I’ve been having conversations with fellow academics lately about how to fit in movement and mindfulness now that school will soon begin, or has already begun, for Fall semester. It’s relatively easy to begin or recommit to a practice in the summer, when classes are out and you make your own schedule, but how to maintain this when the pressures of the semester begin to build and your calendar starts to look like an obstacle course?
First, I recommend blocking off time for self-care in your calendar that is sacred. That means no moving it around for anyone or anything. That also means not choosing a time that you know will be challenged constantly. Everyone’s calendar is different, but after you’ve mapped class times, monthly meetings (the ones you know at the beginning of the semester), and other regular time commitments in for the semester, see what time for the week you can block out just for yourself. If you’re ambitious, maybe two blocks per week. Or, maybe that time period can coincide with your favorite yoga class or meditation sitting.
Second, try to work in short 2-minute breath meditations in the interstices of your day. (If you have no interstices, make some. If you can’t figure out how, reevaluate your scheduling…is it necessary to do everything back-to-back?) Just sit, close your eyes (and your door if you’re in your campus office) and count 15 deep breaths. That easy.
Third, sneak some mindful movement into your day. Below are some suggestions for various times.
Sun Salutations. These are a ready-made way to squeeze strengthening, stretching, and centering into your day. Too many benefits to name and if you do a few right as you roll out of bed, then you’re done for the whole day. See “5 Reasons Sun Salutations are the Best Way to Start Your Day” for some specific benefits and a visual guide to the traditional Surya A.
But what about when you’re having one of those days, when even rolling out of bed takes effort. For those days I just scoot down off my pillow and do a modified version on my back. The key is to move with your breath. Inhale, arms above head, exhale arms back down. You can add on by brining a knee to your chest on the exhale and hugging it in for a bit. Then alternating knees. Feel free to improvise. When you’ve done a few, bring both knees to your chest, roll to your right side, and push up to seated. Guess what, now you’re almost out of bed!
Throughout the day
As the title of the article indicates, these exercises can be done at any point during your day; so, for between classes, or during mandatory 5-10 minute writing/grading breaks, squeeze in the following moves described in “Anywhere, Anytime Pilates Moves You Should Squeeze into Your Day.” They help to bring your mind out of the academic trenches and move your body out of the perennial computer crunch. Some are designed to be done right there at your desk. I especially like any that make me take my shoes off and move my toes; there’s just something so decadent about that.
Technically, you could close your day with those bed salutes described above, but, for variety, try these “3 easy stretches you should do every night.” The first one is a bit confusing, but I think it’s your top leg that you should let hang off the bed. Also suggest you do that one last since who wants to then get up and do the other two?
Of course, there are lots of other ways to sneak mindfulness and movement into your day. I hope these few suggestions show how easy it can be. But even so, try to also get to a yoga or meditations class now and again throughout the semester to commune with other folks committed to this contemplative life.
Wishing everyone a great Fall semester!