“Breathing is special in several respects: it is the only function you can perform consciously as well as unconsciously, and it can be a completely voluntary act or a completely involuntary act, as it is controlled by two sets of nerves, one belonging to the voluntary nervous system, the other to the involuntary (autonomic) system. Breath is the bridge between these two systems.” (https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-an-introduction/). Breathing should be the most natural thing in the world but, on the contrary, as people get older sometimes we have to learn specific techniques to be able to breathe. Have you ever been watching a movie and realized you’ve been holding your breath? What about a time you were about to tackle a situation that has caused you a lot of anxiety, ever notice you're going between holding your breath and shallow breathing? If this happens for enough time it can cause panic attacks and trigger side effects that lead people to believe they are having a heart attack.
Children are not void of these types of situations, sometimes it’s even worse. Children, sometimes daily, encounter situations that create enough anxiety in them to trigger emotions that they don’t know what do with. They don’t have to foresight yet to know that feelings are transient and no situation or feeling is here to stay forever.In her article, “The Five Elements of a Little Flower Yoga Class” teacher Jennifer Cohen Harper writes, “The breath is one of our most powerful tools for self-determination, and teaching children that they have some control over their own emotional and energetic state is an empowering lesson. Breathe activities help children learn to reduce anxiety, stabilize energy and create a sense of safety and peace in the body.” (link to article here: https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog/the-five-elements-of-a-little-flower-yoga-class/). Children can not only immediately benefit from learning these breathing techniques, but we are helping them to acquire coping strategies they can use for the rest of their lives! Here are a few that I use in my own practice (and my own life!):
1.) Balloon Breathing
Imagine your belly is a deflated balloon. Take a deep breath in and inflate your balloon, long breath out through your mouth. Have them put their palms on their bellies and feel the breath inflating their bodies. Do this 5 times.
2.) Hoberman Sphere Breathing
A Hoberman Sphere is a great visual for children to use while doing this breathing technique! They hold the sphere while it is collapsed into a ball, take a deep breath and stretch the sphere out! This is giving them a model of what is happening in their bodies as they take some deep breaths, about 4-5.
3.) Pinwheel Breathing
You can either have a pinwheel on hand or ask a child to imagine their index finger is a pinwheel. Start off with some slow breaths, then increase to longer and faster breaths. This is a cool technique to show children how they can control their breathing and see how their bodies react to it differently. Don’t want to use a pinwheel? Why not use bubbles instead? Have them notice the types of bubbles (more and smaller, or less and larger) come out depending on their breathing.
4.) Dragon Fire Breaths
This is a fun one to do when kiddos have a lot of energy and need to settle down for a bit. Have them sit crisscross on the floor, eyes closed. Tell them to take a big, deep breath through their nose and exhale through their mouths while they whisper roar. This produces lots of giggles so beware!
5.) Be a Tree
Sometimes we all need a bit of grounding, so why not be a tree? Have children stand up tall, feet set apart enough to provide stability. Have them close their eyes and dangle their arms to their sides, then ask them to take a deep breath as they raise their hands above their heads. Have them notice how their feet are planted into the ground like a tree and with every breath, their roots go deeper and deeper.
There are SO many different breathing techniques that are fun and empowering to children! What have you used? What has worked for your child? I’d love to know! Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn and let’s chat!