Vicky Mohieddeen, a Health in Mind Support and Development worker in the Scottish Borders, explains how we can use mindful movement to help connect with our bodies and our feelings. 

How do you draw a feeling? 

At the beginning of our Mindful Movement sessions in the Scottish Borders, we try and visualise the sensations in our bodies by drawing. For some people there might be a squiggly line filling a nervous tummy, for others there’s a dark zig zag for a headache, there could be little dots in tingly arms or big blocks of colour showing stiffness.  

Our bodies are always moving, even when we try to sit as still as possible. We’re always breathing – in fact, if we try to hold our breath, we’ll pass out, and as soon as we’re unconscious our bodies take over and we start breathing again. Our theme this Mental Health Awareness Week is movement, but moving doesn’t have to mean running and jumping. Mindfulness just means paying attention to our bodies – how we’re feeling right here and now. 

That’s what Mindful Movement is all about – connecting into our bodies. Once we’ve drawn our body maps, we’ll start our session – rolling our shoulders and gently beginning to stretch. We’ll try and notice if anything feels different from last week – we’re getting to know our bodies again, meeting our bodies through breath and movement. We start to make connections about how we’ve felt in our emotions and how we’re now feeling in our bodies. 

As the session progresses, we start our shaking. “I told my daughter about this,” says someone, “I said, imagine your annoyance is on your fingers and shake it off!” We end up giggling together. It’s hard to shake and shoogle your body all over without feeling a bit silly! Then we stop, and we breathe, and we start to feel a bit more relaxed.  

“How can moving about so much make me feel relaxed?”  

We smile, and we start to walk about the room. As the music changes we run. We imagine we’re being pushed – or pulled – and we experiment with moving in lots of different ways.  

Then we’ll come down to chairs and yoga mats. We’ll let our breathing slow, and allow the floor or the chair to support us. We notice our bodies again, tuning in to the aches and pains and energy and ease. We all have all the different feelings in us, in different places at different times.  

At the end of the session we’ll draw a new body map. A big yellow swirl for happiness, lots of tiny orange lines for energy, a small block for a mild headache, different colours for stretched muscles. We notice the difference, comparing the beginning body map to the end. 

“I feel lighter now.”

One participant in the Mindful Movement session describes the positive changes they saw in their confidence, wellbeing and mental health through Mindful Movement. 

The [Mindful Movement] classes helped lead me to a permanent yoga class once the classes ended. They boosted my mental health, gave me confidence to express myself through movement, gave me more confidence in general, and helped me be more in tune with my body and let go/have fun. They taught me that even when I am in pain, movement can help me both physically and mentally. They taught me to get moving more often. 

The classes changed the way I experience my body. After a bad ankle injury a few years ago, I was left feeling anxious about exercise. The classes helped me realise my ankle (and body) is stronger & more capable than I thought, and gave me confidence to exercise with it more, which in turn has made me more confident in general and got me moving more often. 

[Taking part in the Mindful Movement sessions] definitely did help my mental health. No matter how my mental health was on each day, I always felt less stressed, anxious and depressed after the class. I would highly recommend attending a similar class. They’re a great way for gentle exercise, to become more in tune with your body, release stress, and have fun. Wear comfortable clothes and bring water/a drink. There is no pressure to do anything you don’t want to or to push yourself too far.  

“I feel better now, I just feel better.”