Stop, Stretch, and Breathe
Stop, Stretch, and Breathe is a 10-minute stress management and physical activity performed in a chair. This program may be offered at worksites, community-based organizations, or schools prior to meetings, classes, or workshops, or as a stand-alone program. Stop, Stretch, and Breathe may be offered as an eight-week series or as an ongoing program.
- Increase blood flow and improve range of motion through stretching.
- Reduce stress through muscle relaxation and deep breathing.
Description You may immediately identify the smell of lavender when you enter the room for your Stop, Stretch, and Breathe class. The sound of water is coming from a small waterfall on a table in the front of the room. The lights are dim, and a screen saver of a fish tank is projected from a laptop computer on the front wall of the room. Ocean sounds emanate from a softly playing CD. All of these staging techniques help to enhance relaxation. The instructor, standing at the entrance to the room, encourages you to take a seat and begin to unwind for a few moments before the session begins.
Begin the session by walking participants through the following steps:
1. Sit up straight and maintain this posture. Let your head balance between your shoulders so you feel no strain in your neck.
2. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable enough to do so. (If not, ask participants to focus their attention on the fish tank screen saver or other relaxing visual projected on the front wall of the room.)
3. Clear your mind, letting go of any stressful, negative, or judging thoughts.
4. Notice your breathing. Your breathing should be slow and fairly regular, without any big gulps of air. Notice your chest rising and falling. Notice the feeling of air entering and exiting your throat.
5. Notice any tightness, soreness, or stiffness in your muscles. Try to relax these muscles by tensing and relaxing them. Notice the difference between tension and relaxation.
Demonstrate and perform the following exercises (and be sure to have copies of this list to hand out):
1. Do five repetitions of each of the following:
- Deep, relaxing breaths
- Forward neck rolls
- Front shoulder rolls
- Back shoulder rolls
- Upward shoulder shrugs while breathing in, and shoulder drops when breathing out
- Shoulder retractions by pulling the shoulders back so that the shoulder blades move toward each other
2. Deeply inhale while raising both arms above your head. Hold for a moment then gradually lower your arms while slowly exhaling.
3. Raise one arm, bend to the side, and lower the arm slowly. Repeat with the other arm.
4. Raise your arms over your head again, and this time fold forward slowly, lowering your head between your legs until the top of your head faces toward the floor. Hold this position for several seconds while continuing to breathe. (This exercise is similar to inverted poses in yoga.)
5. With your hands on your thighs just above your kneecaps, come up very slowly with your back in an arched (i.e., cat stretch) position.
6. Return to a seated position and resume a straight posture.
7. Notice whether any muscles in your body are still tense. If so, tense and relax those muscles until all strain is gone.
8. End the session with five deep, relaxing breaths.
- Add more chair yoga exercises, such as the seated triangle pose, to extend the length of the program.
- Provide educational materials on stress management.
- Add a 10-minute educational component, or pair with an educational lecture provided by a health care professional or vendor (e.g., employee assistance program).