Exercises- Moving Meditation #1

We are going to start with an opening breath that we will use at the beginning and end of each set of movements that together form this exercise.

  1. Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Breathe in, drawing your hands up the center of your body. 
  2. Flip your palms out and expand your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together by pulling your elbows out and down to your sides. 
  3. Begin to exhale, bringing your hands back in front of your chest while you step your left foot out to shoulder’s width. Think of collecting all of your energy under your palms and start to press the breath out of your belly as you press your palms down. When you have pressed all of the air out, let your body fully relax.  

Let’s try it a few times, until you’re comfortable with this opening breath. 

As you inhale, focus on really expanding the chest and pinching the point between your shoulder blades. By pinching this point you allow more air to enter the lungs. 

As you exhale, focus on creating pressure as you press your palms down your body, while releasing that pressure as the air comes out of your mouth. This will produce an experience of tension and release. We will use this breath at the beginning and end of each set of movements in this exercise.   

Now to the next movement.

  1. Standing with your arms loosely by your sides, slowly lift your arms up so that the wrists cross in front of your chest. 
  2. Inhale and let your arms drop down and rise up in a circular motion to your sides, leading with the backs of the wrists. Bend your elbows and pull your hands into your sides with your palms facing out. 
  3. Exhale and push your palms away from you to the sides. When your arms are fully extended, try to push your palms out while pulling your fingertips back towards your shoulders. 
  4. Slowly inhale as you pinch your fingertips together and pull them down towards your forearm, making what looks like a bird’s claw. Squeeze your shoulder muscles and muscles in your arms. 
  5. Exhale and relax every muscle in your body, releasing your fingertips and letting your arms float back down in front of you.
  6. As your arms float down, let them circle up the front of your chest, allowing you to repeat the exercise from the first step. 

Let’s try this 10 times.  

On the first inhale, as the arms circle down and out to the sides they should be very loose. The elbows will naturally bend and come to your ribs. 

As you press your palms outwards to the sides, you will likely feel a pulling sensation all along the tendons of your arms through your shoulders. You might also feel tension in the tops and bottoms of your wrists and in the backs of your fingers. This is all good. 

When you pull your fingertips towards your forearms, try to squeeze your shoulder muscles and even pull them gently out of their joint, raising them up as you do. The goal is to create lots of tension so that you can fully release this tension on the way down.  

As you go through these movements you will be coordinating your breath with your movements. Try to imagine that you are breathing in positive energy and breathing out negative energy. In with the positive. Out with the negative. 

With enough repetition, this will eventually become a habit.

As you go through the repetitions, try to challenge yourself to feel the stretch and tension where, and to really relax and let go of all of your tension where it is appropriate. The more you learn to feel and to create this contrast, the more you will gain control of your tension. 

Some discomfort is expected during the tension, and this is a good thing: the body is changing. 

  1. To complete the exercise, bring your feet together and go through your opening breath.

The next movement will help stimulate your circulation and lengthen your spine, while calming your mind. Proper circulation boosts the immune system, and helps your body receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function well. 

As you go through these movements you might feel different sensations in different parts of your body, like heat or energy. Try to focus on this energy and visualize it as you continue.

  1. Start with your opening breath from the first exercise, stepping out to a comfortable stance.
  2. Inhale and bring your palms up your body and past either side of your head. Continue past your ears and behind your head – open our elbows and the chest will expand. 
  3. With lungs full, slowly exhale as your hands come back in a large circle in front of you. Let your palms come to rest in front of you with a small gap between them, as if they were holding a ball of energy. Your arms and shoulders should be relaxed. 
  4. Inhale and open your arms again like an eagle spreading its wings, slowly straightening your knees. At the furthest point, bring your shoulder blades together and expand the chest. 
  5. Exhale as you relax all your muscles and slowly bring your hands back together in front of your body, holding the energy ball.
  6. Rotate your energy ball so that your right palm is on top of your left as you bring your ball in front of your belly. 
  7. As you start to inhale, quickly flip your palms and start to push them in opposite directions, extending your arms and your spine. Continue to inhale slowly as you lock your arms and straighten your entire body. You should feel tension throughout the body here. 
  8. Flip your palms back towards each other and slowly exhale as you let your palms float back together and your body return to its original position. 
  9. Inhale slowly as you repeat the first movement: bring your palms past your head and expand the chest, then exhale as your palms continue in a large circle to the front of your body where they will come to rest holding the energy ball. 
  10. Rotate your energy ball, this time so that your left palm is on top of your right, as you bring your ball in front of your belly. As you inhale, flip the palms and press the left palm towards the sky and the right palm towards the earth, fully straightening your entire body. 
  11. When you’ve fully extended, rotate the palms and exhale as you let your body relax and return to the starting position. 
  12. Now that you’ve gone through the movement on both sides, repeat it 10 times, 5 times on each side.  

