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Pupils flex their mental muscles with Brain Gym; Teachers say yoga improves concentration in classroom.

Byline: Laura Davis

FIDGETING and whispering are the usual things children get up to when they are feeling distracted in the classroom.

But the pupils of one Liverpool school have a new way of helping themselves to concentrate.

Lessons at The Beacon CE School now begin with a short session of mental yoga - a series of stretches and movements which are designed to stimulate the brain.

Since Brain Gym was introduced at the school, there have been fewer nodding heads and distracted pupils, teachers at the school have said.

Sally Aspinwall, deputy headteacher and Year Five class teacher, said: "We had a month's trial and the teachers felt that as it was such a resounding success we decided to continue.

"The children enjoy starting their lesson with brain gym and we have seen an improved level of concentration in all classes."

The children sit on a carpet in the corner of the classroom as soon as they enter the room after break.

The main routine involves three main exercises - brain buttons, cross crawl and hook ups.

Additional exercises are used by the pupils individually when they become tired or find their work difficult during a lesson.

Cross crawl involves lifting the leg with the knee bent and touching the knee with the opposite hand. This is repeated alternating between legs. The manoeuvre stimulates the parts of the brain which deal with movement, energising the body and waking it up.

The brain buttons are the two indentations between the collar bone and the first rib on either side of the breast bone. Massaging these increases the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain.

A hook up is practised by crossing the arms and legs and placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth.

When a person is under stress, electrical energy is drawn away from the higher levels of the brain which makes it difficult to concentrate. This movement draws attention away from the survival centres into the whole brain.

Chloe Storey, aged 10, said she has found it easier to concentrate in lessons since Brain Gym was introduced.

She said: "If you're stuck on your work you can do brain buttons and it gives you time to think. I was stuck yesterday and I did an energy yawn. I was half asleep but I woke right back up."

Headteacher Pauline Polimenovi decided to introduce Brain Gym after hearing the programme was a success in other schools.

Brain Gym was developed in America by Dr Paul Dennison, an education specialist. He began researching the concept in 1969 when the idea that co-ordinated physical movement is necessary to brain development was already well established.

The 26 activities are based on movements that babies and young children naturally perform which develop the neural connections in the brain.

Some of these were developed through Dr Dennison's interest in Jin Shin Jitsu, an ancient Japanese therapy which works by balancing the body's vital energy. The energy can be helped to flow freely throughout the body through a series of movements.

Brain Gym works by improving the communication among the many nerve cells and functional cells located within the brain and sensory motor system.

Adults and children who have followed the programme have experienced improvement in concentration, memory, reading, writing, organising, listening and physical co-ordination.

Brain Gym is now taught in thousands of schools worldwide and has been incorporated into several athletic training programmes.

Beacon School also encourages its pupils to drink water throughout the day as recent research revealed that children who are only 5pc dehydrated lose a whole 30pc concentration. Each child has a water bottle which they fill up before each lesson.

William Dickinson, aged nine, said: "Before we were given bottles of water we were dehydrated and it's hard to work like that.

"We were struggling but now we can have a sip whenever we want and it helps us work."

"The hook ups help you to relax so if we're feeling stressed we can stop for a minute and do them."

All staff at the school received a day's training by an educational kinesiologist consultant to learn how to implement the scheme.

The coaching included a neurological explanation of how learning takes place and how the brain is disrupted during stress.

There was also a demonstration of how the Brain Gym programme should be used within the classroom.

CAPTION(S):

ALL TOGETHER: Pupils doing stretches and movements CONCENTRATING: Rebecca Johnston does one of the mental yoga exercises SUCCESS: Sally Aspinwall
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2001
Words:750
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