My kind of gym
written by Jocelyn:
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Jocelyn at
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.
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.
since that day, I have dreamed of a time when effective virtual exercises would become an option for the physically slothful. Like
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
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
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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