In this mindfulness exercise, we are going to move around a bit. Your body doesn't have to be physically still in order to practice mindfulness type activities. Indeed, some people can struggle with being physically still for long periods of time. However, almost everyone can move their body in a mindful way.
Today, we are going to take some time to do mindful movements and try to focus our attention fully on these movements and the associated sensations, whilst we do this, training our minds to focus on what we choose is the real basis of mindfulness type meditation. Just like other mindfulness activities you may have already practised, your mind will probably wander throughout this exercise. This is completely normal and to be expected. When it does happen, just do the same thing as you have done previously. Simply say to yourself, "there goes by mind again", and gently bring your attention and your focus back to your breathing and the sensations in your body, no matter what your mind has wandered off to. We will practice mindful moving for a few minutes in total today, so let's begin.
We're going to start with mindful standing. First, let's stand straight up with your feet about hip width apart. Relax into your knees so that they are slightly bent and loose. Have your shoulders and your back also in a straight line and your chest rested and comfortably open. Allow your arms to hang by the sides of your body. Check that your head is balanced on your neck and shoulders. Sometimes it helps to imagine that you have a balloon tied to the top of your head that is gently pulling you up and straight. If you imagine this now, you'll feel your body move into a straight but comfortable position. If you feel able to close your eyes and keep this position if you feel like you are balanced well enough with your eyes closed, then keep them closed, but if you feel a little unsteady then please feel free to keep them opened. Let's just take a moment now to feel comfortable, relaxed, and steady whilst we stand.
Slowly now, as best you can, bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Notice firstly how it feels when you breathe in and out. Bring your focus to the bottoms of your feet, noticing what it feels like where your feet and the ground make contact. Feel the weight of your body spread through your legs and your feet to the ground. You may like to flex or bend your knees slightly a couple of times now to feel the different sensations in your feet and legs as you do so.
Next, as best you can, bring your attention slowly up from your feet to your left arm. In a moment, you are going to raise your left arm slowly and gently out in front of you. But before you do that, take a little time to notice how your arm is responding. How it is getting ready to make that move. Notice that your brain has already decided that your left arm is going to raise up in front of you and, as best you can, notice all the little sensations that are now occurring as your left arm is responding to this decision. What little movements might it be making already? What physical sensations are you noticing as your left arm gets ready to move?
Now, slowly and gently and in your own time, make that decision to raise your left arm out in front of your body. Notice the physical sensations you feel in your arm, in your shoulder, in your back, in your tummy. That all happened to help your left arm rise up in front of your body. The next time you breathe out, slowly lower your left arm to your side. Return it to its relaxed position and notice how the physical sensations change as your arm moves back down to your side.
Now, when you're ready, bring your attention to your right arm. As you do, breathe in and out, and notice again how your right arm is already anticipating what we're going to do next. It has automatically started responding to what it thinks is happening next. This is okay, this is our body working just as it should. Our job here is to notice just how quickly and automatically this can happen. Without us even realising it sometimes, our body has already started to respond to what our brain has decided will happen. Just sit here and notice these sensations for a few seconds. Notice what this feels like. Say to your body, "it's okay, I don't have to do anything just now. Let's just take a moment here."
Now, slowly and gently and in your own time, make that decision to raise your right arm out in front of your body. Notice the physical sensations you feel in your arm, in your shoulder, in your back, in your tummy. That all happened to help your right arm rise up in front of your body. When you next breathe out, slowly lower your right arm to your side. Return it to its relaxed position and notice how the physical sensations change as your arm moves back down to your side.
