This delightful book – Mindful Movements – Ten Exercises for Well-Being – was originally designed as a stretching break between periods of long sitting meditation. Written by Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindful Movements became so popular, the ten exercises are now an integral part of his retreats. The exercises are based on both yoga and tai chi movements, creating simple yet effective exercises that can reduce mental, physical, and emotional stress.
The ten routines are easily accessible to anyone and can be performed by people of all ages and abilities, whether they’re familiar with mindful practices or not. They can be done to prepare for sitting meditation, during a break at home, at work, or at any time a bit of refreshment is needed for mind and body. The exercises are an easy way to get acquainted with mindfulness for those new to meditation, as well as a welcome break for current practitioners.
It is suggested that each movement should be carried out three times before proceeding to the next. Body movements should be flowing and graceful, done slowly and mindfully. Each movement is coordinated with the breath. Each movement allows us to practice sensitivity and awareness to the body, the breath, and the interconnectedness between our body, our breathing and our mind. Each exercise is fully illustrated by Wietske Vriezen, a Dutch artist and movement teacher. The print version of the book includes a 35-minute DVD featuring Thich Nhat Hanh and members of his Plum Village Sangha (a devotional group) demonstrating the ten mindful movements.
Following is a brief description of the first two movements:
Mindful Movement 1
Stand upright with feet slightly apart facing forward. On the in- breath raise both arms so that they are horizontal, hands loose and palms facing downward. On the out-breath lower both arms to your side.
Mindful Movement 2
Start as in Movement 1 with palms facing inwards. On the in-breath raise hands above the head keeping the arms straight to make a semi- circle in front of the body. Stretch the body without the feet leaving the ground. On the out-breath reverse the movement, lowering the arms and returning the hands to rest on each side.
As Thich Nhat Hanh states in his introduction to this book: “Mindfulness is our ability to be aware of what is going on both inside us and around us. It is the continuous awareness of our bodies, emotions, and thoughts. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming others, and ourselves and we can work wonders. If we live mindfully in everyday life, walk mindfully, are full of love and caring, then we create a miracle and transform the world into a wondrous place.”
From this book, I have been reminded that life is a path – a journey – not a destination. These mindful movements are a way to practice moving without a goal or hoped-for outcome. They are a way to connect with your mind and body in mindfulness. It is suggested to do the ten mindful movements with great joy – enjoying each movement for what it is. There is no need to rush and by all means, expect to smile.
As the author states in his book: “The practice of the Mindful Movements is to bring awareness and enjoyment into our bodies and into the movements we make with our bodies. Mindful movements are very simple but very deep.” These movements have been a part of Plum Village, founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, for over 20 years.