Movement is such a fundamental and important function of our body that we often overlook it. We tend to ignore the messages from our body until it’s telling us something very urgent. Most of us lack a strong mind-body connection because we tend to only pay attention when we are hungry, sleepy, have to relieve ourselves, or, worse, when we break a bone or have the flu—and sometimes we ignore even those messages.
In order for our children and our self to really thrive, we need to have a strong mind-body connection—in other words, a sense of embodiment. Embodiment is important for all of us because it supports us in trusting our self as we learn to listen to the messages our body gives us. We can then base our choices on what will be most supportive to our well-being. In this way, we can begin to have a deep knowing of our self as we move through the world, which will support us in making skillful choices.
Mindful movement means bringing full awareness to your body as you engage in an activity. It helps to strengthen our mind-body connection and gives us greater insight into our physical self. When we bring mindful awareness to movement, we capitalize on all the benefits associated with movement, including the support of cognitive skills such as increasing our ability to pay attention. It also supports student engagement and learning.
The Education Week article “Learning in Motion” cites studies that show that “children who are more active exhibit better focus, faster cognitive processing, and more successful memory retention than kids who spend the day sitting still. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity by increasing blood flow to the brain, making activity vital to both learning and physical and neurological health.” The article also shares great tips on how to incorporate movement into your classroom routines.
Another great resources is Dr. John J. Ratey and his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In this book he explains “the science of how exercise cues the building blocks of learning in the brain; how it affects mood, anxiety, and attention; [and] how it guards against stress and reverses some of the effects of aging in the brain.” It’s clear that movement is crucial to help our kids thrive and can support them in engaging with mindfulness activities. Movement can be a playground for mindfulness and may prove to be a pathway to mindfulness that is more accessible to you and your students.
When we bring kind and curious awareness to the way we move, we can deepen our practice by giving our mind something to anchor to during everyday activities. For example, instead of walking into our workplaces thinking of all the things in need of completion before the end of the day, we can harness our attention and notice the way our body feels and any messages it might be transmitting.
This can help us start our day off in a more energized and focused manner. And, if by any chance, we’re feeling discomfort or pain, we can also learn how those sensations impact our mood or the way we’re perceiving the world around us and the work we’re about to engage in. In part, this is why yoga can be a great way to explore mindfulness—while we’re stretching, balancing, or strengthening different parts of our body, we might feel the limits of our body or feel discomfort arise, which, in turn, gives us a lot of information on how we handle limits and discomfort in life in general.
And that’s where mindfulness and movement comes in. We can help bring mindful awareness to our body as we move through the day. We can also ask our students to pause and check in on their breath, the bottoms of their feet, or the sensations in their belly or chest, for example, when they’re walking from the classroom to the cafeteria. In this way, we can all begin strengthening our mind-body connection, which will make for a more engaging and successful classroom experience.
Little Flower Yoga has also begun teaching more chair yoga in schools. A chair is a wonderful, versatile, and easy-to-access prop. You can sit on it, lean on it, put one foot on it, or lie on your back on the floor and elevate your legs on it. Getting down on the floor, however, are not requirements of chair yoga. What is required is that students have a positive attitude about caring for their physical body, along with a desire to learn how a strong and healthy body can change how we experience the world we live in. Chair yoga brings the practice to anyone, right where he or she sits. For more chair yoga activities and information about upcoming trainings, please read our LFY blog and this event listing.
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ABOUT ARGOS GONZÁLEZ:
Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor. He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY. Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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