Brain Gym for Writers
By Candyce Carden
brain grows sluggish with overuse. Stress further impedes optimum brain
function. When I hit the proverbial writing wall and can’t get around it, I
take my brain to the gym. The Brain Gymâ, that is.
Brain Gym is based on Educational Kinesiology—the study of movement of the human body as it relates to learning and expressing skills. The framework for Brain Gym is based on simple movements and body positions to help integrate the flow of information within the brain. These exercises boost brain function to greater efficiency.
Dr. Paul E. Dennison developed Brain Gym for children with language disabilities, but the activities can help many groups, even writers.
When I was in the classroom, I used Brain Gym with students during mandated testing. As they test, children are required to sit still for long periods and focus on teacher instructions. My students’ attitudes and attention improved after ten minutes of these exercises.
Now, the movements do the same for me when I’m required to sit still and focus for long periods.
The brain functions in three dimensions: laterality, focus, and centering. Superior brain function requires efficient connection across the brain’s pathways. Stress and fatigue prevent the brain from sending information to both hemispheres simultaneously. Brain Gym exercises help to fully activate all the brain’s functions.
The Brain’s Three Dimensions and a Sample Exercise
1. Laterality. Laterality comprises the left and right hemisphere of the brain. Within this dimension lies the potential for bilateral integration, the ability to cross the central midline of the body. This function allows us to process a linear, symbolic, or written code.
Cross Crawl – accesses both brain hemispheres; boosts reading comprehension
As you lift your left knee, touch it with your right hand; then lift your right knee and touch with your left hand. Continue alternating the movements, either marching forward or in place. You can also do this sitting down.
2. Focus. Focusing is the ability to cross the participation midline, which separates the back and front of the body and includes the back and frontal lobes of the brain. This skill helps us express ourself and focus.
The Foot Flex – back-front brain integration; enhances expressive language skills
Sit with one ankle resting on the opposite knee. Place fingertips at the beginning and end of the calf muscle. Massage tight spots along the calf until they “soften and melt,” flexing and pointing your foot. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Centering. Centering is the ability to cross the midline between the upper and lower body and the upper and lower brain; in other words, the midbrain (emotional content) and cerebrum (abstract thought). Staying centered banishes irrational fear, fight-or-flight reactions and helps us express emotions.
The Gravity Glider – relaxes the system and allows us to process information rationally
Sit with legs stretched out in front of you, one foot crossed over the other. Bend forward and reach toward your feet with your hands. Sit up (inhaling) and bend down again (exhaling), repeating 3 times. Switch your feet and repeat 3 more times.
You can find more exercises and the science behind them in the book Brain Gym. Let me know if you try any of these movements, or please share what you do to activate your tired brain.
Brain Gymâ is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation.