Tag Archives: 26

What Is Brain Gym?

Brain Gym is not exactly a new concept. Like many of the concepts in education, it’s been around for a while and has experienced waves in popularity. Some might argue that its on the decline. But since I had never heard of it, let alone tried it, I needed to do some digging. If you haven’t heard of it – it’s new to you!

Dr. D and The 26

Brain Gym was created in the 1960’s by Paul and Gail Dennison. The concept was simple enough: 26 specific exercises are used as a routine. Depending on how much you dig, you’ll find that early marketing of Brain Gym maintains exactly what the brain implies. These are 26 exercises designed to stimulate the brain. Exercises like the Cross Crawl or Brain Buttons were initially said to increase neural activity or stimulate the corpus callosum. As a result, it was literally a Brain Gym – you were exercising your brain.

Recently, these claims have been diluted. Brain Gym is now marketed as Educational Kinesiology. The only reference to the brain seems to be more and more restricted to simply say that you are performing the routine in order to improve learning.

Gym Memberships

Like a lot of concepts or bandwagons in education, there are workshops offered. Brain Gym seems to be fairly regulated in the workshops that it offered. Braingym.org has a complete course listing for those wishing to get involved. Each workshop is part of a progression. Beginners start out at level 1 and can find an expert in their area who will offer a two day course ranging from $375.00 to $450.00.

Level 5 courses aren’t simply relying on the 26 movements anymore. Teachers who will be in Kuala Lumpur in December can take a level 5 course that seem to be based on art and visual skills.

If you’re feeling thrifty, you may decide you want to find one of those instruction books from the 1960’s or even a youtube video. Armed with those tools, you could venture out on your own and give it a whirl.

Decked Out in Lululemon

The brain gym routine of the original 26 is not meant to be an aerobically challenging activity. The point is not to exhaust your students, but to warm them up. The appeal of brain gym could include any number of factors:

  • Consistent routine
  • Responds to your kinesthetic learners
  • Organized activity rather than chaotic free time
  • Fast and efficient

Ideally the students would reach a point where the brain gym is an expected routine that provides the intended benefit to your students.

Further posts will explore what those benefits may be, whether this is all a hoax, and what benefits you can come away with.

Consider this your warm-up – now the real work out begins!


The Claims Behind the 26

You’ve already seen a video in a previous post that walked you through some of Brain Gym’s 26 movements. Read below to see the purpose and intention behind each movement.

What claims does Brain Gym International make?

  • Enhance whole brain learning
  • Movements benefit every learner to reach their learning  potential

26 movements:

1. Cross Crawl- activates both brain hemispheres simultaneously; “stimulating both the expressive and receptive hemispheres of the brain, facilitating integrated learning.” (p.4)

2. Lazy 8’s-“assist in the elimination of reversals and transpositions in reading and writing.” (p.5)

3.  Double Doodle-“visual systems become more flexible and skilful” (p.6)

4. Alphabet 8’s-“to help students with dyslexia and dysgraphia” (p. 7)

5.  The Elephant- “helps the brain for listening with both ears” (p.8)

6. Neck Rolls- “encourages integrated performance” (p.9)

7. The Rocker- helps with “study skills, left to right visual skills and hand-eye coordination” (p. 11)

8. Belly Breathing- “remain focused during mental activity  or physical exertion” (p. 12)

9. Cross Crawl Situps- “a sense of organization” (p. 13)

10.The Energizer-“listening comprehension, speech, language skills” (p.14)

11. Think of an X- “teaches the whole brain to work cooperatively” (p. 15)

12.  The Owl- “improved focus, attention, memory” (p. 17)

13. Arm Action- “gross and fine motor activities” (p. 18)

14. Footflex- “back/front brain integration, expressive speech and language skills” (p. 19)

15. Calf Pump- same benefits as Footflex plus “ability to complete assignments and follow-thru” (p. 20)

16. The Gravity Glider- “reading comprehension, mental arithmetic, abstract thinking” (p. 21)

17. The Grounder- “memory, comprehension, self-concept, self-expression” (p. 22)

18. Water-“all academics” (p. 24)

19. Brain Buttons- “body coordination, consonant blending, reading support” (p. 25)

20. Earth Buttons- “basic metabolism, visual accommodation” (p. 26)

21. Balance Buttons- “decision making” (p. 27)

22. Space Buttons- “organizational skills, increased interest and motivation” (p. 28)

23. Energy yawn- “whole brain relaxation” (p. 29)

24.  The Thinking Cap- listening and speaking (p. 30)

25. Cook’s Hook-ups- “clear listening and speaking” (p. 31)

26. Positive Points- performance (p. 32)

Combining specific Brain Gym moves allows individuals to learn better in a variety of academic subjects.  These combinations focus on:  Reading, Thinking, Writing, Self-Awareness, Home-Study Skills, and Personal Ecology Skills.

The 8’s and the 26

I decided that I needed to test out this Brain Gym for myself. My kids had already received the crash course in neuroscience earlier in the year and the warning that they would be my guinea pigs for projects now and then. Perhaps this is why I was treated to good natured groans rather than full out refusal. Possibly. Do you know many Grade 8’s that would yell “Yippee Skippee” when you tell them it’s time to do our brain exercises? I know one but I’m fairly sure it was sarcastic.

Regardless, our work out commenced on a day that we were reviewing for our upcoming exam. For the first half of the period, we went through the usual routine of the slideshow, the trivia rounds and so on. About halfway through, when we needed a bit of a pick-up. We stopped to ask students to write down a number between 1 and 4 to answer the following statements:

  • I am focused.
  • My brain is alive with activity.
  • I will remember all of today’s information.
  • My brain is feeling pumped!

Tongue in cheek, sure, but that’s how I roll. On our scale, 4 is “Oh, absolutely!” and 1 is “Pfft, not even a little!”. It was time for Brain Gym.

This required a little prep time on my end. I’d already seen a few youtube videos about some of the 26 exercises designed by Dr. Dennison. However, I didn’t want this to be a “just follow the video, guys!” kind of activity. We’ve already done an activity where we attempted to mimic a hip-hop routine and I was a little wary of Brain Gym erupting into the giggles that the hip-hop routine induced. So I needed to practice for a few days in order to guide them through a few of the exercises.

We started with the brain buttons, placing our fingers on our clavicles and our navels. It’s a simple enough activity that isn’t quite a marathon. From there, we went on to the cross crawl. The activity increased but students were all following along. There were degrees in enthusiasm, some students wanted to perform at a high level and some were content to simply follow along in a content sort of way. As we moved into “elbow to knee”, I tried to resist the urge to yell out encouragement. “Feel your neurons firing! Expand those lobes! Flex your brain stem!”.

After we completed the exercise, we went back to our review. This involved more slideshows, some outlines and some partner reviewing before some quiet time. At the end of class, students were given one minute to respond to those original 4 statements. Then we opened it up to a discussion at the end of class. I asked how today went for them and if they felt more focused at the beginning or the end, etc.

Some of the significant responses are below:

“I liked having the break and it was easier than doing the other dance video,”

“Uhhhh… no difference.”

“Oh I am definitely smarter after I jump around.”

My conclusion:

I liked having the break! It was easier than the other dance video! For some of them it may have made no difference! And maybe that kid really is smarter after he jumps around!

The bottom line: nobody got hurt, it took us less than seven minutes, and our test average was still pretty good.