According to the Brain Gym website at www.braingym.org, the brain gym technique was developed in 1969 by Paul Dennison, Ph.D. "Brain Gym consists of 26 easy and enjoyable targeted activities that bring about rapid and often dramatic improvements in concentration, memory, reading, writing, organizing, listening, physical coordination, and more." The site goes on to inform the reader that Brain Gym has produced amazing results for thousands of people all over the world. People all over the world share how it has helped them concentrate, speak better, feel better, and read better. It has many of the makings of a successful and practical self-improvement system. In fact, it is so successful that it is even being taught in thousands of public schools in America as well as abroad. Okay, after the fanfare has died down, is there cause to be concerned with this self-help practice that is affecting so many? The answer is a definite yes!
First of all, I must admit that it is hard to completely analyze Brain Gym without actually going through it and reading all the material, but the website (and related websites that promote it) give many clues as to what the movement is about. After reading much of the site, several warning flags pop up.
First of all, Brain Gym uses physical movements to develop mental abilities. The overall system is broken down into several levels according to the website. I have cited some of the material on the website. Please take note of the underlined words and phrases from the Brain Gym described at various levels of learning and practice utilized in the "activities."
The initial level is 101 and the opening information says, "Learn twenty-six Brain Gym exercises, the Edu-K Balance process, and Dennison Laterality Repatterning."
Next follows the Specialized courses designed to help teaching professionals to work with children. In the Intermediate level 200 courses it says, "Discover the concepts of hemispheric specialization, identification, and balancing to facilitate whole-brain learning." In a class #270 called "Deep Understanding Balance" it says, "Participants experience the joy and wonder of a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them." In class #272 called "Elements of color" is the following, "Honors and empowers the individual and teaches how to honor and empower others. It creates a safe place to consciously access and identify inner issues recognizing the possibilities of our own potential."
In the Advanced level 300 courses, #330 called "Movement Exploration II" it says, "We will expand to incorporate an additional three dimension: heart-space, personal-space, and connection to spirit."
In the Profession level 400 courses, #450 called Creative Vision says, "This workshop presents both an objective and subjective exploration of the learner's visual capacity. Course #550 called Vision circles Teacher Training says, "Participants experience the ways vision is expanded and enlarged by the other senses, and learn how to facilitate sensory awareness and perceptual skills in others." Course # 560, called "Language of Movement" says, "Deepen your knowledge of the Edu-K advanced balancing process and enhance your skills in this three-day course. An in-depth study of movements and postures as they pertain to learning abilities and brain function will be offered. New techniques for deeper relaxation and increased muscle integration will be explored, along with ways to increase vitality and body efficiency."
New Age Influence?
The underlined words and phrases above reveal a New Age connection. These types of phrases are used repeatedly in New Age writings and teachings. But, it doesn't stop there. Further New Age concepts are utilized and incorporated in the overall system of physical excercises. On the FAQ page on the website, the following question and answer appear. Again, note the underlined words: "What are Edu-Ks Three Dimensions? (The Dennisons describe brain functioning in terms of three dimensions laterality, focus, and centering)." It goes on to state that " . . . Centering is the ability to coordinate the top and bottom areas of the brain. This skill is related to organization, grounding, feeling and expressing ones emotions, a sense of personal space, and responding rationally rather than reacting from emotional overlay."
The "What is it" page said regarding centering, "The Centering Dimension concerns the connection between the top and bottom structures of the brain. Centering enables us to harmonize emotion with rational thought. Stress can disturb centering and equilibrium, leaving us tense and out of sorts; when we're centered, we feel more grounded and organized."
The problem is that "centering" is a common New Age practice where a person empties the mind to contact the divine consciousness within. It is, essentially, a method for attaining an altered state of consciousness where the person is very open to outside influence.
