Gather your group to sit in a circle with enough space between everyone to move freely.
Announce that you will soon lead your group through a brief movement exercise.
Please refer to the Resources tab to download the sample script to follow.
Facilitate the exercise step by step as guided by the script.
Conclude by gently inviting your group back to their own identity.
If desired, invite your group to reflect on their experience.
How To Play Narrative
When our lives get too hectic and stressful, we often forget how to play.
This exercise can help you and your group tap into their inner child and let loose for a moment. It’s a great way to expend some energy while also having fun.
In essence, this energiser is all about stretching and moving our bodies. That said, stretching like an animal is not only more fun, but it can be as easy or as difficult as you and your group want it to be.
In advance, download the Breathe & Stretch facilitation script from the Resources tab to guide you. There is no particular magic in this script, we offer it simply to get you started. By all means, go off script or create your own script at any time.
Some of these stretches require lots of practice, balance, and muscle strength! All levels are welcome.
When ready, invite your group to find a comfortable spot. More often than not, this will involve lying on the floor, etc.
Once set, calmly begin to read from the supplied script and/or improvise as necessary.
The key is to take your time, use a calming tone throughout and be gentle with your group’s interpretation as much as you are with your facilitation.
At the end of the activity, encourage your group to share their feelings and insights if they feel comfortable.
Practical Leadership Tips
Remind your group that this is a safe space without judgment.
Encourage them to be silly and have fun.
Stretching, like everything else, requires practice. Let your group know that all range of motion is acceptable. Whether they can touch their toes or stretch their arms up high, they’re doing great.
Check-in with your group before and after the activity. Give them time to express any worries or ask questions.
If possible, participate in the activity with your group. This will set an example and show them that they’re in a safe space.
Sometimes, your group may need some inspiration or help to imagine what animals to think of. To this end, suggest some well-known animal stretches and movements such as:
Stand on one leg like a flamingo,
Extend your arms and legs like a crab, or
Stretch like a dog (downward-facing dog.)
You could integrate Breathe & Stretch as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to identify and manage one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Asking your group to imagine that they are animals, perhaps even embodying their particular characteristics, is a wonderful starting point to enter a mindful practice. Naturally, the guided meditation you lead with your group is nothing if not mindful. So, if this is your goal – rather than say, elevating the energy of your group – consider your framing and sequence of activities leading into this exercise carefully.
This activity may also be beneficial for building resilience and exploring emotional intelligence (refer to the Variations tab for a sample program idea.)
One Animal: Announce one animal for the whole group to mimic, eg a cat, monkey, etc. Invite your group to observe all of the different ways others interpret the animal’s movements.
Animal Study Break: Invoke this energiser as part of a learning module you are presenting about a specific animal, eg sea animals.
Random Animal: Fill a jar or a hat with little strips of paper with the names of animals written on them. Each person randomly picks one out of the jar to identify the animal they will portray in their stretch.
Animal Twins: Form pairs and instruct them to choose one animal to perform at the same time.
Emotional Theme: For programs focused on emotional literacy, frame this exercise as an opportunity to consider which animals embody or reflect certain emotional characteristics. For example, to explore feelings of fear and courage, you could ask your group to think of animals that portray these traits. When we observe these characteristics in animals, we can discuss what it would be like to embody these traits ourselves.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
This activity can be done virtually but you’ll need to ask everyone to switch on (and possibly adjust the angle of) their cameras and to find a space on the floor where they can stretch safely and freely. They may wish to organise this beforehand, so be sure to let them know in advance.
If your group can access a yoga mat or towel, invite them to use it for extra comfort.
After the exercise, invite your group to reflect on their experience (via microphone or chatroom.) You could also invite the group to guess which animal each person was impersonating.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Each group is different, and some members may need more or less introduction into an exercise before they get comfortable. Here are some additional ways to frame this exercise:
Play is such an important part of our development. It inspires creativity, allows us to use our imagination, and gives us a chance to have fun and get moving, just like this next exercise will show…
We all know that stretching is beneficial for our bodies, and incorporating some fun and creativity into them can make things more fun and break up your usual routine…
When you think of the animal kingdom, which animals do you think do the most stretching? [ allow time for responses… ] Can you think of what they look like when they stretch? Okay, let’s inject those memories into our bodies…
Play is a great way to get out of our heads and become present at the moment. Remember, this is a no-judgment zone, so you don’t have to worry. It’s okay for us to be silly sometimes, like now…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this fun energiser:
Did you find this activity enjoyable and fun? What did you like best about it?
What did you find most difficult about the exercise?
Was it challenging to get into your animal’s character? Why?
Describe your comfort levels?
Why did you pick the animal that you chose? What inspired your movements?
What did you notice about others around you?
In what ways has this exercise/animal helped you?
The inspiration for Breathe & Stretch was sourced from Lisa Hughes and the Move Like an Animal game.