Brain Gym® is mindful movement. It is based on 26 movements that simulate natural movements learned during the first years of life. These movement patterns incorporate the whole body including eyes, ears, arms and legs moving in various planes of motion.
Paul and Gail Dennison developed the Brain Gym® approach of learning through movement in the 1970’s. Much of their work was done with children but adults can do Brain Gym® as well.
We all know from experience that when we’re under stress we can’t think clearly and therefore learning something new is difficult if not impossible. We also know that we warm up before any sporting event or exercise to prevent injury and enhance performance. Brain Gym® is about warming up your brain so you are ready to learn and process information. When your brain/body is under stress certain parts of the brain switch off and we can’t think clearly, thus we may draw the wrong conclusion, take things personally or perceive the situation as a threat. This is why it’s important to warm up the brain.
There are Four Brain Gym® Exercises to warm up your brain and body. The acronym is PACE – which stands for Positive, Active, Clear and Energetic. Warming up the brain and body physiologically allows you to feel safe allowing the dynamic brain to integrate new learning and excel at performance with ease. It’s being in the ZONE – when everything clicks and you say – “I’ve got this!”
Directions for performing PACE:
Note: PACE may be done standing, sitting or lying down.
Follow the acronym backwards:
E = Energy – Start with sipping water. Our brain is 80 to 90% water and it is important that the brain is hydrated so it can function properly.
C= Clear – To enhance clear thinking. Place one hand on your belly button and with the other hand you massage just below the collarbone on each side of the sternum. Track your eyes side to side scanning the horizon. After 20 to 30 seconds you switch hands and repeat.
The points below your collarbone are acupressure points called K27s and are the end points on the kidney meridian. The emotions associated with the kidney meridian are fear and anxiety. In Chinese medicine rubbing the K27s help relieve anxiety, shallow breathing and chest tightness to mention a few. In Brain Gym® the K27 acupressure points are referred to BRAIN BUTTONS.
A= Active – This is a dynamic movement called CROSS CRAWL. Bring the opposite shoulder/arm toward the opposite leg crossing the midline of your body. Do this movement slowly for 10 to 20 seconds. The movement involves coordination – your brain has to think about rotating (moving through the transverse plane) to bring the opposite arm and leg together. This movement uses both the right and left hemispheres of your brain through the cross over patterning. Note: The right eye, ear, hand and foot are controlled by the left hemisphere of your brain and the left eye, ear, hand and foot are controlled by the right hemisphere. The dynamic movement of cross crawl links the right and left hemispheres as you move through various planes of motion and switch your focus from one side to the other. You may ask why this is important. The left hemisphere of your brain is often referred to as the Logic Brain – people who identity with the characteristics of being a list maker, time orientated, sequential and focused on details may be Left Hemispheric lead. People who identify with going with the flow, looking at the big picture and can’t see the details and don’t care about time may be Right Hemispheric lead. One side is no better than the other and what we want is to be in the middle allowing for whole brain thinking, functioning and optimal learning. When under stress we will always revert to our dominant hemisphere lead. Until we calm ourselves and relieve the stress (such as doing PACE) we can’t learn something new or make good decisions and emotionally we may feel distraught, disengaged or frazzled.
P= Positive – This move is called HOOK-UPS. Begin by crossing one ankle over the other. Bring your arms out in front of you at shoulder height with the backs of the hands touching and thumbs pointing down. Cross one hand over the other so your palms arm touching. Interlace fingers and bend elbows folding arms under placing hands on your chest. Rest in this position for one to two minutes relaxing your breath. Then uncross your feet and bring your fingertips together as if you are bringing the two halves of your brain together and then rub your hands.
One of the benefits of Brain Gym® is that it teaches self-awareness and noticing skills. These skills help you understand your own needs when it comes to learning new things or enhancing athletic and work performance skills.