It can be easy to overlook, but keeping your brain healthy and active is an important part of maintaining your best self.
We partnered up with Mari Miyoshi, Occupational Therapist and licensed Consultant/Teacher at Brain Gym, to learn more about the importance of keeping your mind active. Read through our Q&A below, and then checkout their website to learn more!
Q: A focus on what you do is through the original 26 Brain Gym movements (“The 26”). What are these activities and how do they improve or focus on mental health?
A: Actually, the 26 movements are only a small part of the larger Brain Gym/Educational Kinesiology program. The movements draw from many other fields, such as developmental optometry, Feldenkreis, Alexander technique, sensory integration, athletics, and more to create simple movements that reorganize the way the brain works. As powerful as the movements are, they are only like the tip of the iceberg.
Each of the 26 movements can be used a la carte to address a myriad of challenges from difficulty writing, reading, focusing, and learning. But the larger field of Brain Gym or Educational Kinesiology consists of brain balancing processes during which the client sets a particular goal around a challenging task and the practitioner looks at the way the client moves, works, holds tension in the body, or has habitual movement and thought patterns and then uses brain gym and reflex integration in order to re-organize the brain. You will often see kids make incredible changes in one or two sessions that they may take six months of a regular therapy program to achieve.
Q: What can new comers expect to learn in your courses? And how do they sign up to join Brain Gym?
A: One of the most important parts of brain gym is a process called noticing. It is in alignment with the principles of mindfulness that often is part of yoga and meditation. Basically when a person tunes into the present moment, they are activating the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making and executive functioning. Executive functioning is a part of the brain that thinks and makes new choices and allows an individual to exercise these skills which are uniquely human. New comers can expect to learn how to notice in more specific ways than one usually does in daily life. There will be movements that are taught as a way to see how the brain is communicating inside itself and in doing so, you can learn to see what is going on in your own brain when you are experiencing stress. The participants will also learn the 26 movements and with these new noticing skills start to learn how to apply the movements to help their own brain communicate better inside itself. I think most people want to understand why they think, move, and do the things they do, especially if they are not productive, and want to have something that is effective and easy to change it. The thing that is lovely about brain gym is that it is not a cookie cutter and prescriptive way of working with a person’s brain and behavior. By learning to move and notice in this specific way, the person can learn exactly what their own unique brain and body need and start to do that to change their own lives.
People who are interested can sign up through the eventbrite link on the events page of the website or by emailing me to ask for a hard copy of a registration form.
Q: Tell us about the different types of sessions/classes you offer. Are these classes for people of all ages?
A: The sessions are for all ages. Due to the level of focus and attention that is available, younger children who need to be accompanied by an adult usually takes a one hour session. These sessions will consist of both working hands on with the child and also educating and modeling the movements for the parents (or caregiver) so that it can be carried over into their daily life. The teen/young adult sessions are an hour and a half, and also include hands on work as well as education around their goal and specific movements that help unlock their brain. The goal is to make a movement menu that is specifically helpful to each individual that they grow over time.
All sessions can consist of many things, and can look different each time. There can be talking and education around brain development and where the challenge that they are working on is causing a “breakdown” in the brain. There can also be coaching, hands on work that help facilitate brain development. I also have training in other modalities such as reiki and craniosacral therapy, and I bring those aspects into the session if the client’s body tests that it needs that kind of work. In all cases the sessions are lead by the client’s brain and body and exactly what is needed in the moment.
At this time, classes are usually for professionals who work with clients of all ages as well as parents and educators who want to help their kids. Adults who are also looking to reduce stress in their own brain and body and want to use brain gym to learn a new skill (such as learning a new language, dance, martial art, meeting deadlines, stress management, etc.) are also encouraged to attend. No experience with brain gym is necessary and I offer many formats for exposure to brain gym. There can be a two hour mini intro, one day intro as well as the official three day workshop.
Q: What motivated or inspired you to start Brain Gym?
A: I learned about brain gym from one of my therapy supervisors who suggested I start using it with my caseload of kids to help them relax and get the most out of the sessions. I started using it as a warm up for all my sessions and noticed that the kids were calmer and more focused. Also, because I did the movements with my kids, I noticed that I was more calm and organized. Then I started to use these movements with my caseload of kids I had in the public schools. I did not know any theory but I could see a change and it felt good. After about a year, I tested one of my kids’ visual skills and he had jumped in ability from below average to the high end of average! That was a 40 point increase in a standardized test for visual skills. When I checked my therapy notes from the previous year to this current year, the only difference in the activities was the five minutes of brain gym I was doing at the start of this particular student’s session ONCE A WEEK! After I saw the change in this particular 4th grader, I decided to go take a class and asked my teacher about this result and she told me these kinds of things happened all the time. On a side note (but very much related) during this whole time I was doing brain gym myself with the kids, not for myself but so that the kids feel supported when they were doing the movements, so I was doing brain gym 6-7 times a day with each new child I had for a session. I started to leave work 1-1.5 hours earlier than usual and my paperwork and time management skills improved. I didn’t initially put it together but I realized after I saw this child improve that it may be the movements that I was doing everyday!
So I took the class and learned more and started doing it a lot and have seen amazing changes both in myself and in clients of all ages. I started learning this process in 2002 and became an instructor in 2004. I have been teaching classes and working with students and using brain gym in some form, either for myself or someone else (often both) everyday!
It is like the gift that keeps giving and getting more interesting with each passing day and each new unique brain and body sessions that I get to be a part of.
Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell