Mindful Suns: Brighten your Day

Mindful Suns: Brighten your Day

One way to brighten your day is to pump up your energy levels with some Mindful Suns. Mindful Suns builds off of our Mindful Mornings lesson of Moving with the Breath. If you haven’t practiced that activity yet, it can be helpful to feel comfortable moving with the breath before jumping right in to your Mindful Suns!955698710_48bb837761_b

If you practiced Moving with the Breath, but feel like you might need a little refresher, don’t worry! We will be practicing Moving with the Breath to warm up for our Mindful Suns. You might notice the ways that they are connected when we practice.

To begin, find a space as long as your body and wide as your arms to practice in. You don’t need a mat, but it can be nice to have if you plan on doing lots of Mindful Suns. We will begin by finding our Mountain Pose. You might remember that Mountain Pose can be the starting point for many kinds of Mindful Movement, including Mindful Suns!

Begin with your feet as wide as your hips, arms along your side, facing forward. Get really tall in your spine by reaching up through the tippy top of your head and down from the soles of your feet. Breathe in to grow up through your crown, breathe out to ground down into the feet. In order to grow, we must also have roots. This is true for a lot of other parts of our practices of Mindful Living.

From Mountain Pose, breathe in to lift the arms slowly up overhead. Breathe out to bend the knees a little and fold forward. Breathe in, hands to the shins and look forward. Breathe out to fold forward and step your right foot back, then left foot back to Plank! Take three full, Mindful Breaths here. Notice when you breathe in, and notice when you breathe out.

At the end of your third out-breath, lift your hips up and back to Down Dog! When you get here, check in to see that your hands are as wide as your shoulders, with your fingers spreading really wide. Check that your feet are as wide as your hips with your toes pointing straight ahead too. Take three breaths in and out here too. Notice your in-breath and notice your out-breath.

Press into your pointer finger and thumb to ground your hands down and breathe in to lift your right leg up. Breathe out to step your right foot forward and then your left foot forward to a fold. Breathe in to look forward, hands to shins. Breathe out to fold over the legs again. Root into your feet to rise all the way up with a long flat back, arms reaching over your head, as you breathe in. Breathe out, return to Mountain Pose and catch your breath. Everyone take a big breath in through the nose and sighhhhh it out of the mouth.

Now for round two! We will move in the same Mindful way, but starting with the left side leg this time. Breath in, arms up high overhead. Breathe out, bend the knees a little to fold with a long, flat back. Breathe in, hands to shins, look ahead. Breathe out, left foot back, then right foot back to Plank! Three Mindful Breaths here.

Now hips back and up to Down Dog, and hang out here for three more Mindful Breaths. Your head can relax, and you can close your eyes if this feels nice.

After your third out-breath, use your next in-breath to lift your left leg up and back. Breathe out to bring the left foot between your hands, and then your right foot. Breathe in to lift up half way. Breathe out to fold back down. Breathe in to root and rise all the way up, arms over your head. Breathe out to let the arms rest at your sides, back in Mountain Pose where we began.

Student Tip: Stay tuned for Plank to Down Dog Tips and Mindful Breath to learn even more about making your Mindful Suns as Mindful as possible! You can practice Mindful Suns a few times in a row if you’re really feeling like moving some energy.

Teacher’s Tip: If anyone’s wrists hurt in Down Dog or Plank, let them know that they can bring their knees down for support.

Mindful Steps Activity

Mindful Steps Activity

164647732_8c9b3183d7_oToday’s activity is a practice in taking mindful steps. This is a practice that can be done any time you are walking somewhere. It is an activity that lets us pay extra attention to the journey we make from one place to another.

We will begin by standing up tall and finding our mountain pose. If you are comfortable closing your eyes, you can close them for the next few moments. Grow your roots into the ground and become strong and tall like a mountain, reaching your head up to the sky like the tippy top of a mountain’s peak. Turn your palms to face forward and inhale as you roll your shoulders up by your ears, then exhale to let them role down your back. Do this three more times on your own, moving with your breath.

