Movement meditation is simply defined as any meditation practiced while moving. Let me forewarn you, this practice is not as easy as one might think. Therefore, if we are guiding children through movement meditation, let us learn the best way to introduce children to this challenging practice.
When teaching movement meditation to children, focus on body sensations, as opposed sights and sounds. During body motion our muscles, bones, breath and hearts are at work, therefore, it is unrealistic for beginner meditators to be mindful of these elements in addition to sounds and sights. I suggest practicing in a quiet area with blindfolds.
Additionally, movement meditation is most effective when performed slowly. The primary goal of movement meditation is to be fully aware of how we feel when we move our bodies. If we move quickly, our awareness cannot keep up with the numerous and subtle shifts our bodies make.
Here are a few movement meditation activities for children:
This exercise teaches children to move slowly during movement meditation. Ask children to close their eyes and take three relaxing breaths. Then ask them to lift their right foot and slowly step forward. Ask them to start counting with the number one when they lift their right foot and count to ten slowly making sure they land their left foot on “ten.” Ask the children to begin again with “one” when they lift their right foot again. Children can count together aloud or silently to themselves. Once students have mastered walking slowly, ask the children to inhale when they step with their right foot and exhale when they step with their left foot.
This exercise teaches children to be mindful of their isolated muscle movements. Hang a drawing of the human body. Students will use markers to highlight areas on this drawing. As an alternative you might hand out photocopies to each child of a human body drawing. Ask children to stand a few feet from one another and to pay close attention to the muscles in their bodies while they follow your next directions. Then ask children to close their eyes, take three relaxing breaths and then lean to the right slowly. They can work in partners while one partner stands with eyes open ready to catch the leaning partner. After each partner gets a chance to lean to the right, ask the children to color in on the human body where they felt their muscles work during their lean. Next, give them the same directions but this time ask them to lean to the left and color in the muscles with another color. The students can also lean forward and backward.
This exercise teaches children to be aware of subtle muscle movements in their feet. One of the most traditional ways to learn walking meditation is to walk barefooted descending on your heel and slowly rolling the foot down from the heel to the ball of the foot and then rolling back up on to the toes. In this way, meditators become fully aware of each muscle and bone movement in the foot. Once children have mastered rolling on their feet, invite them to walk in this way on various surfaces (e.g. grass, concrete, stones, rug, wood floor etc.) Ask students to be mindful of the surfaces beneath their feet so they can explain each surface in detail to the group. Children should have plenty of room to avoid moving into another student.
This exercise teaches children to get out of their heads and into their bodies. Choose a word such as Peace, Beauty, or Smile. Then ask the children to slowly move their bodies in a way that demonstrates this concept or feeling. If possible, blindfold students so they feel anonymous in their expressions. The goal of this exercise is to stay in tuned with the physical feelings in the body as opposed to getting lost in thoughts about how we look or how well we feel we are expressing the word.