Brain Gym is a training program designed to facilitate an increased ability to learn and is used widely throughout British state schools. It is based on the idea that learning is connected to movement, and therefore learning difficulties can be overcome by certain postures and exercises which are believed to create new pathways in the brain.
Brain Gym was developed in the 1980s by Dr. Dennison, an American teacher with an interest in the effect of movement on his students’ ability to learn. After finishing a teaching degree at Boston University, Dennison established a reading clinic and began researching the neurological findings of Dr. Samuel T. Orton. He worked with a number of experts on kinesiology (the science of human movement) and how it might affect learning. He then developed a series of movements and exercises based on chiropracty, optometry and various acupressure techniques. While some exercises were taken directly from these treatments, Dennison also created activities for his client’s specific needs.
Brain Gym is designed to help students of all ages master the mechanics of learning through a series of movements, a teaching format and certain language forms. It addresses the physical components that are associated with learning, rather than the mental, and uses the body as a vehicle through which the student’s learning ability can be enhanced. Brain Gym is based on the idea that brain organization can contribute to a number of mental and physical disabilities, and that balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain can help treat anger, frustration, depression and learning disorders. The treatment is believed to correct upsets between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, and thus increase the immune system’s functionality.
Brain Gym is also designed to increase self-esteem, increase motivation, give the practitioner the ability to identify and avoid stress, increase awareness of the body, and build co-operation between practitioners. Mostly, though, Brain Gym was developed to increase relaxation and improve circulation in students. It is believed that in turn this increases their ability to retain information, as their sensory system is more active. The learned material is also believed to be remembered better through use of this treatment.
Some examples of Brain Gym exercises are:
Drinking Water — making students drink water before class is believed to increase brain function and decrease stress levels, particularly before tests
Brain Buttons — this exercise comprises of placing a thumb and forefinger on either side of the sternum, just below the collar bone, and pressing lightly in a pulse. The other hand should do a similar thing over the navel area. This is also designed to improve blood flow.
Cross Crawl — this exercise involves putting the right hand on the left knee as you raise it, and then the left hand on the right knee, like marching. This is designed to co-ordinate the two brain hemispheres; useful for spelling, listening, writing and general comprehension.
Hook Ups — this exercise involves crossing the right leg over the left ankle. Then cross the wrists and link the fingers. Bend the elbows and turn the fingers in toward the body until they are resting on the chest, then breathe slowly for a few minutes. This is intended to calm the mind and improve concentration.
Brain Gym has been criticized in its holistic approach to learning. It has been said that Brain Gym is not scientific, as exercise of any kind is believed to increase brain function and circulation, and therefore the Brain Gym treatments are merely a trendy scheme based on principles of common sense. It is claimed by some scientists that that there is no evidence to support Brain Gym as being any more effective than other forms of exercise.