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Using mindful movement for stress reduction

person sitting on mat overlooking a lake

Since we are still acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share a little bit about mindful movement. Mindfulness is defined as an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can happen in many ways including types of breathing, visualization, using our senses, practicing gratitude and even through movement! Mindful movement is an effective way to reduce stress and its physical consequences. When we are moving intentionally, we’re changing the shape of our body which in turn, can impact how we are feeling. I would like to share some simple chair-based moves that can help anyone including children to reduce stress and its negative physical effects:

  1. BLOSSOMING FLOWER ARMS: Begin sitting in a tall yoga seat and lift your arms out to the side, palms up, until your arms are shoulder level and parallel to the ground. Breathing in, touch your shoulders with your fingertips, keeping your upper arms horizontal. Breathing out, open your arms to the horizontal position, stretching your palms open. Repeat. Think about how this feels as you focus on the tips of your fingers as you extend your arms.
  1. FULL ARM CIRCLES: Begin sitting in a tall yoga seat and extend your arms in front of you and join your palms. Breathing in, raise your arms up and separate your hands so your arms can stretch over your head. Breathing out, continue the circle, arms circling back until your fingers point toward the ground. Breathing in, lift your arms back and reverse the circle. Breathe out as you bring your palms together and your arms down in front of you. Repeat. Did one direction of arm circles feel more comfortable than the other?
  1. MOVING FORWARD FOLDS: Begin sitting in a tall yoga seat. Take a breath in and bring your arms up above your head, palms forward. Look up at the sky. Breathing out, bend at your waist as you bring your arms down to touch the floor, your ankles, or your shins. Release your neck. From this position, breathe in, and keep your back straight as you come all the way back up to reach your fingers up toward the sky. Repeat. Focus on what parts of your body are getting stronger during this activity. Which are stretching?

Next time your body is feeling restless or tense, you may want to practice some of these calming movements. And whether you practice any of these moves or some other form of physical activity, try to really focus on the actual movement and how your body feels as you move. That is mindful movement.

Source: Mastering Mindful Moments: Teens as Teachers, University of Illinois Extension

Special thanks to Mayuri Gonzalez and Little Flower Yoga for permission to use her chair-based mindful movement practices.