Athletic Training Education/
Wellness and Corporate Fitness
As captain of Defiance's varsity soccer team, Craig Burke knows something about focus and movement. But he never knew how intimately connected they were until he began researching the human brain for a McMaster School project. "I looked at how neural connections are made in the brain's left and right hemispheres during certain movements, and how that affects cognitive thinking."
Then he packed up his knowledge, and his suitcase. As a McMaster Scholar, Craig journeyed to a Cambodian school to present his research. "I stood up in front of 65 teachers and explained how these different exercises have been scientifically shown to help students with their reading skills, their writing, and their ability to pay attention longer in the classroom. Then I demonstrated the movements--nine specific exercises that they could do with their students in about five minutes each morning."
As a McMaster Scholar, Craig Burke journeyed to a Cambodian school to present his research.
The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior. Lying in its bony shell and washed by protective fluid, the brain is the source of all the qualities that define our humanity. The brain helps individuals to be able to function.
All parts of the brain work together, but each part has its own special properties. During different movements, the main sections of the brain are stimulated. With proper stimulation the brain has shown to be able to receive and retain information better. Also many types of movements have demonstrated the creation of better neuron connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. This crossing from one hemisphere to the other is referred to as crossing the midline. As a person performs movements that encourage this crossing of the midline, the neural signals that travel become more efficient.
Dr. Paul Dennison, an expert in educational kinesiology, has established certain movements that are designed to stimulate the specific sections of the brain that help an individual with cognitive thinking as well as help create additional and more efficient neurons that pass across the midline. He calls these different movements the Brain Gym.
The Brain gym movements begin with a readiness routine called PACE – Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic learning. It is a learning readiness sequence that is usually performed at the beginning of the school day, after recess, and after lunch to effectively prepare students for learning. Many teachers execute these movements prior to an activity for which they want students to be totally integrated. The PACE movements include drinking water for energetic learning and then doing Brain Buttons, Cross Crawls, and Hook-Ups. This program has shown to be successful in helping students increase reading skills, writing skills, and to be able to focus on school work for longer periods of time.
Brain Buttons are done by placing one hand over the novel while the other hand stimulates points between the ribs. Create the letter “C” with your hand and find the indentations right below your collarbone on your chest. Once there, massage the area for one minute. By doing this, blood flow and oxygen are increased to the brain. The hand over the navel brings attention to the gravitational center of the body. Here lie the core muscles, important contributors to bodily balance. A person may not physically feel changes to their body, however, physiologically the heat that is being created by the massage is increasing blood flow to help clear the mind.
The Cross Crawl is simply a cross-lateral walking in place. By touching the right elbow to the left knee and then the left elbow to the right knee, large areas of both brain hemispheres are being activated, simultaneously. Cross Crawling is like consequently walking, which facilitates balance nerve activation across the corpus callosum. When done on a regular basis, more nerve networks form and myelinate in the corpus callosum, thus making communication between the two hemispheres faster and more integrated for higher level response. Start by doing 24 Cross Crawls, and then gradually decrease this to 12 and finally eight with a short rest between each set. This movement should be done slowly to help with fine motor movements. This exercise has shown to help with making connection across the midline. As children become stronger with crossing the midline, they become stronger readers and better writers.
Hook-Ups are done by crossing one ankle over the other. It does not matter if you place the right over the left or the left ankle over the right. Do whichever feels most comfortable. The hands are then crossed, clasped, and inverted. To do this, stretch your arms out in front of you with the backs of the hands together and the thumbs pointing down. Now lift one hand over the other, palms facing and interlocking the fingers. Then roll the locked hands straight down and in toward the body so they eventually rest on the chest with the elbows down. While in this position, rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the teeth.
This complex crossover has some of the same effects as the Cross Crawl. It will help make connections across the midline of the brain. Also, the placement of the tongue on the roof of the mouth will help to stimulate the midbrain which lies right above the hard palette. Students should be instructed to breathe slowly to help lower their heart rate. By doing this, the student is preparing to be attentive to new information.
The next four movements are designed to help with certain skills such as writing and listening.
To do Lazy 8s, you need to draw an infinity symbol (a sideways eight) on paper or chalkboard with a flowing continuous movement. Start in the middle, draw counter-clockwise first - up, over and around; then clockwise – up, over, around, and back to the midpoint. Five or more continuous repetitions are done with each hand, and five or more repetitions are also done with both hands together. This is best done large at first, but still in the visual field, to stimulate large muscles, and on a surface to stimulate tactile awareness.
Lazy 8s for writing are excellent for establishing the necessary rhythm and flow for good hand and eye coordination. This action relaxes the muscles of the hands, arms, and shoulders as well as facilitating visual tracking. Also, this motion helps students experience cross-lateral integration.
The elephant is done by placing the left ear on the left shoulder, tight enough to hold a piece of paper between the two, then extending the left arm like a trunk. With knees relaxed, the arm draws a Lazy 8 pattern in the midfield, again starting up the middle and out and around with eyes following the movement past the fingertips. For increased effectiveness, it should be performed slowly three to five times on the left and an equal number of times with the right ear against the right shoulder. Elephant sounds should be incorporated to help with stimulation of the auditory canal.
The Thinking Cap wakes up the whole hearing mechanism and assists memory. It is done by unrolling the outer ears from top to bottom several times. The link between hearing in the temporal lobe and memory in the limbic system appears to be very strong. Just the act of using the Thinking Cap to physically stimulate the outer ear wakes up the whole hearing mechanism.
The Elephant and the Thinking Cap can be done before listening to an important lesson. Many students have used these exercises to help recall information on tests and assignments.
The Energy Yawn is done by massaging the muscles around the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ lies right in front of the ear opening and is the joint where the lower jaw meets the upper jaw. Across the joint runs trunks of five major cranial nerves that gain sensory information from all over the face, eyes, and mouth for mastication and vocalization.
When children are having difficulty reading, it may be because the eyes are not working well together. They also may not be hearing clearly due to stress. Tension in the TMJ may also make it difficult to verbalize which is tied to thought processing. The Energy Yawn is remarkable in its effects with children. By relaxing the muscles and facilitating full nerve function across the temporal mandibular joint, all the nerve functions to and from the eyes, facial muscles and mouth are improved.
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