My kind of gym
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Creating Christmas joy on Kauai
Jocelyn Fujii
            I’ve just returned from the gym—the brain gym. It was a rigorous workout, and I didn’t even break a sweat. Didn’t use socks, even, or fitness clothes. Just sat here at my computer and worked out like hell, between my ears. It’s not like I’ve suddenly sprouted biceps or anything, or even toned up my kimono arms, but what the heck—it’s better than being mentally sedentary or walking around in a fog.
            Years ago—thirty years ago, in fact—I had a Feldenkrais session with an esteemed trainer who was visiting Hawai'i from Santa Monica. I was a reporter assigned to write about this then-revolutionary therapy invented by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, the brilliant pioneer who had trained the woman I was interviewing. A trainer in both the Alexander and Feldenkrais methods of re-educating body and mind, she was unforgettable. One of her exercises was to have us lie on a yoga mat and do a series of subtle exercises on one half of the body. We then assessed the increased range of motion that resulted from those exercises on that side of the body. I got at least 15 percent more movement on my neck and arms as a result of those exercises. Next, she had us envision the same series of exercises on the other side of the body without physically moving, to imagine the exercises while our bodies lay still. Astonishingly, when we gauged the range of motion from this imaginary series on the second side of the body, we discovered that our re-educated brains and nervous systems had produced results nearly equal to the previous exercises, the exercises that had been actually physically performed.
             Ever since that day, I have dreamed of a time when effective virtual exercises would become an option for the physically slothful. Like me. 
            The time is here—well, almost. Instead of achieving physical perfection while lying in the recliner with cheese and wine, eyes closed, and visions of aerobics dancing through our heads, baby boomers like me are paying attention to a new paradigm sweeping the country: mental fitness through “brain gyms.” This, of course, takes work, but this is not a perfect world. (“No pain, no gain,” goes the cliché.) But somehow, sitting at the computer and engaging in “neurobics,” using what’s left of my rapidly declining gray matter in cognitive training, seems like a plausible component of preventive health.
            A recent article in the AARP magazine cemented my resolve. It noted the brain fitness movement and the fact that many baby boomers were not only going to the Internet for mental fitness exercises, but that some were actually subscribing to “brain gyms” for rigorous, ongoing workouts. Some are even working with trainers, as in Pilates and yoga for the mind. Intrigued, I Googled “brain gyms,” and before my synapses could even register it, 1.2 million links popped up. As a stunning failure at Sudoku and crossword puzzles, I seized upon this parallel universe as a possible portal to a new frontier. 
            The games, puzzles, and exercises run the gamut, challenging speed and logic while also being highly entertaining. Color games and puzzles, word bubbles and disappearing lines, instantaneous comprehension amid a barrage of conflicting information, reflexes and reasoning—it’s “Play-Doh” for the mind, a jungle gym for gray matter. You can choose your poison or your pleasure, and you can try and try again. This is my kind of workout, solitary and sedentary. And, because I am the only competitor, there is no such thing as winning or losing; I am only sharpening the stone.
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