
The final Midline Movement, Think of an X, helps the whole brain learn to work cooperatively, allowing access to both sides of the brain. The child should be encouraged through all activities, to “think of an X” and mentally create the “X” to exercise the brain. Pictures of “X’s” can be made easily visable, students can be encouraged to visually create the X by imagining it extending between opposite shoulders and hips, or by moving the eyes in an “X” pattern several times. This exercise aids in binocular vision, binaural hearing, coordination of the entire body, and centralized vision, as well as writing skills and organization for math or spelling.
Both the Brain Gym book and the Teacher’s Edition are available for purchase at the Life’s Garden stores in both office locations. The books have easy to follow illustrations and directions for getting your child started. I will discuss some of the other exercises in following newsletters, starting next time with the Lengthening Activities.
England, D (2005) Brain Gym, Part 4 Wholeness Healing Today, 2, (4).
Brain Gym: Part 5 Lengthening Exercises By: Deb England, LIMHP, LPC
This is the fifth part of the Brain Gym explanation. This will be the introduction to the Lengthening Activities. These activities help children “develop and reinforce those neural pathways that enable them to make connections between what they already know in the back of the brain and the ability to express and process that information in the front of the brain”. This actually allows for the movement from the brain stem, which is where the survival mechanism is housed and which was probably overly developed in the first few months of life, especially in abusive, neglectful, or traumatic households. There are six exercises and these may resemble stretching exercises, but each serves the purpose of re-educating the body so as not to resort to the reflexive contracting of muscles.
The first exercise is know as the Owl and is named for the bird that has a large head, large eyes, soft feathers, flies, and is able to turn his head and eyes at the same time, allowing for a rather full range of vision. When done correctly, this exercise releases tension in neck and shoulder and helps restore range of motion, which should improve focus, attention, and memory skills. First squeeze one shoulder to release tension in the neck muscles. Move head across the midfield, to the left, then to the right, and keep the chin level. Exhale in each extended head position, then tilt the head forward and repeat the exercise. Then repeat with the other shoulder. With each repetition, the head may move further as tension is released. This exercise helps in long and short-term memory, integration of vision and listening, and should enable better listening comprehension and mathematical computation.
Anther exercise it the isometric Arm Activation, which helps to lengthen the muscles in the shoulders and upper chest. Have the child hang the arms loosely at his sides, and then raise one hand and arm above the head, placing the other hand on the back of the elbow, behind the head. It is important that the child breathe during the activation, releasing the breath over eight counts upon completion. This should help speech and language ability, eye and hand coordination, and relaxed diaphragm and increased respiration. Then do the other arm and repeat the breathing.
The Foot Flex helps to restore natural length of the tendons in the feet and lower legs, and is a re-education process, as tendons are shortened when one perceives danger. The child should sit on a chair, bringing one ankle up to rest on the other knee, placing the fingertips of both hands at both the beginning and end of the calf muscle. Then hold the tight spots until they “melt”. While doing this, he should point and flex the foot, extending it further as the muscles relax. Then switch feet and do the exercise for the other foot. This exercise should help in a more relaxed posture, improved social behaviors, improved attention span, and should increase the ability to communicate and to respond to others.
Both the Brain Gym book and the Teacher’s Edition are available for purchase at the Life’s Garden stores in both office locations. The books have easy to follow illustrations and directions for getting your child started. I will discuss some of the other exercises in following newsletters, continuing next time with the Lengthening Activities.
England, D (2005) Brain Gym, Part 5: Lengthening Exercises. Wholeness Healing Today, 2, (4).
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