Cara Bradley invites us to celebrate our physicality by guiding us through a practice to get us better connected to our breath and our body.
Making Movement Mindful
Welcome to the Practical Guide in Daily Mindfulness. My name is Cara Bradley, and together we’re going to be moving mindfully over the next four lectures.
What I encourage you to do is tap into these practices as a way to celebrate your physicality in a way that’s slightly different from how you may be doing it in your daily workouts, gym exercises or while playing sports. We’re going to use our body as a tool for mindfulness practice—as an anchor for our attention.
I call today’s practice “feel your rhythm,” and the intention is threefold: to stabilize our body and mind; to synchronize our breath and movement; and to energize all over. What we’re aiming for is physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
When our body is calm, our mind grows calm. And when our body feels stable and steady, our mind is invited to go there, too. In fact, in many ways, our nervous system is a reflection of what’s happening in our mind.
This lecture we’re going to be moving and breathing, in rhythm, in a way that helps us facilitate what’s called “coherence.” Coherence is a way of harmonizing our nervous system, our heart rate, and our brain waves. Research shows that when we’re in a coherent state, we feel better—we feel calmer, clearer. We feel more energized. And our minds are quieter. The best way to find coherence is by finding our breath and breathing in rhythm.
In today’s practice, as with the others we’ll do together, don’t worry about getting things perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Don’t worry about being a beginner or being advanced—it’s not about that at all. And you do not need any special gear to do this with me. This mindful movement practice is about cultivating awareness of both mind and body. For about seven minutes, we’ll be doing very simple movements that everybody can do. And then we’ll be taking rest. That’s it.
I strongly encourage you to allow yourself the time to join in the rest at the end—it will take a minute or two. And it’s important because it’s during that time that we start to integrate. By integrate I mean we allow ourselves to experience coherence—a more settled and stable state of being. So give yourself that time. You’re worth it, and your life is worth it.
We’ll be using this practice as our warm-up in the coming lectures. It’s simple and you can do many of these moves just about anywhere. Here we go.
A Mindful Movement Practice
- Standing up, place your feet hip-width distance apart. Get into a comfortable stance. We’re just finding the rhythm of our breath and our body here. Inhale and reach your arms forward and up. Spin your palms open, exhale, and move your arms out and down. Let’s do that two more times, synchronizing our movement with our breath.
- I call this next move “synching body and mind”: Inhale, reaching forward and up again, and now on the exhale, reach over to your left as you lean left. Inhale and rise back up to centre. Then exhale and sway to your right. Inhale, reach up. We’re moving slowly on purpose, everyone. Let’s do that two more times.
- Now let’s inhale and reach back up. Exhale to the left, and we’re going to hold here. Let’s bring a supporting hand to our hip. And now breathe in and reach. Now exhale—just following the breath here. Inhale, nice and deep, and go back up to centre. And when we exhale, we’re reaching to the side, pressing our hips to the opposite side and breathing in and out, focusing on our breath as we do so. This is a great side stretch.
- Now let’s place our hands on our knees like we’re baseball players. Reaching arms straight back behind us while we’re in this crouch, pull your bum back, too. On your inhale, reach arms forward, up, rise and look up. Exhale arms back and down and go back into that crouch. Let’s do that two more times.
- On the next inhale, reach your arms all the way up. When they’re up there this time, interlock your fingers behind your head. Root through your feet and send your hips forward. Can you really let your head go, really rest it on your hands? What does that feel like? Open your elbows up just a little wider. And let’s take one more big breath to stretch our lungs. Then exhale back down to baseball-player position.
- Can you drop from your hands to put your elbows on your knees? If you have challenges with your lower back, stay right here with your hands supporting you. Otherwise, drop your elbows to your knees and look down—this is terrific forward flexion for the back. Let’s take three breaths here as we move dynamically: Inhale and straighten the legs, exhale bend the knees, matching movement and breath. This is what we mean by coherent breath. Let’s do that two more times.
- Now from baseball-player position, let’s come all the way down to our belly on the floor. We’re going to do a gentle, dynamic back bend. So let’s reach our arms out to the sides and bring our legs together. On the inhale, lift up. And on the exhale, lower half way down. Inhale, lift back up, and exhale, lower down. This is extremely healthy for our spines. For this last inhale, lift up and hold. Hold and reach through your fingers, lift your chest, lift your leg. And now release down.
- And now let’s roll on to our backs. Straighten both legs out and, again, we’ll work dynamically here. Pull your right knee in, give yourself a good hug here, a good squeeze. This is a wonderful hip stretch. Breathe in. Breathe out. Now switch legs.
- While on your back bring both knees to a 90-degree angle above you now. Stretch your arms out to either side of your body. We’ll take our final spinal twist here—our final move of this practice. Let’s inhale and lower our knees to the right and look to the left. Now exhale and lift to centre. Your knees do not need to touch the floor. We’re just looking for a nice, easy stretch here and to synchronize our breath with this movement. Inhale and move the knees to the left, looking right, and exhale, bring the knees back to centre. Let’s do that two more times.
- Now place feet back on the floor, then straighten the legs out. Separate your feet and spread arms out to your sides. Spin your palms upwards to the sky. You’re like a snow angel or a starfish now, big and wide. Let’s close our eyes here and allow ourselves these next few minutes to really connect with our body. While in this stillness, notice any sensations, any sense of coolness or heat. Maybe you can feel some tingling in spots? Our body speaks to us through the language of sensation. And by connecting body and mind, through breath and movement, our awareness is heightened. We start to become more fluent in that language of sensation. So what are you feeling in your body right now?
- And now let’s direct our awareness to our breath. Just notice how your body is breathing, what it feels like to be inhaling. Note the changes in your ribs, around your back, and what happens when you exhale. Just notice your body, breath, any pulsing or sensations and use them as anchors for your awareness in this practice.
- And finally, simply open your eyes and notice what it feels like to be you right now in this moment. Do you feel more clear and calm? More stable? More at ease? Maybe you feel more energized and ready for your day. Pull your knees to your chest and just roll over to one side. Then roll up and have a seat for one more moment.
With your chin up and your gaze level, thank yourself for doing this practice. Thank yourself for giving yourself this gift of movement, deep coherent breathing, and some stillness and silence.
I look forward to next time when we’re going to be finding our balance. Until then, try to notice how you’re breathing throughout the day and practice coherent breathing. When you’re walking, running or swimming—or doing anything rhythmic—those are all great opportunities to do so.