When you press your palms in both directions, look up towards your top hand when you reach a fully extended position. Focus on elongating your spine. You will feel a stretch all throughout your body – your abdomen, shoulders, legs, lower back, middle back, belly and upper back – and especially in the parts that are tense.

Try to stretch as far as you can, so that when you exhale, you can relax all of that tension and feel the energy circulate throughout your body. 

You can visualize gathering this energy between your palms every time you bring them together, and try to feel the heat of your palms as they pass by your head.  

Do all of these motions slowly– there should be no sudden movements; this is all about relaxation and breath.

  1. After you have gone through this movement 5 times on each side, bring your feet together and go through your opening breath sequence .

For the final movement in this movement meditation, you will focus on opening and closing the body. You will be activating connective tissues throughout the body, releasing tension, increasing circulation, and making your spine flexible and strong as you cultivate a better mind-body connection and stronger interoception skills. 

  1. Start with your opening breath, finishing by stepping out to a comfortable stance.
  2. Inhale as you scoop out in front of you like you are swimming, reaching forwards then circling your arms to the sides until your hands come back toward your body. 
  3. Exhale as you push your fingertips straight out in front of you and bend your knees a bit more. Extend your fingertips as far as you can, keeping your back straight but rounding the shoulders. 
  4. Now quickly rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing out and inhale as you pull your hands out to the sides, expanding your chest completely, pushing your hips forward and straightening your legs. 
  5. Flip your fingers forward making a 90 degree angle with your wrists and slowly exhale as you bring your hands back in front of you, rounding your shoulders as you let out all of your breath and close your chest.
  6. From this position, breathe in and press your palms towards the sky, straightening your legs and your torso. Focus on stretching your spine. 
  7. From here, exhale and relax as you make a full circle to the left with your upper body, bending from the hips, and bending your knees too.
  8. Let your right arm continue over the top of your head and step your right foot behind your left foot, heel off the ground. Your left hand can come across your chest and rest under your right armpit. Exhale in this position and make sure you are stable.
  9. As you inhale, push off the ball of your right foot and bend to your left, pressing your right palm over your head and towards the floor. Focus on lifting and expanding your right rib cage as you bend to the left. Your head should be relaxed. 
  10. Exhale and step out to your starting position. As your arms unwind down they can return to the front of your body and start the scooping breastroke movement again. 

Continue through the same sequence, this time making a circle bending to the right. 

  1. Repeat this exercise until you have completed 5 bends on each side. 

Remember to alternate between tension and relaxation as you go through the movements.  When you expand and open your chest, you are creating tension in the upper body; when you round and close the chest, you are relaxing the upper body. 

When you reach your palms to the sky, you are creating tension as you stretch and elongate your spine, legs, and torso. When you start to circle your body downwards, you are relaxing your body as much as you safely can. This alternation is important as you build your interoception skills and begin to better notice tension and relaxation.

When you come into your fully extended side-bend, your body should start to look like a bow. From your palm to your foot you will make a long and uplifting arc. It is important to think of lifting the body up from the ribs rather than bending the body down towards the ground. You can do this by pressing off the ball of your back foot and straightening the leg.  

  1. After your last side-bend, bring your feet together and finish with the opening breath sequence, this time to conclude the exercise. 

 

Conclusion

 

And we’re done with this moving meditation. As you finish, you might feel new sensations in your body. This is a good sign. Notice those sensations. 

 

As you practice this exercise, make sure to go at your own pace and to keep in touch with your body and not exceed its abilities. The best way to do this is to focus on synchronizing your movements with your breath.

 

Learning how to breathe calmly and fully in unison with our movements is extremely important for stress relief, as your lungs and brain are intricately connected. By calming the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system with the breath, you allow your mind to process information more deeply and deliberately, calming potential responses to triggering events.