This prompted me to do further research for "brain gym" on the Internet. I found other websites promoting the method. At the Wellness eJournal site1 that promoted Brain Gym, the teacher who also advocates Hatha Yoga, which is an Eastern Mystical practice, is listed as a teacher of Brain Gym where the following quotes appear:
- Brain Buttons--While resting one hand on your abdomen, take your other hand and begin to rub deeply just below the collarbone, to the right and left of the sternum. Take slow, deep breaths. Then reverse hands. Do this about a minute on each side. This movement enhances reading skills, and relieves eyestrain.
- Positive Points--Lightly touch the point above each eye halfway between the hairline and the eyebrow with fingertips of each hand. Close your eyes and breath slowly and deeply. This releases memory blocks, relieves stress, and clears thinking.
Another website2 said the 26 exercises "help to restore the integration of right and left brain hemispheres and of the three dimensions of the triune brain." It also said, "Think of Brain Gym in the context of a balance like a laser: the light, focused by the goal, becomes a powerful beam, and deep, lasting change is accomplished."
If this isn't enough to raise your concern, then consider the various terms associated with Brain Gym. The New Age connection seems to become more obvious. Here are some of the terms found on the Brain Gym website:
- Natural seeing, Centering Dimension, natural vision improvement, higher and lower parts of the brain, coordinate the back and front lobes of the brain, perspective of the self, whole brain balance, 7 Dimensions of Intelligence, Total Core Repatterning procedures, Global Parenting, etc.
Books for sale
The list of books for sale on the braingym.com website includes such titles and abstracts as . . .
- Messages from Water describes the author's experiments in photographing frozen water crystals derived from both natural and polluted water sources. The dozens of color photos of various crystalline patterns in frozen water depict how water, through the symmetry or lack of symmetry in its crystals, can give us fascinating messages about the interconnectedness of all nature . . . Amazingly, water crystals also show a responsiveness to music and to human thoughts
- Natural Vision (videotape)--This 22-minute video is both a moving account of the author's journey to realize her own vision potential and a useful explanation of the structure and functioning of the eyes
- Educational Kinesiology In-Depth: Advanced Workshop--In-Depth plunges the reader into a deeper understanding of brain organization, describing the processes of balancing for change and growth in terms of the seven dimensions and the Edu-K realms.
- Personalized Whole Brain Integration--This book will enable you to "switch on" to a higher level of brain performance and a deeper appreciation of your uniqueness, through an understanding of your brain organization profile and how to maximize your innate potential through movement.
Edu-Kinesthetics Integrated Movements TM (audiotape)--The Integrated Movements, developed by Paul and Gail Dennison, balance body posture as well as twelve key emotional issues that affect our daily lives. The movements and accompanying affirmations encourage physical and emotional centering, core muscle awareness, and deep breathing.
Centering is a New Age technique of trying to get the brain to relax to such a degree that it is very receptive to outside influences. Often, this "centering" involves focusing on a single word or phrase and repeating it so many times that the brain moves into an altered state of consciousness. This is very common in Eastern mystical religious practices as well as the adherents of many New Age groups.
Finally, the following two sentences are so cryptic in their phraseology that in order to understand it, the person must learn new concepts and terms. This is a kind of indoctrination into a "new thought" type philosophy common in New Age circles as well:
"Balance of the left and right cortical hemispheres depends on cross lateral patterning, including binocular vision, binaural hearing, and contralateral movement. Common sense tells us what research has validated: chronic one-sided behaviors (monocular vision or excessive left- or right-handedness), especially without the context of whole body movement, polarize the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system, adversely affecting learning, behavior, and immune response."
It may be that people benefit from controlled muscular movement and mental focus. There is nothing to complain about that. However, the apparent New Age connection to the Brain Gym method is enough to raise major concerns to the Christian. New Age meditative techniques have no part in Christian life and practice, no matter how good they might make one feel.
Contrary to the New Age technique of emptying the mind and "centering," the Bible tells us not to empty our minds but to let our minds dwell on godly things (Phil. 4:8) and to meditate on Scripture (Psalm 119:15). We are not to empty ourselves and open ourselves to anything but God. The danger of the New Age is that the spiritual forces of the New Age will influence those who practice its techniques no matter where they are found. Instead, we are called to be diligent, aware, ready, and to compare all things with Scripture.