The next time you breathe in, raise both of your arms together out in front of your body. Notice the things that are happening in your arms, your shoulders, your neck, your back, and your tummy as you raise both of your arms out in front of your body. Then as you breathe out, open your arms outwards. Move them away from each other and stretch them out gently, but wide. Slowly as you breathe in, bring your arms together in front of you again. Then, as you breathe out, bring your arms back down to your sides. Slowly breathe in and breathe out just at your normal relaxed breathing rate, and let's do that again. As you breathe in, raise both of your arms together out in front of your body, noticing how this feels and how your body responds. As you breathe out, open your arms wide apart slowly and gently. Then, as you breathe back in, bring your arms together again out in front of you. As you breathe out, return your arms gently to your sides. Let's do this one more time. Breathe in, raise both of your arms together out in front, breathe out, open your arms wide apart slowly and gently, breathe back in, bringing your arms together out in front of you, and breathe out, returning your arms gently to your sides.
Take a moment now to notice how your arms are feeling. Bring your attention to your arms and the physical sensations you're feeling there right now. You might like to focus in on your right arm for a moment. Notice the physical sensations in your fingers, your wrist, your forearms, up past your elbows to your upper arms and your shoulders. You might like to do this now with your left arm, noticing all of their sensations from your fingertips up to your arms to your shoulders, gently breathing in and out as you go. In a moment, we're going to stretch our arms slowly above our heads. Notice your arms already starting to move at this suggestion. They are already automatically responding to what your brain has decided it should do. Let's take a moment to notice this happening and, as best you can, to slow this down a little bit. Your arms don't have to move yet. Let's just get ready for them to move in a moment, breathing in and out. Now, when you are ready, raise both of your arms high above your head and feel the stretch in your body as you do so. As best you can, reach as high as you can comfortably go, breathing in and out as you do this. Hold your arms above your head as long as you can, only until the sensations start to change and become a little uncomfortable. See if you can stay with that feeling of discomfort for just a few moments. Tell yourself, "it's only a sensation. Whatever it is, just let me feel it." Then, on your next breath out, slowly bring your arms down to your side again. Let's try that one more time. Slowly and gently raise both of your arms above your head and feel the stretch in your body. Reach as high as you can comfortably go, breathing in and out as you do this. Hold your arms above your head and feel those physical sensations start to change and become a little uncomfortable. Stay with that feeling of discomfort just for a few moments. Tell yourself, "it's only a sensation. Whatever it is, just let me feel it." Then, on your next breath out, slowly bring your arms down to your side again. Let's just pause here for another moment, noticing how your arms feel once again.
Bring your attention to your fingertips, move up through your wrists, your forearms, your elbows. What are the sensations here, up through your upper arms into your shoulders at the tops of your arms? Let's stay here with your attention on your shoulders. Isn't this often the place that we can store physical sensations of tension and stress that we experience through the day? Take a few moments now to bring your attention to the physical sensations in your shoulders. Can you feel any tightness or tension here? What physical sensations are here in your shoulders right now? Next, as best you can, slowly and gently roll your shoulders from front to back. Bring them up to your ears, roll them backwards, bring them down and let them go. Feel any tension or other physical sensations in your shoulders as you go. You don't need to do anything about these feelings, just notice they are there. Let's do that again. As you breathe in, lift your shoulders up to your ears. Breathe out and roll your shoulders back and then down, and then let them go. Breathe in, lifting your shoulders up to your ears, breathe out, roll them back and down and let them go. Do this in your own time for the next few seconds. Take a little bit of time to breathe in, roll your shoulders slowly from front to back and release them gently back into place. You may like to change directions as you do this now. Push your shoulders backwards gently first, raise them to your ears, roll them forwards gently and release them back into position. Breathe in and out as you go.
Slowly now, as best you can, bring your attention to your breath. Breathe in and out and notice how your body feels. You may like to finish off by gently shaking your arms and your legs for a few seconds, and as you do, notice how you are feeling in those parts of your body. What sensations are there now? Then, as best you can, return to your original position when we started this activity today, standing up straight, like a balloon is tied to the top of your head, nice and straight and balanced and ready to re-join the day.
Thank you for practising mindful moving today. Please try to practice mindfulness activities once a day, maybe when you wake up or before you go to sleep, just for a short period of time. Of course, you can practice more often if you like, but once a day is enough to start feeling the benefits and to start a new habit of stepping out of automatic pilot.