Monday, February 15, 2010

Body Awareness and the Power of the Breath

My daughter had a snow day from school last Wednesday.  We sat on the couch and watched the snow fall, it was quite beautiful and I was amazed that my very active child was cuddling with me for so long.  I got off the couch to do some chores and she just sat on the couch all cuddled up.  This was quite unusual.  I would love to say that she was taken with the snow and the peacefulness of the moment but when I touched her forehead I knew otherwise.  She was sick.

You often hear the expression "you have to listen to your body" and it is the truth.  It also relates to last week's Friendship Dance post.  We have to learn how to listen.  To quite ourselves enough to connect to what we are feeling.  Adults do anyway.  My daughter was trying to tell me all week that she was tired.  I first thought she had the Monday blues.  I then thought she did not get enough sleep.  NOPE.  She was listening to her body.  Her body was tired.

As parents, teachers, friends, etc. we need to embrace the cues our body gives us and we need to connect to the cues that our children, students, friends' bodies tell us as well.  My daughter lacked her usual pep, was whiny and lost her patience very easily.  All cues.

What I learned from this experience is LISTEN.  Not only to the words (which she expressed very well) but to body language!

Some children don't have the words to express themselves.  Sometimes it is due to age, language difficulty or a non-verbal disability.  Using the body becomes an extremely important tool, a necessity to communicate with others.  The body is truly a tool of communication.

Body Awareness Activity

  1. Lie on the floor with your arms by your sides and your legs straight out. Breathe deeply and concentrate on your chest rising and falling.  Rising with each inhale and falling with each exhale.  You can have students put a small doll or a bean bag on their chests to watch it rise and fall.
  2. Focus your breath now in your belly.  You can place your hands on your belly or the doll.  Watch/feel it rise and fall.  Feel how slowly your belly rises and falls. 
  3. Jump up and run around the room, or in place for one minute.  Lie back down and watch/feel your chest rise and fall.  Feel how fast your belly rises and falls. 
  4. Your breathing speeds up when you speed up.  It slows down when you slow down. 
Enjoy this simple activity and see what words kids use to describe their breathing before and after the activity.  Did they know that their breath was connected to how they moved?

A Few Words About Breath:
The act of breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system.  We breath automatically, we don't have to tell our body to do it, it does it beautifully on its own.  Breathing, however, is the only part of the autonomic nervous system that our body can control.  We can speed it up and slow it down on our own.  We can also use this to our advantage. Have you ever been startled? Your breathing speeds up.  To calm yourself down, you consciously slow your breath down.  When we clue into another person's breathing we can gain important information about the person.  Learning to clue into the breath is a wonderful mind-body tool. 

Keep moving up down and all around with the children in your lives!


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