Autism and Brain Respiration
Brain Respiration (BR) is a revolutionary holistic training system that enables participants to awaken and use 100% of their brain potential.
But that doesn’t explain much, so perhaps it is best to describe BR in terms of the benefits:
- improved concentration
- better stress management
- enhanced creativity
- character development
- harmonious social relationships
- better information processing skills.
All this is achieved by awakening energy channels through exercises, similar to chi kung.
A manic child should be treated like a leaky nuclear reactor. Stay the hell away until the energy has dissipated or end up being fried. Unfortunately, on the morning that my son was due to try out a Korean therapy called Brain Respiration, he was in a feral frame of mind. I pitied the softly spoken woman who led my children away for their private session of stretching, breathing exercise and meditation. My son was running around the grand dining room at Warren House in Richmond as though he had never been let out of his cage before. I smiled apologetically at the Dahn Master (as Brain Respiration teachers are known) as she took my manic son and not-so-manic daughter away. When she returned them to me two hours later, they had the beatific smiles of Tibetan lamas and they radiated calmness. I was convinced it was a sham. As soon as we got back into our car, they would start performing again. But they didn’t. They stayed calm and focused for the rest of the day. For the first time in many months, they spent an entire day together without having a single argument. My son spent most of the afternoon drawing people with yellow auras emanating from their tummies.
I’ve told many friends (especially those with children) about the magic of Brain Respiration, but when they ask me what it is, I have difficulty answering. The brochures given to me by MDA Holistic International, say: “Brain Respiration (BR) is a revolutionary holistic training system that enables participants to awaken and use 100% of their brain potential.” But that doesn’t explain much, so perhaps it is best to describe BR in terms of the benefits: improved concentration, better stress management, enhanced creativity and self-confidence, character development, harmonious social relationships, and better information processing skills. And how is all this achieved? From my morning of BR training with Dr Paul Sumner (a neuroscientist), I ascertained that it is about awakening energy channels through exercises not too dissimilar from chi kung. The first exercise I did was to slap my “dantien” (the point in Chinese medicine located just below the navel) while shouting: “Ha! Ha! Ha!” That’s not a laughing “hahaha” but more of a loud breath expulsion. And there was lots more slapping to follow. I slapped my entire body, rhythmically, up and down my arms, legs and torso. Paul said it would unlock my blocked meridians (the same meridians recognized by acupuncture).
In the room next door, my children, Juliette and Liam, were performing a similar routine. The whole family met again for the last hour of the session and took turns giving each other foot, tummy, and head massages. I savored the moment, whale music and all. BR was developed by a Korean clinical pathologist, DR Ilchi Lee. He based the system on a 10,000 year-old Korean mind-body discipline called Dahn Hak, but modernized it for a 20th-century audience. DR Lee began teaching BR in a local park in 1985. Today, BR has more than a million followers training in 450 centers throughout the world, including the US, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Russia. DR Lee’s goal is to help people “recover a sense of purpose and peace in their lives”. For his efforts, the United Nations World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders recognized DR Lee as one of the 50 preeminent spiritual leaders of the world. In 2001, the city of Atlanta proclaimed October 28 as DR Ilchi Lee Day in light of his contributions to the health of Atlanta’s citizens.
Although a lot of BR sounds airy-fairy – meridians, energy, mind-body coordination – DR Lee has been keen to subject the system to scientific scrutiny. In 1990 he established the Korean Institute for Brain Science (KIBS) so that he could study the effects of the discipline on its adherents. If that sounds too partisan, a number of independent studies have also been conducted on BR and the results published in peer-reviewed science journals. One study showed that after just an hour of BR practice, the experimental subjects had significantly lower levels of stress hormones – cortisol, noerpinephrine, b-endorphin and cathecholamine – than the control group. Another study, published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, showed significant difference between the EEG dynamics of BR trainees and controls. The children who had undergone BR training showed a greater EEG amplitude in the frontal, temporal and occipital cortexes than the control group. In the BR trainees there was also “remarkable high amplitude alpha coherence all over the scalp,” possibly suggesting that BR training positively influences emotional behavior and learning ability.
“What I like about the techniques is that they’re easy to use and they’re practical,” says Joan Turley, founder of MDA, the company that provides BR retreats in the UK. Joan was introduced to BR shortly after her husband died. She found it difficult bringing up a nine-year-old daughter and running three companies. “It has been the last tool for me in letting go of my bereavement,” says Joan. “I don’t carry around the store of sad memories or residual shock anymore. Brain Respiration helped me go beyond that.”
Aside from BR weekends designed for families, MDA also offers BR sessions to corporate clients: law firms, management consultancies, and banks – not the sort of people who often find time to gaze at their navels. But it is in schools that BR has really caught on in Korea and the US. Schools in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago using BR found attendance went up and behavior and attitude improved; there was greater motivation to learn, and increased cooperation between the children. The children’s BR program consists of three parts: wake-up gym, energy focusing and brain building. Wake-up gym is a stretching routine that is designed to stimulate the body’s meridian system (this is done for five to 10 minutes). Energy focusing teaches children to concentrate energy in their hands, then move that energy to different parts of their body. Brain building consists of activities that get the children to use both the left and right sides of their brains, that is, both the rational and creative aspects of the mind.
Parents of children with ADHD have found that their children had better levels of concentration after attending a BR summer camp. And although the evidence is anecdotal at this stage, Cornell Medical School, the University of California, Irvine and the Korean Institute of Brain Sciences are currently comparing the effects of BR to stimulant medicine on one of the major cognitive deficits associated with ADHD – impaired working memory. At a time when even the World Health Organization has berated Britain for its “worryingly high levels” of behavioral problems among children, perhaps a dose of Brain Respiration in British schools wouldn’t go amiss.
Guardian Unlimited – Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004