3-minute stretch

“Sometimes we need to stop sitting in one place and start to move around… to bring awareness and enjoyment into our bodies.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Mindful Movements

3-minute stretchBuddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh believes that mindfulness is enhanced by body awareness and that body awareness strengthens mindfulness.  This belief is supported by a growing body of research on “body awareness” and “body harmony” therapies and the positive impact they have on concentration and peacefulness.  The 3-minute stretch is an opportunity for you to develop your awareness and tranquility in your body.


Consider creating a cue to remind yourself to take 3 minutes to stretch your body during your work day.  The cue would be anything that catches your attention, like an alarm on your smart phone or a sticky note on your computer screen.  You could also connect it to an event, like taking a time out stretch right before or after a meeting.

When you stretch, breathe slowly and deeply, with calm and ease.  Take about 30 seconds for each intervention.

If (or when) your mind wanders into self-consciousness or criticism, smile because you are aware!  And gently guide your attention back to the sensations in your arm, leg and neck muscles.

  • Stretch your arms to their full capacity, extending them…  straight out from your shoulders… above your head… and down by your sides. There is no right or wrong way to stretch, though you can add to your relaxation if your movements are unhurried.  Experience the sensations in your shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers as you lengthen your arm muscles.
  • Stretch your legs to their fully capacity by raising yourself up and down on your toes.  Experience the sensations in your back, hips, knees, ankles, feet as you lengthen your leg muscles.
  • Stretch your back and neck to their full capacity, experiencing the sensations in your neck, shoulders and  back as you lengthen your neck and back muscles.
  • Now  move your neck, back, hands and feet... in any way that releases tension.  Notice the familiar and unfamiliar sensations in your body, how your body prefers to move.
  • Now be still and notice the after-effects of your movements.
  • Take three conscious breaths and smile as you go back to work, taking your calm(er) body and alert mind with you.

If you would like to see Thich Nhat Hanh’s “10 Mindful Movements,” you can do so on YouTube (14:35) at http://youtu.be/FCUyf-IPP0Q


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