Balance the Cup is an interesting stretching exercise which is amusing when done is a group.
- Moderate stretching exercise for the whole body
- Improves dexterity and focus
- Develops balance
- Optional – soft item
Everybody will want to try an get this stretch right, it is fun and can be successfully done, even if it takes a few tries. To begin, gather the group together, hand out or ask each person to grab a small soft item. This item can be a small bean bag or anything that can fit comfortably in your hand. The item will most likely also land on the floor a couple of times, so make sure it is soft and non-breakable.
Once everyone has their item, ask them to find a space in the ‘play area’, a short distance from everyone else. Demonstrate by using your right hand, palm facing up with the soft item on the palm of the hand. Have the group follow what you are doing, continue with the demonstration.
Next, everyone should move their outstretched hand over their heads and in a circle around their bodies. The item or bean-bag should remain in the palm of the hand as you move the arm around.
The best way to describe the exercise is to ask the group to imagine a teacup placed in the palm of the hand. This tea filled cup must then remain stable, not spilling any tea, as you move your arm around the body.
Allow the group to make a few attempts and encourage them to improve and see how smooth they can make their moves. Once everyone has tried this fun stretching game, move on to another activity or try out some variations.
Contextual Framing Ideas for Balance the Cup Activity
Imagine you are a student at a Tibetan Monastery, practicing your meditation moves. These movements require focus, skill and balance in order to do them correctly. Most students can perform this specific task with a full cup of water, without spilling a single drop. Let’s see who can do the same…
Step-by-Step Instructions for the Balance the Cup Activity
- Hand out some bean-bags to the group
- Instruct everyone to hold their bean-bag in the palms of their hands. Palms are flat, facing up with outstretched arms.
- The aim is to move the arm and bean-bag past the head and around the body, making sure not to drop the bean-bag.
- The palm must be flat, no holding on to the item or bean-bag.
- Give the group a few minutes to practice and improve their movements
Facilitators and Leaders Tips
This activity is meant to be fun, not serious. So, if somebody does cheat by twisting their bodies or arms and hands, in order to move their arms around, it doesn’t matter. The aim is to get each person to move around and stretch, which is what will happen no matter how they do it.
The more fun you can inject into the presentation of the exercise, the more the group will want to test their abilities. Some people might be more creative in their attempts, dropping their bean-bags. This is great, it just means people are testing out their limits.
Debriefing and Reflection Strategies
Here are a few questions to ask the group, which will help them to process their experience of doing this exercise:
- Did you successfully complete the exercise? Describe your methods.
- By making more than one attempt, did you improve?
- Did you find yourself holding onto the bean-bag?
- Can you say which muscle group is being worked on the most during the exercise?
Variations of Balance the Cup Activity
- Increase the challenge: Supply the group with a number of challenges, each one more difficult than the last. For example:
- Players can only have one finger grasping the bean-bag.
- Players are not allowed to grasp the bean-bag
- Players must close their eyes while performing the exercise
- Different framing idea: Use the idea of an empty or full plate that each person must manoeuvre around their bodies. Finally, introduce the bean-bags.
- More items: Groups can use other items besides bean-bags. Why not make it more exciting with some water filled paper cups. Just make sure this one is done outside.
- Change Hands: Everyone would have done the exercise with their dominant hand, next have everyone try it out with their less-dominant hand.
- Increase the challenge: This variation will challenge everyone! Hand out some paper plates and a ball to each player. The ball could be a golf ball, marble or another small ball. The game is played the same as the ‘teacup stretch’, only that players must now place the plate on the palm of the hand with the ball on the plate. The aim being, the ball and plate must remain on your open palm, without falling off.