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How Can I Practice Self-Care Through Mindful Movement?

Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT

May 8, 2020

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Question

How can I practice self-care through mindful movement?

Answer

Once we are mindful and we are aware of what's going on with us we can practice mindful movement as a form of self-care. This is moving the breath and the body together. When we move the breath and the body at the same time, it helps ground our brain stem (primitive brain) and it allows us to pull into our cortex (our thinking brain). We are physically regulating our body but we are also calming our limbic system down and it's allowing our cortex to come online. I want to share with you a few really simple breaths that you can do on your own as your own self-care, but that you can also share with those that you serve to help them with their own self-care.

Take 5 Breath

The first one is called the Take 5 Breath, or sometimes it's called rollercoaster breath. Raise one hand up and then bring your other hand and trace your index finger down to the thumb. As you trace each finger, inhale up the thumb, and exhale down. Trace and inhale up the index finger, and exhale down. Trace and Inhale up the middle finger, and exhale down. Trace and inhale up the ring finger, and exhale down. Trace and inhale up the pinky finger, and exhale down. This can be Take 5 or Take 10, or if you're really exhausted, Take 20.

I have had principals tell me that they've used Take 5 Breath when they're dealing with a difficult parent. They put their hand on their chest or on their tie and just traced their fingers. I've also had young people tell me that they've used this in court. If they're really nervous and they're sitting in front of a judge, they put their hand on their leg and trace their fingers. You can also just bring each finger to the thumb for a count of three.

Elevator Breath

The next one is called Elevator Breath and this one is really simple. Sit up nice and tall with both feet flat on the floor. Inhale and take your shoulders up to your ears. On the exhale drop your shoulders down. See if you can drop them as far as they'll go. Let's do that two more times. Inhale up. Exhale down. Good. Last one, inhale up. Exhale down. With the levator breath, you can continue to grow, and as you inhale put your arms up and exhale put them down. Or you can get up on your tiptoes as you inhale up, and as you exhale put your heels down.

Lion's Breath

The next one is Lion's Breath. My disclaimer with this is that we are all going to look ridiculous doing it, but we are all going to do it together. The good news is you are doing this in the privacy of your own home or your own office so no one has to see you. We are going to bring our hands to our thighs. Now take a nice deep inhale through the nose, and on the exhale, we are going to roar and stick our tongue out as far as we can go. Fun right? Two more times. Inhale through the nose and exhale out. Good and one more. Inhale up and exhale out. Good. The purpose of this is that when we are moving our tongue as far out as we can, we are actually relaxing our jaw.

Another really simple breath to relax the jaw is just to take a deep breath in through the nose, and on the exhale flutter the lips. Ah, it's been a long time since you've done that, huh? Or maybe not if your working with kids. Let's do that two more times. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. One more. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Awesome.

Birthday Cake Breath

This last one, which little ones always love, is Birthday Cake Breath. I tell kids to give me their cake trays and then I have them imagine what kind of cake it is, maybe it's a vanilla cream cake, an ice cream cake, or a red velvet cake. Whatever it is, we are going to take a nice deep inhale through the nose. On the exhale, we are going to blow out the candles. Good, two more times. Inhale through the nose. Exhale and blow out the candles. Last one, inhale through the nose and blow out the candles.

What you may have noticed in each of those is that we do a nice slow inhale and then a slow exhale. This is a very important part of being mindful. It's a really important part of self-care because when you are focusing on your inhale and exhale, you are in the present moment by default because you can't breathe in the past and you can't breathe in the present. 

 

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Stress, Trauma and Mindfulness: Self-Care for Educators, by Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT.


nicole steward

Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT

Nicole Steward is a social worker and registered yoga teacher (RYT) with a focus on community engagement, public education, foster youth advocacy, and trauma-informed yoga.  With more than a decade of social work practice in non-profits and K-12 education, Nicole has noticed the need for radical self-care to discharge toxic stress we absorb through our work. This awareness drives her to study trauma as well as the ways yoga and mindfulness affect our brains and bodies, keeping us engaged and renewed. Nicole teaches yoga, mindfulness, and offers self-care workshops and retreats. Nicole believes self-care is a way of being we must adopt if we are to sustain ourselves as service providers, educators and human beings.


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