Today, all staff members of The Parish School went on retreat at Lindsey Lakes. At this picturesque country setting, we learned more about engaging our brains using Brain Gym. This was the staff’s second workshop on Brain Gym as we had one during Orientation in August. Brain Gym is based on the concept that movement with intention leads to optimal learning. There are 26 Brain Gym movements that coordinate the eyes, ears, hands, and the whole body to bring improvements in concentration, memory, academics, physical coordination, and organization. At The Parish School, students are learning Brain Gym in P.E. Some of the staff members do PACE in the classroom at the start of the day or before an activity. For more information, visit Brain Gym.
I confess that I am not a teacher that actively teaches or use any Brain Gym movements in my music, martial arts, creative movement, or music therapy sessions. During an open movement activity, if a student’s suggestion is a Brain Gym movement, I go with it and we do Brain Gym.
During today’s presentation, I realized that several of the Brain Gym movements are what I teach and do in music, martial arts, creative movement, and music therapy. Brain Gym took these natural movements and gave them a different fun name. I am going to share how I actually do utilize Brain Gym movements without calling them Brain Gym movements.
Belly Breathing: In Brain Gym, students are taught to breath from the belly and feel it expand forward and back, left and right, and top and bottom. In choir, students place their hands on their bellies and breath deeply to feel the belly moving in all directions. This gives the students support to sing and relaxes the body. In martial arts, we do sunrise breathing from our belly to calm our bodies and focus on task at hand. In addition, when students are having a meltdown, I tell them to take several deep breaths to calm down. Breathing is essential to living, increases the oxygen flow, and centers the emotions.
Gravity Glider: In Brain Gym, students are taught to cross their legs and bend forward to glide from left to right and back up. I found this movement to be very similar to a port de bra in ballet, to have the feet in fifth position and gracefully bring the arms and body forward. In creative movement classes, I work with students in bending over to dance a scarf over their toes and glide from side to side. In music, students bend over to shake instruments by their toes. In martial arts, we stretch our bodies to touch our toes after a warm-up. This develops coordination, balance, and spatial body awareness.
The Rocker: In Brain Gym, students are taught to sit on the floor on their bottoms and rock in circular movements on either side of their bottoms. In martial arts, this is similar to a slap-out of sitting on one’s bottom and rolling onto one’s back. It increases the whole body coordination, energy level, and forces one to breath.
The Energy Yawn: In Brain Gym, students are taught to place their fingers where the upper jaw and lower jaw separate and sing from high to low. This is something I have learned in voice lessons: we place our hands on either side of the mouth to keep the jaw open and relaxed to sing. In choir, we have our hands on our cheeks and sing sirens as a warm-up. It brings in oxygen to relax the facial muscles and increases attention on the task.
Lazy 8’s: In Brain Gym, students are taught to draw an infinity sign starting from middle to top left and all the way around with their hands and body. In music and creative movement, we have been doing dragon dances and I have been leading the students to weave through the chairs in a figure eight. Through this, students are crossing a visual mid-line to increase hemisphere integration and improve their muscle coordination.
At the end of the workshop, I took away some new movement ideas that I will incorporate in music, martial arts, creative movement, and music therapy sessions. Movement helps the brain grow, reinforces learning, and stimulates a student’s creativity.