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Synchronize Mind and Body - Instant Brain Boosters

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in mind body, originally published in issue 289 - September 2023


Kinesiology – the study of human movement and posture, relating mechanics
and anatomy  Chambers Dictionary


Do you ever get one of those days where your fingers and brain don’t co-ordinate? You may hit the wrong computer keys, or transpose letters in words you would normally spell correctly.  When this happens the left and right side of your brain may feel slightly out of synch, which can make your reactions clumsy.

Brain Gym exercises originated in American and have been used successfully to increase co-ordination in stroke patients and crash victims who sustain brain damage. The brain has plasticity, the idea is that increased physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, and when coupled with physical or mental learning tasks causes the formation of dendrites – slender filaments that branch out of neurons – increasing the brain’s neural pathways and neural mapping.

Children are being offered help to deal with learning and class performance problems by using Brain Gym, an exercise method akin to that used by professional athletes.  The exercises encourage children to become aware of and take charge of their internal state.  They can say “I’m feeling tired, or stressed”, or “My thinking is all over the place” and then do these simple exercises to put things right.  Teachers have noticed that their behaviour and concentration improves.

Gill Brooks Smith worked in Africa for four years, training teachers and children in the method. She said

“South Africa does not spend the sort of money on education that Britain does.  Here was something cheap and easy to learn that produced enormous benefits to users – increased concentration and attention spans;  calmness in the classroom and greater attention to task.

Before exams and to relieve tension the children used ‘Brain Button’ exercises to aid concentration, the ‘Cross Crawl’ to help them use their whole brain and ‘Cook’s Hook-ups’ to relax when feeling anxious as it can help to rewire the stress response.

These techniques are also useful and easy for adults wishing to improve their performance if spending too long on the computer staring at a screen.  The techniques are energizing when used to perk up tired brains towards the end of a long work day.  In my CBT therapy practice I demonstrate standing ‘Cook’s Hook-ups’ to clients feeling anxious.  Once the after-effect is achieved it instils  calmness and gives an enhanced sense of personal boundaries. 

We all experience mental blocks when we are tired, bored, or stressed.  When this happens messages coming from one part of your brain may be slowed down or blocked.  For stressed and tired office or home workers a five minus fix of Brain Gym in the afternoon should be enough to perk you up for the last 90 minutes of the working day. 

  • Beliefs and attitudes are mirrored in our movements and posture and we can often use specific movements to make helpful positive changes. The exercises follow movements children naturally make during early years of life when learning to co-ordinate hands, eyes, ears and the whole body;
  • The ‘Cross Crawl’ is good for combating tiredness – it is a bit like exaggerated marching on the spot. Stand upright and bring your right leg up, bend forward and twist slightly so your left elbow touches you right knee. Ten to 25 repetitions should pep you up and make your movements more co-ordinated, because both sides of you brain are being activated simultaneously;
  • ‘Positive Points’ for releasing tension. These are acupressure points which when rhythmically pressed release the fight-or-flight reflex.  They are found above the centre of each eyebrow and halfway to the hairline.  Lightly press three fingers on these points for 10 slow breaths;
  • The ‘Thinking Cap’ is helpful for sitting through boring meetings – it increases listening ability, short-term memory and abstract thinking skills. Starting from the tops of your ears, and working down to the bottom of your lobes, gently ‘unroll’ the curved outer edges of both ears at the same time.  Repeat six times;
  • ‘Lazy 8s’ for reading without eye strain. These exercises strengthen the eye muscles, increasing their ability to follow objects or words, and are done with the thumb.  Extend one arm in front of your face with the thumb pointing upwards.  Slowly and smoothly trace a large figure 8 on its side in the air.  Keep your neck relaxed and head upright, moving only slightly as you focus on the thumb and follow it round.  Really useful for children and those with dyslexia who need some focus and clarity before beginning to write.
  • Can’t get your thoughts together? Then it’s time to try some ‘Brain-integration Movements’. For these, extend your arms out as wide apart as is comfortable. Picture bringing ideas from the left and right side of your brain together, and slowly make the movements, over four to eight breaths, of bringing your hands together.

Neuroplasticity and retraining the brain

The brain has the ability to change its structure and function in response to new activity.  If you can remember not knowing how to ride a bike, and then with practice being able to balance and ride it – you have rewired your brain using neuroplasticity.  Each time you have changed to a new behaviour or routine, or a new skill is acquired, your brain has rewired accordingly.


Cover Brain Gym Orange

Brain Gym (Orange)

by Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison, paperback, £28.98. Available at


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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