" Teaching children breathing exercises is like giving them a life-long tool for stress management that can ultimately also help find that vital inner peace "
control psycho-physiological states and improve organ functioning. Pranayama breathing that is often used in yoga and meditation, is the practice of voluntary breath control through inhalation, retention and exhalation, that can be performed at any pace. Research has shown that pranayama breathing can enhance parasympathetic tone (both internal and external responses), decrease sympathetic nervous activity, improve energy flow and emotional awareness, cardiovascular and respiratory functioning, as well as physical and mental states (Heath et al., 2015;Novotny & Kravitz, 2007), which indicates an interconnection between the body and mind.
When you become aware that your breath is linked to your state, then it is in your hands to practice it, and like with anything in life; practice is the key to achievement! For my own personal practice, with my kids and in my classes both for adults and kids I always feel it is important to incorporate some kind of breathing technique! Kids (and at times adults too) are always more motivated to learn and practice when it is fun! Here is a list of kid-approved fun breathing techniques to practice with your kids or students (or even for yourself!)
1) Bumble Bee Breath - (Bhramari Pranayama)
Sit comfortably with your legs crossed, breath in through your nose, then place your hands over your ears and hum out your exhalation. The resonance of this has a calming effect and if you close your eyes there is an added peaceful bonus. Try this a couple of times and note how it makes you feel! This breathing technique can help release frustration, anger and agitation, and is great for and very much enjoyed by all, especially young kids!
2) Bunny Breath -
(variation of Kapalbhati Pranayama/Skull-Shinning Breath or Bhastrika Pranayama/Bellow's Breath)
Another great breathing technique enjoyed by all, even the little ones! Sit in a comfortable seated position, with the spine straight and shoulders relaxed. You can place your hands - palms down onto your knees or place your hands on your belly. Bring awareness to your breath then as you inhale expand the belly and on the next exhale forcefully release all the air through your nose as you bring the belly button in towards your spine, then relax the belly and allow to inhale naturally again. Repeat this a number of times at a slow pace as to not get light headed. Alternatively, you can take 3 sniffs of air in through the nose and then 1 big exhale out. This is a great breath to increase energy flow, heat, clarify the mind, purify the blood and calm an upset kid!
3) Hissing/Snake or Lizard Breath - (Sheetkari/Sheetali Pranayama)
This cooling breath brings an essence of calm as it allows the body and mind to relax. Sit in a comfortable seated position with the palms of your hands onto your knees. Roll the tip of your tongue upwards so that it is touching the upper palate. Clench the teeth together, as you pull the lips apart, exposing the teeth. Gently inhale and listen for the hissing sound that sounds like a snake. Close your mouth bringing the lips together and then exhale all the air through the nose. This completes one cycle. Alternatively, for those who can roll their tongue inwards, inhale in through the tongue that is rolled inwards and sticking out, then close the mouth and exhale through the nose. For those who cannot roll their tongue you can inhale through pursed lips. You will be surprised as to how much cooler you'll feel after doing a couple of cycles!
4) Bear Breath - (Kumbhaka Pranayama/Breath Retention)
This technique is great for creating a feeling of calm and peace, like a hibernating bear! This exercise focuses on counting and breath retention, and depending on their breath control ability usually it's best for children 8 years old and up. Sit in a comfortable position. You may close your eyes. Bring some awareness to your breath, then inhale through your nose for 3 counts, pause and count to 2, then exhale through your nose for 3 counts. Repeat this a couple of times and eventually you can increase the count.
5) Ocean Breath - (Ujjaji Pranayama)
Have you ever listened to the sound of the ocean in a shell? That is what the ocean breath sounds like! Begin in a comfortable seated position, take a deep breath in and on your next exhale open your mouth and release out your breath with a "ha" sound, as if you are fogging up a mirror (you can also place your hand in front of your mouth to feel the warm breath). Now try it one more time, this time with the lips closed, but still make the "ha" sound while breathing slowly in and out through your nose. This is a more complex breathing technique better understood by older children, but great for calming both the mental and physical states, and thus great for those suffering with anxiety!
6) Alternate Nostril Breathing - (Nadi Shodhan)
This breath which may look like you're picking your nose (kids always giggle about it!) is a great exercise to help purify the nervous system by balancing the breath between the left and right nostrils and thus both hemispheres of the brain! Sit comfortable with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Gently place your right thumb over your right nostril. Rest the tip of your index finger and middle finger between your eyebrows. Place your right ring finger and baby finger over the left nostril. Press down with your right thumb on your right nostril and exhale all the air out through your left nostril. Then breath in from your left nostril and switch! Open up the right nostril by releasing your right thumb, and press down onto your left nostril with your right ring finger and pinky. Breath out from the right nostril. Then breath in from the right nostril. This completes 1 round. Try repeating 5-10 rounds. This is also a more advanced breathing technique and thus comprehended and grasped better by tweens and up.
Some final additional fun breaths include blowing a candle, flowers, pom poms, balloon, bubbles, small play silks & a pinwheel. Sit in a comfortable position, bring awareness to your breath, inhale through the nose and exhale the air out blowing on the object or imagine that you are blowing the object. These are great exercises to release any tension by imagining that the tension is going out through the breath as you blow.
Pranayama breathing has a number of positive effects; physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually, and thus could be of great benefit for one's overall wellbeing when practiced. Encouraging kids to incorporate these habits at a young age can have great effect not only in their current state but in their adult lives too! So give it a try, be creative, HAVE FUN!
Notes: As with all breathing exercises, always approach the practice with caution, especially if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or emphysema. Stop the exercise if you become faint or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing pranayama breathing.
As a YOGA . AERIAL . DANCE & GYMNASTICS Teacher, as well as a mother of two, my joy is to pass on my knowledge & passion in health, fitness and the arts. Enjoy reading tips, reviews, suggestions & some relevant research that might be of benefit to you and your family!