Now that we are strong and grounded, we can be even more mindful in the way that we walk. Being present means that we are paying extra attention to what we are doing so we can get the most out of every moment. Mindful walking is walking while paying extra attention to the way we are moving, the place we are walking in, and how we feel while walking. It takes our minds off of where we are going to end up, and lets us have fun getting there. Have you ever driven somewhere with your parents and kept wondering when you’d get there? Mindful walking is like you are driving, but you are noticing everything around you so much that you don’t even think about how much time you have left to drive.

We can practice this activity by walking through the garden. Begin walking on the garden path. Notice how fast you are walking and see if you can slow down your pace. Pretend like you are walking in slow motion, and then imagine that this is the way that you walk all the time.

Begin to notice your feet lifting off of the ground and landing back down with each step you take. Notice the way that your arms move when you walk. How is your posture? Are you standing up straight or hunched over? If you are hunched, reach up through the crown of your head to make your spine long and tall again.

Now move your attention to the way you are breathing as you walk. See if you can begin to make your breath deeper. Maybe you time your inhale as you lift a foot to step, and exhale as you place it down. Continue to try this breath and movement combination and choose to stick with it if you enjoy it, or let it go if you do not.

Continue slowly walking down the path until you arrive where you started. Find your mountain pose here once more. Standing up tall with your feet planting down into the ground and your head reaching high to the sky. Turn your palms to face forward and roll your shoulders down your back. Find your breath filling up the belly as you breathe in and emptying the belly as you breathe out.

Slowly open your eyes when you are ready. How did that feel?

Teacher Tips: This is a great activity for a pleasant day when you have time to get the kids out into the garden. It is a wonderful way to tame high levels of physical energy, since the activity involves both physical movement and mental concentration. Engage the students in reflection at the end of the activity.

Student Tips: This is a great activity to practice absolutely anytime you are walking somewhere. You can make any trip relaxing, whether it is walking to the park to meet up with friends or walking to your classroom. See if you can use mindful steps to make going somewhere you might not like a mindfulness activity.

Tree Pose

Today we are going to learn a balancing posture called tree pose. It is called tree pose because you will be standing on one tall leg like a tree trunk, and you can make beautiful branches grow out from your trunk with your arms. To balance in this pose, it is important to breathe and keep your attention on the present moment.

We will start by finding our mountain pose- do you remember this from another activity? To find mountain pose we will bring our big toes to touch with our feet pointingOak_tree_with_moon_and_wildflowers-1 forward. See if you can notice all ten toes lifting up and spreading out wide before setting them back down again. Make your spine long and tall by reaching the top of your head up to the ceiling and rolling your shoulders down your back. Turn the palms of your hands to face forward and spread your fingers really wide just like you did with your toes. You are now in mountain pose. Take three deep breaths here: filling up your belly on the in-breath, and emptying your belly on the out-breath.

From your mountain pose, begin to pay extra attention to your right leg and foot. See if you can press a little more into your right foot to make your right leg really strong like a tree trunk. Once your right foot and leg feel strong, begin lifting your left foot just a tiny bit off of the ground. Notice your balance here. If you are wobbly, try reaching your arms out to the sides. When you do this, also press your right foot into the ground even more to make your right leg even stronger.

Once you have found your balance, lift your left leg up a little higher and bring the left foot to the inside of the calf or thigh of your standing leg. Your left knee will be turned out to the side. Your balance and flexibility can help you choose how high your foot goes- just make sure that it is not directly on your knee. Both versions are tree pose, and neither is better than the other. When you have found your balance, bring your hands to your hips. If you still feel balanced here, slowly bring your hands up into the air. You can imagine that your arms are growing up and out like branches from your tree trunk. You can also decide what you have on your branches. Maybe there are flowers or leaves, or even some birds or ladybugs.

