EXERCISES USING THE BODY
Using the Body
Movement increases neurochemicals in the brain that improve connectivity between neurons, enhance learning ability, and reduce the stress hormone Cortisol. Practicing different activities with your body trains you to be aware of physical posture, movement, and sensations.
Time: 30 seconds – 1 minute
Mountain Pose is a basic posture that allows you to bring your breath all the way to your belly by sitting up straight.
- With your knees tucked beneath you, or legs crossed in front of you, hands on your thighs or in your lap, sit up tall like a mountain.
- Take a deep breath all the way down to your belly, slowly in, slowly out.
- You know how strong a mountain is! Can the wind blow it over? Can the rain wash it away? Be strong like a mountain!
- Try staying in this pose for one minute.
Created by Susan Kaiser Greenland
Time: 1 minute
This exercise is an excellent introduction to finding your focus, or center, especially with young children. The rocking motion is very integrative, syncing the mind and the body.
- Show a picture of a grandfather clock, and what motion and sound it makes. Let's see if we can do that.
- Ask kids to sit up straight in Mountain Pose, legs crossed, hands on your thighs or in your lap, and muscles relaxed.
- Take three deep breaths…1…2…3
- Sway side-to-side and chant “tic tock like a clock, until we ﬁnd our center.” Repeat three times.
- Sit for a few moments feeling your breathing.
- If your mind wanders, that’s ok. That’s what minds do. Just bring your attention back to your breath.
Time: 30 seconds – 1 minute
This exercise is a stretch and release for muscles in the back, arms, and legs. When you release muscles, you also release stress causing the cortisol level to drop. Lowering your head between the arms while slowly breathing increases oxygen and blood ﬂow to the brain, giving it a chance to reset.
- Stand behind your desk with the chair pushed in. Place palms ﬂat on the top of the desk.
- Take a step back and bend forward so that your head is between your arms.
- Make sure your back is ﬂat, and your arms and legs are straight. Feet are ﬂat on the floor.
- Feel your muscles stretch. Take three deeps breaths, and let your muscles relax.
- Slowly step forward, and roll your back up to stand straight. Shake out your arms and legs.
By squeezing and releasing your muscles, you focus your attention on the activity, and release the stress hormone cortisol. This brings the stress level down.
- Lie on the ﬂoor on your back.
- Take 3 deep breaths. Count them out for the kids.
- Now breathe in and squeeze your face: forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth. Breathe out and relax your face.
- Now breathe in and squeeze your hands. Breathe out and relax your hands.
- Now squeeze your arms. And relax them.
- Breathe in and squeeze your feet. Breath out and relax your feet.
- Now squeeze your legs, as tight as you can. And relax your legs.
(By squeezing and releasing your muscles, you focus your attention on the activity, and release the stress hormone cortisol. This brings the stress level down.)
- If something frustrating happens, encourage the child to "go into your shell, take three deep breaths, and think calm thoughts.”
- Optional: Use a puppet to demonstrate.
- Check in with the puppet about how it feels to be in his shell, or have a child operate the puppet and do this. Have children do the turtle pose.
- Can be done with a whole class, or at home with the family.
A hug causes the brain to release its “feel good” chemicals into our bodies. They physi-cally help us feel better. It’s reported that our brain needs 10 hugs a day to feel happy! Practice hugging every day, throughout the day. In this exercise, (adapted from Dr. Rick Hansen), we use a monkey puppet to represent our “inner monkey,” that part of us that feels hurt or scared when something hard happens. When we feel this way mostly we just want “recognition, inclusion, respect, and love.”
- Share a time when you felt this way.
- Then have the children talk about a time when they felt that way. Ask them what helped them feel better.
- Share the story of our “inner monkey” who just needs a hug when things aren’t going well.
