Breathworks “Brain-based” exercises involve multiple functions within the brain simultaneously.
Breathworks For Your Brain is based on a simple physical principle, Increased Demand creates Increased Use creating increased Function. This is how it works:
Breathworks “Brain-based” exercises involve multiple functions within the brain simultaneously.During the pattern-based exercises, the brain must connect:
- Auditory & visual input with processing of the information.
Planning with anticipation.
Balance with meter, rhythm and pace
Spatial awareness, direction and force
Coordination in partner activities
Focused attention on where they are in the pattern
Short-term memory retrieval of the pattern itself.
Every nerve & muscle (both large and small) are involved in the coordination of the physical movements. The body is moving fluids within the body:
Neurotransmitters & hormones
The dance – ball playing and strength exercises activate, engage and integrate the body & the brain simultaneously.
These activities over-ride age boundaries, disabilities, depression and negative self image, while they are strengthening the heart, lungs, bones and muscles. It’s all connected.
Dance and play allow us to explore our relationship with our body and with others. These activities create new interoceptive maps within the brain. This increased body awareness plays a huge role in fall prevention.
The aging brain normally slows down in its processing of information, but if free from disease can remain as vital and as good at learning & performing tasks as a young brain.
The biggest change is the decline in our sensory perception and awareness, which is the way we take in most of the information we learn.
Our eyes, ears, hands & feet are all enormous transmitters of information during our lives. The optic nerve is connected to 80% of our muscles, and there are even nerve receptors in the bottom of our feet to tell us if our weight is evenly distributed.
Our physical body is design to be an information-gathering system by way of our sensory receptors. Our eyes, ears, nose and nerve receptors in the muscles and joints take in the details of our surroundings and send the information to the brain to prepare us for action. Once again, it’s all connected.
As we age, and our vision becomes less sharp, we pay less attention to detail…because it’s too much effort and the body is always finding ways to conserve our energy.
As our hearing diminishes – we pay less attention to what people are saying and what’s going on around us.
Without stimulating input from our eyes & ears – our brain doesn’t take in as much information…so we use less of our brain.
Movement of our eyes, head, body & feet, all stimulate the vestibular system, which plays a crucial role in our development & learning throughout our lives.
As we move less, our muscles weaken, our bones become more fragile and our balance and stability gets poor from lack of use. It’s all connected. The health & use of one system is dependent on the health & use of other systems.
Movement is necessary, not only to promote the flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body and to the brain, but also to produce acetylcholine, a primary brain chemical for memory & attention.
Acetylcholine is a “messenger”. When it is released into the muscle fibers, it sets up a chain of events that result in muscle contraction. Our muscle fibers contain special proteins that stabilize the nerve receptors. These nerve receptors are like “docking stations” for the acetylcholine to go.
Inactivity (lack of muscle contraction), causes a breakdown in the proteins that make these docking stations. Without the proteins, you don’t produce the docking stations…and without someplace for the acetylcholine to go, the brain doesn’t produce this important brain chemical.
The loss of receptor activity reduces the number of signals within the brain, and the loss of use ultimately results in the loss of function. What did I tell ya, “it’s all connected”!
Coordinated movements are particularly important. They stimulate the production of other brain chemicals that stimulate the growth of nerve cells and increase connections.
Breathworks For Your Brain actively uses the eyes, ears, muscles, specifically targeting the cerebellum and basal ganglion, responsible for the organization, timing, control, force, spatial awarenesss and speed of our movement. Rhythmic movement allows a fluid interaction between the muscles and the cerebellum & Basal ganglia, which in turn send signals to the neo-cortex (the frontal lobe of our brain) which organizes our thoughts. Here again, it’s all connected.
Increased use of the body, results in increased & improved use of the brain. As You look at the video clips of older adults and seniors ranging in age from their late 50’s to well in their 90’s, you can visibly see the speed with which they are processing the visual and auditory information I am giving them. The results speak for themselves.
The students practice on-going repetitions of patterns of movement sequences, of feet, arms or hands, that require intense concentration on the activity of the moment. There are usually 4 separate movements or steps in each dance or exercise, The patterns are done in numerical groups, sets of 8, 4, and 2’s, that run in increasing and decreasing orders, so the student must be keeping track of both the number of movements in the sets, and where they are in the sequences.
The patterns involve the whole body, which in turn, demands use of multiple areas of the brain at one time, while stimulating increased bloodflow and oxygenation.
These exercises/ activities are easy for those with early stage Alzheimer’s and Dementia to so, particiuarly with a partner or in a group.
One of the primary components of exercise and activities for those showing signs of cognitive decline is “engagement”. That means the activities that can be done with a partner and have a “play” component will be the most successful. Playing…and especially playing with someone else is true engagement. Just watch your animals. When we play, just like our pets, we are completely engrossed in the activity. We are Here & Now. Being present is one of the biggest secrets to a brain that’s sharp.
The two components of paying attention and physical movement are important keys to a healthy, working brain.
In the five years I have been teaching this method, I have had 3 students with Alzheimer’s. Two men came with their spouses, one woman came alone for many years, and later on came with a friend. The large muscle group, circular activities are conducive to a “feel-good”, playful mood. If done to music that the patient has memory connected to, can create a desire to participate in the movement.