Once you have found the version of tree pose that feels best in your body, let your eyes find something in front of you to focus on. The thing you choose to focus on should not move (so not a person). Let your eyes gently focus on this object, and begin to find your breath. Let your inhale make you taller and your exhale root your right foot into the ground, making your right leg even stronger.

Continue with this pattern of breathing for 10 more rounds.

At the end of your 10th exhale, you can slowly take your left foot off of your right leg, turn your left knee forward, and bring the foot down to the ground. Shake out your legs if they are tired and then come back to meet everyone in mountain pose.

Repeat instructions for opposite foot and leg (substitute left leg for right leg and right foot for left foot).

Teacher’s note: tree pose is a great way to generate focus and balance. The challenging nature of the pose forces kids to be present and pay attention to what is going on in that moment. This is a good pose to use when trying to reign in concentration

Students: tree pose is good practice to help you pay more attention to the present moment. If you notice your mind traveling in many directions, or want to concentrate on something for school, you can try tree pose to help create that concentration.

Body Awareness Activity

Today we are going to practice body awareness. This means that we will be moving our attention from noticing things around us to noticing things going on inside of us. Body awareness can include paying attention to emotions and parts of the body. You might notice that some places feel different than normal. If you do, you can bring your attention to that place and imagine that all of your breath is flowing into it.8494914338_eb64e84cfd_o

We will start the practice by finding a comfortable seat. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or sit up straight in a chair depending on what is allowed in your classroom. Lift the top of your head straight up to the ceiling to make your spine long and tall. Your hands can rest either face down or face up on your legs.

If it is comfortable, gently close your eyes. We will begin to take our focus inside of the body, leaving the outside world out of our thoughts until we return to the room later. Begin to make your inhales and exhales longer. Fill up your belly on your in breath, and bring the belly in toward your spine on your out breath.

Start by bringing your attention all the way down into your toes. See if you can feel into each toe without moving them. If you’d like, you can imagine your breath traveling down your legs, into your feet, and into each toe. Eventually, the breath and focus will move into the feet too. As you breathe into your feet, pay attention to how they are feeling. Our feet carry us around almost everywhere we go, and we often don’t realize how tired they get! You can imagine that your breath in helping the feet wake up.

We will concentrate on our legs next. How do the lower parts of your legs feel? Let your in breath bring air all the way down into your lower legs. Then let your breath move up past your knees, to the upper part of your legs. Continue letting your breath travel up your body, moving to your belly. Pay attention to how your belly is feeling. Did you eat a lot of food before this practice? If so, you might want to take smaller breaths so you don’t get a tummy ache. Keep filling up the belly as you breathe in, and bringing your belly button back in as you breathe out.

From the belly, we move up to the chest. This is also the place where your heart is. Take a moment to check in with your heart. How is it feeling today? You can think about the heart as the place for your emotions too. See if you can bring all of your breath into the space around your heart, taking a few in breaths and out breaths here. From your heart, you can let your breath travel down your arms and into your fingertips, letting go of anything that isn’t making you happy.

Slowly bring the breath and focus back up through your arms and into your shoulders. The shoulders are at the top of the arms and also behind the heart at the top of your back. How are your shoulders feeling? See if you can make them feel more relaxed and open with your breath.

When you are ready, let the breath move up the neck and into the head. Notice if any thoughts come up when you get to your head. If they do, just breathe into them and let them float away. Take a few more deep in breaths and out breaths here.

Slowly let your breath return to your belly. Feeling your belly get really big like a balloon as you breathe in, and then feel it pull back toward you as you let all of the air out.

Turn your palms face down if they aren’t already, and take a few more breaths to slowly open your eyes and come back into the room.

Teachers: Can have students reflect on how the activity made them feel both emotionally and physically. Have they ever spent time focusing on their body and breath like this? This is a great way to bring down energy levels, as it is a completely internal practice.

