Saturday 25 October 2014

A mind-bending way to sharpen your brain

Inner workout: Paidraig King of Brain Gym Ireland demonstrates some of the method's unique positions with a client

Having that Monday morning feeling? Unmotivated by the prospect of another year at work after the Christmas break?

Well, help could be at hand.

In fact, it's the subject of this week's column, Brain Gym, that facilitated it being effortlessly written after days of abandoned attempts.

Distracted by a full mind, I wasn't able to focus on the job at hand and then it came back to me how instantly I had got results each time I used it before.

Developed in the 1970s in the US, Brain Gym does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a programme of 26 physical movements and procedures that are said to enhance learning and performance.

The specific movements are designed to integrate body and mind, thus faciliating optimum function -- be it to become more focused, be more confident, perform better at sports, overcome learning challenges, or be able to switch off after a busy day.

Internationally-accredited instructor and head of Brain Gym Ireland, Padraig King, says that with only a few minutes a day dedicated to doing the exercises, rapid and, often, dramatic improvements in concentration, organising, memory, and physical co- ordination can be experienced.

"Brain Gym develops the brain's neural pathways the way nature does: through movement," King explains. "By doing the activities, we are working to retrain the person's brain and body to work more efficiently in new and re-patterned ways.

"The movements facilitate a person to feel safe and supported enough to move forward from their difficulties to beyond the boundaries of their comfort zone, be they reading challenges or dyslexia, attention difficulties or easy recovery from rejection as a salesperson. Having moved closer to their true potential, they operate from a new, more efficient level, that grows with continued use of the exercises."

Based in Boyle, Co Roscommon, Padraig King also holds clinics in Dublin, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Monaghan, Kildare and Tipperary. On average, a person needs to attend only three or four times.

On meeting Padraig in Dublin, we talk about Brain Gym and then we establish a goal. Being blessed with a fast mind has its drawbacks. Over-activity, when I should be sleeping, results in a reluctance to greet the dawn. We settle on a goal of "I relax my body and brain at will".

Then we start the five-step process unique to Brain Gym. I begin by keeping a sip of water in my mouth for eight seconds followed by a few more sips. This, he explains, allows the brain to recognise it as water and to know there is more coming, so it is safe to release some to the brain.

Our bodies are more than 70pc water, about 20pc of which is used by our brain, according to Padraig. "With-out enough water, the body -- especially the brain -- ceases to function correctly. Any disturbances in the body and learning difficulties are exacerbated by a lack of water."

From here, we did the simplest of exercises called brain buttons (rubbing points on the left and right of my sternum with one hand while the other is placed on my navel, and I look left and right slowly several times), cross crawls (touch my right palm to my left kneecap and vice versa eight to 10 times), and hook ups (with ankles crossed, I entwine my hands in front of my chest followed by pressing fingertips together while my feet are flat on the floor).

So successful is Padraig at helping me to induce relaxation within, I quickly seek activities to promote the opposite: how to energise my brain and body. Whenever I am flagging and need to focus, I do the exercises for perking up.

Verdict: When even doing the most basic activities of the Brain Gym, I could feel a difference in my efficiency.

As an organised person most of the time, on those off days we all experience, I've found it to be a magical tool. And what a gift to find something to press the "off" button in the evening.

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