Every experience I’ve had in my life is a resource in my body. – Anna Halprin
Stretching has somehow become a competitive affair of pushing, striving, and comparing.
What if the limits of physical movements could be witnessed and experienced differently, with a compassionate and kind awareness? What if the body were allowed to open in its own time, in its own way, through listening and attentive presence. What might arise then?
The focus of this practice is the legs but once comfortable with the technique, the same awareness can be brought to any part of the body.
Set a timer for five, ten or fifteen minutes.
This exercise works best sitting on the floor with the legs stretched out. If that is not possible, choose any comfortable posture where the legs can be stretched within their own comfortable range of movement.
Note that the first instructions do not involve any stretching.
Start by feeling your legs up and down with your hands. Within the range of your own easeful movement, make contact with every part of the leg within reach. Squeeze and release. Pat, hold and massage.
Experience what it feels like to spend time with your legs. It is rare to engage with the lower limbs in this way, so spend time exploring what they actually feel like. Take five breaths here.
Now look carefully at your legs. Acknowledge them. Pay attention to every minute detail and notice something that you have not seen before. Your legs have carried you a great distance. They have taken you on many adventures. They have also brought you into this moment of rest and stillness here today. They are with you now. Be with your legs. Take five breaths here.
Now allow the gaze to soften, the eyes to close.
Stretch forward slowly and feel the sensations that arise within the legs. Mild discomfort is fine but stop before the stretch becomes painful.
Hold the stretch and allow your curiosity to lead you into the specific sensations that are arising. Silently choose three words to describe what you notice.
Now move your palms to the part of your leg where you experience the stretch most intensely and make contact (often this will be the back of the knees).
At the same time, visualise the breath moving through the body and flowing to the same place. Take five breaths here.
Next, release the stretch by sitting back. Take five breaths here.
Then, return to the stretch and take five breaths as you gently push forward.
What do you notice? Pay particular attention to the sensations in the palms of the hands and to the focus of the stretch in the legs.
Repeat the stretch until the timer sounds.
Release the stretch and take five final breaths here.
Return to wakefulness in your own way.
Record your experience in your Mindfulness Journal noting in particular the subtle physical sensations that you noticed in the legs.
If practising with others, take turns sharing your discoveries.
This practice is an extract from 100 Mindfulness Meditations: The Ultimate Collection of Inspiring Daily Practices by Neil Seligman published by Conscious House and available on Amazon priced £12.99.
10 Mindfulness Meditations is an album of audio meditations to accompany the book and is now available on iTunes priced £7.99.
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