Waking up the Brain: Becoming Present

Waking up the Brain: Becoming Present

Now that your body and belly are awake, we can work on waking up your brain. One way we can wake up the brain in the morning is by Becoming Present. Becoming Present is an important practice once you get to the place you will be spending most of your day (like school or sports games). If it is a school day, Becoming Present is especially important because this practice will get you in the right mindset for the day ahead.

Becoming Present means that we are gathering all of our attention and bringing it to the place we are right here in this moment. You can think of it like gathering firewood to make a campfire. You need enough wood and kindle to get the fire started, and then have to keep gathering more wood for the fire so it will stay strong. Our mind can be like an unlit fire sometimes, especially in the mornings. Have you ever felt like nothing is going on in there? When we need kindle for our thoughts, there are some tools for Becoming Present that we can practice to get our mind fires going.

garland of metal wire twisted into chaotic room.

So how do we become present? Well, you already practiced some of the first steps: Moving with the Breath and eating Power Foods. Now we will learn a practice for Becoming Present. Find a comfortable seat or standing position wherever you are. We will Become Present through three layers: Breath, Body and Mind. Let your eyes gently close if that is comfortable and begin to tune into your breath. How are you breathing today? Are your breaths long or short? Deep or shallow? Begin to make your breath longer and slower, like you are trying to take the slowest, biggest breaths possible. Inhale through the nose, exhale out the nose.

Begin to move your breath all through your body, as you notice how your body is feeling in this space right here, right now. How do your feet feel on the floor… your hands if they are touching your body… your lungs as they breathe in air? Take note of how your muscles feel. Are any of them sore? Move through your body from the top of your head to your feet and go down a checklist in your head about how everything feels. It’s okay if you miss something, just do your best.

Now we will Become Present in our minds. Noticing our bodies and breath helps us Become Present in our minds. Once we breathe into all the parts of our bodies that are taking our energy and attention, we can move to the part of our body that doesn’t always get our attention so easily: our minds. Clearing out tightness in the breath and body makes our minds open and ready to take on the day.

Use your breath and mind to bring your awareness into the very place you are sitting now. Imagine you are gathering all of your thoughts -one-by-one- like firewood, and building up a powerful fire in your mind to fuel the attention you will need for the day ahead.

When you feel like you have a steady fire in your mind, slowly begin to wiggle your fingers and toes, waking up your body to come back into the room.

Waking up your Belly: Power Foods

Waking up your Belly: Power Foods

After we wake up our bodies in the morning, we want to wake up our bellies so they can give us energy for the day ahead. You can think of your belly as the energy center for your body. One of the important ways your brain and muscles get the power they need to work hard for your every day is through the food you put into your belly! This is why it is important to choose Power Foods so that your brain and body can be as strong as possible.

What are Power Foods, and why do we want to eat them?

Power foods are healthy foods that give us the energy to perform our very best throughout the day. Eating power foods in the morning is especially important because this sets the tone for your energy levels for the rest of the day to come. Have you ever skipped breakfast in the morning? If so, you might
have noticed your belly grumbling, your mood getting a little cranky, and maybe that your brain wasn’t working so well. We can make sure our bodies are powered food-healthy-morning-cerealsup for the day ahead by making good breakfast choices to fill up our energy stores.

Breakfast foods like eggs, granola, yogurt, fruits and smoothies can all be Power Foods depending on how they are made. It is important to look for whole grains, high protein, low sugar content and healthy fats.

What are some Power Foods you can eat in the morning?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Do you know where you can find these Power Foods?

1.

2.

3.

Teacher’s Tip: This is a great lesson to introduce at the beginning of the school year, or after a break when students will need to engage their brains more than they’ve been used to for the last few weeks or months. Reminding students about the effects of nutrition can serve as motivation to practice mindful eating.

Student Tip: We learned that Power Foods are an important jump-start for your day. See if you can teach someone in your family about Power Foods. If someone at home makes you breakfast, or buys groceries, maybe you can tell them about Power Foods and come up with some ideas so that you can fuel yourself well in the morning.

Waking up your body: Moving with the breath

Waking up your body: Moving with the breath

Today we’re going to learn about waking up the body by moving with our breath. Moving is a great way to wake up in the morning, or later in the afternoon when you’re feeling sleepy. When we link breath with movement, the movement becomes Mindful and easier to do for our muscles. This is because breathing deeply lets our muscles know that it’s okay to relax. When we take short breaths, our brain gets worried and our muscles have to work harder.

5956740192_e08d5d9052_bBecause of this, breath is a very important part of moving and waking up the body. Let’s tune into our breath to begin.

We will start by standing up in mountain pose, with our feet as wide as our hips, toes pointing forward. Make yourself really tall by lifting up through the crown of your head and rolling your shoulders down your back. Gently close the eyes and begin to pay attention to the breath. Follow the in-breath down to the belly, and follow the out-breath up through the chest, throat and nose. Continue breathing in and out this way while slowing down the breath so that each inhale and exhale becomes longer.

Now we will add movement to our breath. On your next in-breath, slowly lift your arms out wide like wings and up overhead- bringing your hands or fingertips together to touch. On your next out-breath, slowly lower your hands back down to your side. Continue with this movement: inhaling arms up overhead, and exhaling them slowly down. When you move, pretend like your arms are moving through honey, so that you have to be very strong, slow and mindful as you move in order to get them through all that honey! This movement might seem familiar if you remember our Balloon Breathing exercise. If you don’t remember it, you can always go back and try it later.

On your next in-breath, reach the arms back up. And on your next out-breath, bend your knees a little bit and take a swan dive all the way into a forward fold (arms wide, long, flat back), still standing on your feet. On the in-breath, bring hands to shins and look straight ahead, then fold back down on the out-breath. The next in-breath will take you all the way up to stand through a reverse swan dive (arms out, long, flat back). The next out-breath will bring your hands back to your side in mountain pose.

Notice the way your muscles feel after that little bit of movement. Notice the way your breath is moving in and out of your body. Hopefully you feel more awake and ready to start the rest of your day.

Student tip: You can practice this movement several times in a row, depending on how much time you have and depending on how much heat you want to create in your muscles. This is a great practice to do first thing in the morning, especially if it’s a cold and you don’t want to get out of bed. Be sure to check in with your body each time you go through the movements to make sure nothing is hurting and that you aren’t feeling dizzy. Sometimes moving too fast with too little breath coming in and out can make us dizzy. This is the body’s reminder to slow down both breath and movement.

Teacher’s tip: You can run through this series several times as well, depending on the result you are looking to achieve. Doing this a few times could wake up some sleepy kids, while doing this many times can help tire out some energetic kids. Try the practice out yourself in the morning so that you know how it will feel in their bodies too.

Mindful Mornings

Mindful Mornings

The following series are tips and tools for starting your day mindfully, so that you can be present and awake for the day ahead. These will include movement, breath and nutrition tips for kids to follow in order to have Mindful Mornings. The intention is that Mindful Mornings will build into Mindful Days and Mindful Evenings too! Everything we learn is connected, and this is an easy way to work through a mindfulness series of how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life!
Included in the Mindful Mornings Series:

  • Waking up your Body: Moving With the Breath
  • Waking up the Belly: Power Foods
  • Waking up the Brain: Becoming Present