Monday, November 24, 2008

Brain Gym - Exercises to Improve Learning

When I was pursuing my Master's in Special Education, a major research project revolved around Educational Kinesiology. One of my roles on this project team, besides leading the overall project, was to provide the background on Brain Gym. Our team which had members in Japan as well as across the country, decided to work with a class of students in a Japanese classroom. The goal of the study was to implement successful teaching strategies resulting in effective learning in the selected 1st grade self-contained classroom. Achievement of the goal was demonstrated through the increased measures of reading abilities of the children in the class. The following is an introduction to what Brain Gym is all about along with an embedded youtube video of a set of Brain Gym Exercises.

Brain Gym is a program of physical movements that enhance learning and performance in all areas (Brain Gym International, 2005). Brain Gym includes 26 activities that promote whole brain learning resulting in rapid and often dramatic improvements in concentration, memory, reading, writing, organizing, listening, physical, coordination, and more. Brain Gym develops the brain's neural pathways through movement. Dennison Laterality Repatterning is a specific set of Brain Gym activities that helps the brain link information that the person takes in and makes the data useful (Hannaford, 1995, p. 111).

Brain Gym began in the 1970’s with the work of educators Dr. Paul Dennison and Gail E. Dennison (Hannaford, 1995, p.113). Dr. Dennison was struggling with his own dyslexia and visual difficulties. He put together the Brain Gym in the Valley Remedial Group Learning Center in California. Dr. Dennison has been helping children there for over nineteen years now.

For more than seventy years, early researchers in sensory-motor training, applied kinesiology and developmental optometry have provided statistical research relative to the effects of movement to learning (Hannaford, 1995, p.113). Dr. Dennison adapted this research, as it related to children with specific language disabilities into quick, easy, task-specific movements that help any type of learner.

Today Brain Gym supports people with or without learning disabilities. This program is making huge changes in many lives. Brain Gym is used in more than 80 countries and is taught in thousands of public and private schools worldwide and in corporate, performing arts, and athletic training programs (Brain Gym International, 2005).

An example of a Brain Gym movement from the Energy Exercises is called the “thinking cap.” Prior to doing it however, turn your head to the left and see how far you can look and notice if there is any tension in your neck. Now turn your head to the right and notice how far you can look and if there’s any tension in your neck. Massage your ears by unrolling the fold of them by beginning at the top and going all the way to the bottom. Do this three times. (In Brain Gym, we call this the “thinking cap.”) Now, turn your head to the left and notice how far you can look and if there is any tension in your neck; and repeat with your head towards the right. Most of you (98%) will notice a very positive difference in your ability to turn your head. You’ve just relaxed your mind/body system so that you are better able to organize yourself as witnessed by your body’s ability to subconsciously organize itself so that turning your head is easier (Koester, 2004.

Personally, I have begun to incorporate Brain Gym movements into my Brain Training sessions. Especially working with children who are weak, below their peers, in the areas of reading and remembering, reading and comprehension, spelling, listening, attending and processing both auditorily and visually.

About brain gym. Retrieved May 12, 2005, from
Hannaford, C., Ph.D. (1995). Smart moves: Why learning is not all in your head. Salt Lake City, Utah: Great River Books.
Koester, C., M.Ed. (2000). A summary of a brain gym research project on reading. Brain Gym Journal.

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