Connecting Breath to Movement

Written by Destiny Wagner

April 18, 2023

How often do you pay attention to how you’re breathing or even if you’re breathing?  I’m guessing not that much.  Breathing is such an automatic task for our bodies to function that we rarely take the time to slow down and pay attention to it.  What about walking?  How often do you pay attention to each individual step or how your arms swing in relation to the movement of your legs while you walk?  Again, I’d bet that it doesn’t happen very often.

What if we took a step back (see what I did there?) and purposefully started to notice not only our breath and how our bodies move, but also how those two things can work together.  Mindful breathing is the first step to engaging the parasympathetic (aka, the “rest and digest”) part of our nervous system.  Adding in movement to coincide with that breath engages more of our senses to help the mind not wander off or race with a seemingly endless to-do list.  

Below are two of my favorite techniques. The first is called the Circle of Joy and takes a meager 3 breath cycles.  It allows you to feel a huge stretch through the upper torso as well as round the back and shoulders to wake up the body.  The second is a Seated Stretch that uses the arms to open up the sides of the body and the shoulders to counter all that typing and desk work.  I’ve included detailed instructions along with my stick figure pictures to help you visualize the exercises.  If you prefer to follow along with me, simply hit play on each video.

Circle of Joy

  • Inhale – lift arms up overhead
  • Exhale – bring the hands to the heart
  • Inhale – interlace the fingers
  • Exhale – push the palms away in front of you rounding the back and shoulders
  • Inhale – lift palms up toward the sky, stretching and reaching overhead
  • Exhale – release the hands down at your side

Seated Stretch

  • Inhale – lift arms up overhead
  • Exhale – grab left wrist with right hand and lean to the right (stay for a complete cycle of breath)
  • Inhale – back to center with arms up overhead
  • Exhale – grab right wrist with left hand and lean to the left (stay for a complete cycle of breath)
  • Inhale – back to center with arms up overhead
  • Exhale – bring the hands to the heart
  • Inhale – cactus the arms open like two goal posts out to the side, opening up the chest and heart
  • Exhale – bring elbows and forearms together in front of face 
  • Repeat cactus open/close two more times
  • Inhale – lift arms up overhead
  • Exhale – release the hands down at your side

SUMMARY

How did those make you feel?  I hope they allowed you the reprieve of overthinking and provided something both calming and invigorating.  Whether you start to feel overwhelmed or sluggish, either of these two techniques will do the body (and mind) some good.  Might I suggest setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder to take a stretch break.  Repeat them as often as needed.  Namaste.  

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