Whale watching on vacation

My little family of three flew to Mexico last month for spring break. We stayed by the ocean. Walked in the sand. Witnessed a mama humpback and her baby. Played soccer with locals on the beach. Floated in a lazy river that kept my son entertained for days on end. There was so much to be grateful for, and, one experience stood out among the rest:

Small doses of mindful movement that brought relief and comfort to my body, so I could enjoy all the other good stuff.

Because, at some point—usually in the middle years—we wake up and realize out-of-town adventures settle differently in our joints and muscles. We may not bounce back from squishy flights, heavy luggage, uncomfortable beds, and indulgent meals (and perhaps that occasional pina colada). Lingering aches and pains become more noticeable and frequent. 

The good news is, we don’t need to grin and bear it! Instead, we can sprinkle in tiny interventions to transform how we feel on trips (and in daily life). 

The bite-sized techniques I wove into my vacation—and practice and teach at home—are informed by neuroscience. Through an approach called bottom-up processing, these methods soothe our nervous system and unwind tension in our bodies, which in turn calms our thoughts and emotions. And, research tells us that if we only practice a little, but often, we create positive change in our brains and bodies. 

In a nutshell? Drop a few body-based micropractices into your day to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Here’s one of my can’t-live-without micropractices—truly, I lay on the ground and savor it several times a day. Practice this pretty much anytime, anywhere—a mini break at the office, on the living room floor when you walk in the door, at the gym before you work out, or in the grass during a walk outside.

Windshield Wipers & Angel Wings

(Note: Enjoy this micropractice for 2–5-minutes. Repeat each movement for 4–6 rounds. Sloooooow down your body and your breath.)

Lay on your back. Find a comfortable shape, but no need to spend too much time nesting. Just bend your knees, place the soles of your feet on the ground, and slide into a soft and slow breath. Lay your attention on the hips, back, and shoulders. Experience how these parts of the body feel in this moment. With curiosity, notice areas of tension and ease. What bits and sensations draw your attention? Plant the seed: I’m soothing tension and stress.

Step your feet as wide apart as a yoga mat. Begin to sway your knees from side-to-side like windshield wipers. As your legs move, notice the gentle rocking of your torso and subtle twisting of the spine. Maybe your head nods slightly as your torso rocks. Feel the massage of your sacrum on the earth. To finish, let your knees rest comfortably to one side and roll all the way over to lay on that side.

Laying on your side with the knees bent and legs stacked, reach your arms and hands out in front of you, perpendicular to the body and stacked as well. With the top arm, create big, backward arm circles. Let your rib cage move with the arm, supple and fluid like water. When the hand reaches behind you and the palm flips up, the heart faces the sky; when the hand reaches in front of you and the palm flips down, the heart faces the same direction as the knees. When you’re ready, knit the belly button toward the spine and rock your knees all the way over to the other side. Repeat big circles with the other arm. 

When this part of the flow feels complete, knit the belly button to the spine and roll onto your back. Notice—with curiosity—the experience in your hips, back, shoulders…and the quality of your breath, thoughts, and emotions. This practice is here for you, anytime you need it.

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