Brain gym exercises are marketed as being simple and powerful exercises that can help improve memory, concentration, and mental alertness. These easy brain boosting exercises have been used successfully in classrooms for decades. And, they can apparently help people of all ages, from kids to adults to seniors.
What Exactly Are Brain Gym Exercises?
The basic brain gym exercises are a set of 26 exercises designed to help stimulate and coordinate the left and right hemispheres. The term “exercise” does not refer to “physical” exercise in the form of a workout, although some of the exercises do use physical movements. Some of the exercises might seem a little odd to a novice at brain gym. This is because they are designed to exercise the mind, not the body.Here are a few sample brain gym exercises to try, in no particular order:
1. Cross Crawls
A cross crawl is like a standing march, only each time you lift your knee up, bring the opposite elbow to that knee. This exercise is said to calm down hyperactive kids (by having them expend some energy). It is also said to balance both hemispheres of the brain.
2. Hook Ups
If you have ever done eagle pose in yoga, then you have done a more challenging version of a brain gym hook up. In the brain gym version called “hook ups” you cross one foot in front of the other, either while standing or sitting. Then, clasp your hands upside down and then bring them into your chest and breathe.
3. Think of an X
This is one of those odd brain gym exercises that seems really weird at first. The exercise is to simply close your eyes and imagine a large letter X. You can also draw an X on a piece of paper in front of you if you have a hard time visualizing it. The idea behind the “Think of an X” exercise is that it will balance the brain as your eyes automatically move to visualize the X shape.
Criticisms of Brain Gym Exercises
Critics of brain gym exercises say that the “evidence” supporting the claims that they work to boost brain power is slim at best. In fact, the worst critics call any sort of brain gym claims “pseudoscience.” Of course, you would expect this type of criticism from a website like the Skeptic’s Dictionary, which basically looks on anything slightly related to holistic healing or alternative medicine as phony and fake. But even they acknowledge that the brain gym exercises might have some benefits. Their main issue is how those benefits are presented: “…Brain Gym exercises might actually relax or entertain students, and relieve some of the boredom of their everyday classroom activities. Still, what is the point of adding a layer of neuroscientific jargon to the activity except to market it to clueless educators?”Part of the issue may be that some of these exercises (such as hook ups) are actually utilizing Eastern mind/body techniques from yoga and qigong, which would advance an energetic benefit to the exercise. In an effort to appeal to schools, the brain gym creators perhaps took those energetic exercises and tried to make them sound more “scientific.” For example, by crossing the left and right sides of the limbs in the “hook ups” exercise, or doing this with movement in the cross crawl, you are allegedly moving your energy field in ways that can break up energetic stagnation.
Should You Try Brain Gym Exercises to Boost Your Brain Power?
Of course, the people who created brain gym exercises will say they work wonders for your brain. Skeptics will say that this is junk science or “pseudoscience.” Many teachers, however, also swear by these exercises after using them on students for many, many years. The best way to find out if this type of exercise will work for you is to simply try them. While you need formal training to teach these in a classroom, you can find many free resources online that offer some or all of the exercises. You can also find many YouTube videos demonstrating brain gym exercises.
Brain Gym Exercises: At Least, You Take a Work Break
Try brain gym exercises for a few weeks and see how you feel. You may feel more energetic and alert, and if so, you have a reason to use them. If not, maybe they are not for you. But if you sit at a desk all day, you will probably feel a lot better if you get up and occasionally do some cross crawls. A little bit of exercise is sure to help you feel better, even if brain gym is not the amazing brain booster they say it is.