It’s an orthodox assumption that the body and mind are separate entities. Nevertheless, physical movement impacts the brain’s learning inclination more than we think.
As educators of the world, we’re always looking for creative ways to revitalize our students’ educational experience. A helpful yet straightforward method often overlooked in this evolving quest are brain gym exercises.
How Brain Gym Improves Learning
On the contrary, neurophysiologist Hannaford claims that sometimes the most “common-sense solutions produce the most profound results.” Simple brain gym exercises directly target areas of the brain to boost function and instill sharpness in children.
You can use these easy exercises between lessons to help students remain mentally active. Besides, brain gym movements also improve communication skills, creativity and soften the blow of disappointment. So, if your students are met with rejection, this will be a fun segue way before proceeding further.
Albeit the exercises below are meant for children, they apply to any age group and are equally beneficial. Either way, we can all do with an extra hit of dopamine and endorphins any day.
Brain Gym Exercises
Before getting on the mat, it’s vital to remember that each child is different. Guide them on the activities based on their behavior, executive function and retention. Additionally, they should go at their own pace for maximum effectiveness.
1. March in Place
Similar to ice-breaking games, marching in place is a splendid way to warm up your muscles. Instruct your students to stand straight with their legs hip-width apart, rolling the shoulders back to release any tension.
Then, lift the right leg off the floor and bend the right knee slightly before placing it back down. Repeat this marching motion with both legs at least 30 times. Ensure your students keep their chest up while looking ahead during this.
2. Cross Crawls
Commence cross crawls to improve coordination between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This exercise prepares children for higher-level reasoning—problem-solving, critical thinking, organization, etc.
Now that your students are standing, have them lift their right hand in the air and raise the left knee. What they’re going to do is touch the right hand or elbow to the left knee, crossing the body’s midline. After that, switch sides: left hand or elbow to the right knee.
Make sure that these movements are not rushed but done slowly and accurately. If a student places the same hand on the same knee, there’s no cause for alarm. You can help them cross the midline of their body by placing their hand on the opposite knee.
Do 10 reps, three days a week.
3. Cook’s Hook-Up
This next exercise is specifically designed for those who suffer from stress, anxiety or sensory overload. Not only does it help calm the nerves, but it also improves hand and brain communication. You may ask your students to complete the cook’s hook-up either standing up, sitting or lying down.
Sitting down: Have your student cross one ankle over the other with their legs. Extend the arms out in front of the body, crossing one hand over the other and intertwining the fingers, Then, twist the forearms inwards (towards your body) and form a hook (or pretzel) close to the chest.
Hold this position for several deep breaths before releasing. Repeat as many times as it takes for the child to calm down.
Next, uncross legs and place feet flat against the floor. Place both hands together with just the fingertips touching, in a steepled position. Hold this position for a few deep breaths with both eyes closed and tongue on the roof of the mouth.
Standing: Cross one ankle over the other while keeping your legs straight. Do the same pretzel-twisting with the arms and the subsequent pose change.
4. Brain Buttons
Brain buttons stimulate the flow of electromagnetic energy to the brain and activate the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is a person’s internal alarm clock that jostles the brain awake, helping children to prep their brain for learning. Consequently, fidgety or sluggish children who have problems paying attention can use this exercise to stay alert. It promotes body balance and relaxes the eyes, shoulders and neck as well.
Standing up straight, place one palm over the navel. Simultaneously, put the thumb and index finger of the other hand directly under the clavicle (collarbone). Hold this position for at least 30 seconds. You may tell your students to move their fingers gently in circular motions.
This brain gym exercise is perfect for re-energizing children before they take an exam.
5. Ankle Touch
Another cross-midline exercise, the standing alternate ankle touch helps improve balance and coordination between opposite limbs.
Tell your child to stand with their feet shoulder-width apart; arms bent at a 90° angle. Lift the right ankle off the ground and touch it with the left hand. Repeat the other side for about 15 to 20 reps.
6. Step Touch
Step touches are also known as the dancer’s warm-up. So, after your students have completed their brain gym activities, you can lead them in a fun little dance party! This movement is excellent for lateral or side-to-side coordination, elevating auditory, speech and retention capabilities.
First, have your students stand with their feet together. Take a step—not too small or wide—towards the right with the right foot, then joined by the left. Repeat on the other side. You can even add some arm movements, for instance, waving them above the head.
Do this as many times as you want at a moderate pace.
These endless brain gym exercises for you to explore. Kids, teens, adults—anyone can make the most out of them. Whether it’s to rebuild posture, improve attention, memory or even cognitive function, get your students moving!