Exercising one's mind has gained popularity in the form of brain games such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles. Since people are living longer, the need to avoid symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise. Now is the time to keep the mind as sharp as a tack, and ensure it stays that way.
Brain Gym, a concept developed over a span of 25 years by California-based author and educator Dr. Paul Dennison, is “Educational Kinesiology.” Dennison holds a doctorate in education, specializing in curriculum development and experimental psychology, and has developed 26 exercises from studies he conducted on the relationship between movement and perception, and the impact of fine motor and academic skills.
The uniqueness between the brain, and the Brain Gym activities, along with activities such as learning another language, listening to music and/or playing a musical instrument encourage using both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. Such multi-sensory activities open the door to deeper, more concrete learning and allow better concentration at work, play or to drive.
Studies have shown that older adults who dance regularly decrease the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease by 76 per cent, and those who play an instrument reduce the risk by 69 per cent. Both of these activities stimulate the brain with their cross-lateral actions.
Using both hemispheres of the brain aids in focus, organization, clearer and quicker thinking, improved memory, increased alertness, awareness, self-esteem, confidence, better performance at sports and overcoming learning challenges.
Brain Gym exercises are now used in more 80 countries and are sweeping through Canada in elementary schools, high schools, retirement and long-term residences.
Beyond doing Brain Gym exercises, one of the secrets to enhancing one's life is to make the beverage of choice water - and lots of it! Water is crucial for learning and thinking. It helps the lungs stay moist to ease breathing, and keeps cells healthy. Along with a nutritionally balanced diet, healthy ways of coping with stress and regenerative sleep, Brain Gym exercises can help a person lead a long and lucid life. Here are some sample exercises that can be performed daily:
Place one hand over the navel, while the other hand rubs the indentation between the first and second ribs, directly under the collarbone. The hand over the navel brings attention to the gravitational centre of the body. Rubbing under the collarbone is thought to stimulate blood flow through the carotid arteries (the first arteries out of the heart that supplies nutrients and freshly oxygenated blood to the brain).
This exercise involves walking in place. Touch your right elbow with your left knee, and then the left elbow with the right knee. Large areas of both brain hemispheres are activated simultaneously. (It’s most effective to do the cross crawl movements very slowly, as it requires more fine motor skills and balance.)
Unroll the outer cartilage of the ears top to bottom several times.
Other activities that complement Brain Gym quite nicely include learning sign language, music (singing, listening or playing an instrument), yoga and tai chi, as all are multi-sensory activities using both sides of the brain that stimulate the body-brain balance.
Massage the muscles around the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) while yawning. TMJ is located right in front of the ear opening and is the joint where the lower jaw meets the upper. The simple action of yawning stimulates waking up the brain and helps to focus your attention. No wonder we yawn in the mornings - the brain is trying to wake up. At night, though your body may be tired, your brain knows you have a lot to do, so it wants to stay awake for you to accomplish unfinished business.
For more information on Brain Gym International, a non-profit organization, or to find local instructors, visit braingym.org
JANUARY 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
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