The basic, rhythmic nature of the movements are soothing, comfortable and familiar. The hand movements like “Peas Porridge Hot” and “Lazy Eights” (jump-rope like movement), make a connection at a deep level, while they are stimulating vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain and all the tissues in the body. watch video
Stimulation of the cerebellum, basal-ganglia, vestibular system amd corpus callosum is maintained through-out the exercises for the planning, positioning and creation of muscle memory required for execution of subsequent motor activity.
The cerebellum works together with the motor cortex, the cerebral cortex and the mid-brain to coordinate movement of the body, but also to connect our thoughts. Doing complex coordinated movements in differing sequences, challenges but also enhances cognitive function.
It dramatically increases ability to focus on task and appears to increase speed and ability to see, hear and process information. The increased demand, increases use and therefore increases function of both the whole body and the whole brain. As famed neurologist and author (“The Naked Brain”), Richard Restak said,
“All proposed divisions within the brain are highly artificial and are based on our need to separate things into neat, easily understandable units. We must always remember that the brain functions as a whole.”
The first system to fully develop, while we are still forming in the bodies of our mothers, is the vestibular system…our balance system in our middle and inner ear. It is up and working – sending information by five months in utero.
As we begin to move our heads, the delicate network of bones, canals, fluid and tiny hair cells move in response to gravity, sending signals to the brain about the position of the head.
The miraculous body/brain connection starts here!
Signals from the vestibular system trigger neural messages to our eyes, neck muscles, limbs and trunk to adjust, to restore balance and stability…in other words, our equilibrium. This system developed because it was crucial to survival. In our case, the vestibular system (activated by movement) is crucial to our higher level brain development and function. When we move in a way that triggers the vestibular system in our inner ear, it spends a message to an area in the center of the brain called the reticular activating system , otherwise RAS.
The RAS is a network of nerves that connect to our neo-cortex, our thinking brain. The message it sends: “Wake up – pay attention, there’s something to learn here.
The use of music and/or familiar child-hood songs and rhymes introduce a “cadence” or rhythm that is familiar to both the brain and the body. Our physical and emotional response to music is evolutionarily ancient. Human beings created musical instruments before they developed agriculture. Our response to rhythm is primitive and also neurologically based.
The effort to match physical movement to specific rhythms requires voluntary motor activity, as opposed to the involuntary activity of Parkinson’s Disease and other neurologically induced movement or tremor.
Possibly the most powerful impact of these movements and exercises is the fun. Many of the activities are play-based and child-like and produce the release of “feel-good” neuro-transmitters that boost the immune system and promote cellular health and balance.
The two hemispheres of the brain process information in distinctly different ways. The right side operates in a global manner, visualizing the whole picture. It’s characteristics are the comprehension of language, rhythm, art and the emotional response to music, as well as the orientation of our feelings. The right side is where facial recognition and perception of experience occur. This side is more flexible, tolerant and intuitive, but tends to be poor at problem solving.
The left side processes the mechanics of language, logic and detail. It is concerned with analysis, planning and sequential order. It prefers hierarchi, structure and clear definition. This generally more dominant side wants an explanation for everything. Even if it doesn’t have all the information, it interprets it’s experience by what it does know and forms hypotheses to satisfy it’s need for order.
The left-side thinks “Make it happen, where the right side leans more toward “Let it happen”.
The corpus collusom is the trunk-line that connects both hemispheres of the brain and integrates the messages between the two sides. Activity that stimulates the corpus callosum promotes “whole-brain” functioning. Based on the distinct differences in the way the hemispheres operate, it’s fairly obvious why “whole-brain” functioning would be desirable and more efficient.
The concept that one hemisphere dominant functioning is limiting, has been well understood for over thirty years. Dr. Paul Dennison, creator of Brain Gym and the Educational Kinesiology Foundation recognized that certain types of physical activity, particularly cross-lateral and contra-lateral movements, stimulated both sides of the brain simultaneously and led to improved focus, processing of information and memory.
Many of these same movements had a direct impact on behavior. Children and adults that had difficulty concentrating, articulating their thoughts and being in social situations showed marked improvement after practicing the Brain Gym activities on a regular basis.
Thirty years of research has shown the correlation between one hemisphere dominance in individuals and attention disorders, allergies and auto-immune disorders and deficiency.
Cross-lateral (movement that takes an extremity across the mid-line of the body), contra-lateral activity (movement that involves both sides of the body at the same time) and use of both eyes and ears involves both hemispheres of the brain. Activities that are one-hemisphere dominant without movement of the whole body polarize the autonomic nervous system. In other words, the sympathetic and para-synpathetic nervous systems cease to function correctly and affect both learning and memory. The physical impact is a hyper-adrenal response and chronic high levels of cortisol in the blood leading to the onset of immune system disorders and disease.
All Breathworks forYour Brain exercises involve cross-lateral and contra-lateral movement. In addition to supporting more balanced thinking processes, they are balancing for the physical body. The movements are primarily spiral/diagonal, which is…and facilitates un-restricted movement. Spiral/diagonal movement facilitates blood flow and oxygen to the tissues, promoting muscular/skeletal health.