- They can either hug the puppet, or hug themselves and their inner monkey, or get a hug from someone they care about. Talk about how it feels to hug the monkey. How does the monkey feel now? (ask the monkey)
So many games are competitive, but hand clapping encourages cooperative effort and unification. In addition to fun and focus, rhythmic games have a positive effect on cognition. Research shows that they increase hand-eye coordination, body awareness, proprioception, memory, and reasoning skills. Hand rhythms require sustained focused concentration. We truly do have to pay attention.
- Have the kids sit in a circle facing you. Explain that we are going to create rhythms by clapping our hands.
- Have Guard Dog clap. Start by clapping slowly three times. Ask them to emulate what you did.
- Add more claps with different rhythms. Have the kids copy each one.
- If some are having trouble with this, give everyone time to practice.
- Use the puppets to assist.
Micky Hart of the Grateful Dead used drum beats to revive his Alzheimers-riddled grandmother. She had not recognized him in 6 months, but when he beat the drum for her in the rhythm of the heart, she “woke up” and said “Micky?” They now use drums with children who have ADHD, or who are on the spectrum to stimulate their awareness and focusing ability.
- For this activity, the students will use drum cues from the teacher to do certain body movements.
- The teacher will give instructions and beat the drum.
- When the drum plays, clap or stomp.
- When the drum plays slowly, walk around the room slowly.
- When the drum plays quickly, walk around quickly.
- When the drum plays quickly, walk around slowly.
- When the drum plays slowly, walk around quickly.
- Make up more of your own.
Using their bodies to demonstrate emotions allows children to experience them physically, and to integrate the learning. Doing it together with an adult or with peers helps them to recognize a feeling in others.
- Start with the four basic feelings: mad, sad, glad, and scared
- Model the shape of one feeling with your body. Have the children guess which feeling
you are demonstrating and have them mirror back to you that feeling with their bodies.
- Do this for each emotion.
- Mad: Hands on hips, frown on face, stomping feet.
- Sad: Hands hugging body, lips turned down
and eyes closed, torso slumped over from the
- Glad (happy): Big smile, hands, and arms swinging at sides jumping up and down
- Scared: Cowering, hands to mouth, eyes wide
- Pair the children up. One child makes an emotion face and their partner identifies the emotion and duplicates it.
- In advance, make a CD that has different tempos of music: classical, reggae, hard rock, jazz, big band.
- The children paint to the beat. They can move their bodies as they paint.
- During this time, ask them how this music makes them feel – happy, sad, excited, angry, etc.
- Collect enough rocks so that each student will have one. Find stones that are different sizes (no more than 4” in diameter), shapes (with at least one flat side), and textures.
- Sitting in a circle on the floor with the students, explain that we are going to get to know our rocks using all of our senses.
- Ask kids to sit up tall like a mountain with backs straight, muscles relaxed, resting your hands on your knees. Take a deep breath.
- Now I will place a stone on the floor in front of you, and look at it all over without touching it. Does it have spots or cracks? What color is it? What shape is it? How is it different from other rocks?
- Now pick up your rock. How does it feel? Is it cool or warm? Place it next to your neck, or in the crook of your arm. What do you notice?
- Listen to it. What can you hear from your rock?
- Smell it. How does it smell? What does the smell remind you of?
- Now taste it. What does it taste like? Is it smooth or rough on your tongue? Hot or cold? Bitter or sweet? What does that taste remind you of?
- Just sit with your rock for a few moments as you continue to get to know it.
- When I ring the chime, take a deep breath. Now everyone place your rock in the center of the circle in a pile.
- I will ring the chime again, and close your eyes. See if you can find your rock without looking. (This works better with one child at a time.)
- I will ring the chime again, and open your eyes and see your rock. It is the right one?
- Place your rock on your head, and sit quietly, balancing the rock. Take three deep breaths.
- Can you do the Tic Tock exercise without having the rock slide off your head?
- Place your rock in front of you on the floor. Breathe…and see your rock. You have practiced focusing, calming, and being aware altogether in this exercise!
- Keep your rock for times when you feel the need to use these skills.