Students: this body awareness activity is a great way to check in with your self to see how you’re doing. You can practice this every day, or maybe just when you’d like to feel a little more connected to your body.

Senses Ladder Activity

Today we’re going to practice a mindfulness activity that uses all of our senses. Your job is to see what you can notice with your senses as you are instructed by your teacher to move from one to another. Try to be patient and share only when asked to by your teacher.

We will begin by finding a comfortable seat, with the tippy top of your head reaching upHaikuLadder to the ceiling. Once your spine is long and tall, place your hands on your knees with your palms facing up to the sky.

We will start with our eyes open. Let your eyes wander around the room, keeping your head as it is. In your mind, think of five things that you see in the room around you, without turning your head or moving your body. Keep these thoughts inside your head until your teacher asks you to share.

Teachers: may ask a handful of kids to recall one thing they saw in the room

Next, we will close the eyes. Now it is time for the other four senses that don’t use our eyes. Begin to bring your attention to your ears. Notice any sounds inside or outside of the room. If you can, try to name four sounds that you hear.

Teachers: may ask a handful of kids to recall one thing they heard in the room

The third sense we will pay attention to is touch. Notice the placement of your hands on your knees. Do your hands feel heavy or light? What does the material of your pants (or legs if you’re wearing shorts) feel like on your hands? Can you think of three things that your body can feel?

Teachers: may ask a handful of kids to recall one thing they felt

After touch, we will move on to smell. Are there any smells that you notice in the room right now? Try to come up with two smells that are in the room. If you can’t think of two, pick one real smell and one smell you wish was in the room.

Teachers: may ask a handful of kids to recall one smell they experienced

The last sense is taste. This one is tricky because you may not have eaten anything recently. For our exercise with taste, try to think of the last thing you tasted today. See if you can think of it so well, that you can almost taste it here in class.

Teachers: may ask a handful of kids to recall one taste they experienced

Students: This is a great practice to use when you want to notice the way that your body is connecting to the world around you.

Teachers: This is a great way to get kids into the body, and begin to turn their focus internally. You can ask students to write down the things they experienced with their senses, or make it a drawing activity.

Mountain Pose

Stand up nice and tall with your feet pointing straight ahead. Try bringing your feet together, with your big toes touching, and notice how that feels in your body. Do you feel strong and tall here? Now try bringing your feet as wide as your hips, and notice how that feels. Choose the foot position that feels most comfoK2,_Mount_Godwin_Austen,_Chogori,_Savage_Mountainrtable in your body. Our goal is to feel like strong mountains while we stand here, so that no gust of wind could blow us over.

Let’s begin to notice our toes. Lift your toes up and wiggle them around. It may feel a little funny, but notice what happens to your balance as you wiggle your toes. Try to keep your balance in the center of your feet like the base of a mountain. From here, spread your toes as wide as you can and oh so gently place them down, one by one on the ground- keeping them spread out. Do you feel more balanced here? We are building our mountains from the ground all the way up to our heads, so we should have really strong feet to hold us up! Once we have strong feet, we can make our legs strong too.

Next, we’ll move up to our arms. Let your arms hang by your side with your palms facing forward. Just notice how they feel here. Do your arms feel heavy? Do they feel light? Begin to imagine that you are moving energy all the way up from your feet, down through your arms, and into your fingertips. Wiggle your fingertips and see how that feels before moving on to make your arms strong just like your legs.

Now we will bring our attention all the way up to the very top of our heads. Notice the very top of your head lift up as you inhale and hold yourself up tall as you exhale. We have arrived in our mountain pose.

As you breathe in, feel air filling up your arms, all the way down to your fingertips, and your legs, all the way down to your toes. As you breathe out, feel yourself becoming more and more stable in your mountain pose. Each breath making you stronger.

Students: You can use mountain pose any time that you want to feel strong like a mountain.

Teachers: You can instruct this exercise to bring the energy of the class down, as it is grounding.