“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
After a recent trip to Brighton beach, I left with a sense of calmness having spent my day breathing in fresh sea breeze and relaxing. My seaside trip got me thinking about how breathing not only helps adults but can help children feel more peaceful from within.
I am all in favour of teaching kids self-regulation tools like consciously focusing on their breath to achieve a calmer, relaxed and more at ease state of mind, particularly during times of stress and anxiety. Children with anxiety, often experience fearful thoughts, shortness of breath, shyness, panic and nervousness. If left untreated, anxiety can have detrimental results to their health and well-being.
Most kids enjoy mimicking animal characters, so I’ve found Animal Breathing can help with anxiety and other feelings. Inspired by my yoga practice, the main breathing techniques I like to use are Lion’s Breath, Bubble Bee Breath and Bunny Breathing.
Lion’s Breath (Simhasana Pranayama) By stretching the jaw, tongue and facial muscles whilst breathing, Lion’s Breath is a powerful technique which helps release pent up energy, including stress, anxiety and anger. With regular practice, Lion’s Breath can improve self-esteem; make a child feel calmer and more empowered.
Firstly, I tell kids they are big, strong, brave lions out in the wild and it’s time to give off an almighty roar to say hello to the other lions. We kneel down on the floor sitting on our heels and rest our hands on our knees or the floor. Next, we take in an inhale through the nose then as we exhale through the mouth, tilt our bodies forward gently and open our mouths widely. Lastly, we stick out our tongues to let out a big loud ROARRRRR! In traditional yoga circles, the correct phrase to use is the HA sound rather than to roar, but for kids it’s fun to tell them to roar. We repeat this 3/4 times.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
Bumble Bee Breath (Brahmari Pranayama) By closing off the senses and humming like a bee, this vibrating technique refocuses the mind, eases tension and relaxes the body. With regular practice, bumble bee breathing can improve a child’s concentration and help them connect to calmer emotions due to have a more peaceful mind-set.
I tell the children we are happy bees flying around a beautiful garden and humming to the flowers. We sit with our legs crossed (easy pose) then use our thumbs to close our ears from external sounds. Our pointy fingers then cover our closed eyes and the rest of the fingers gently rest on the face. After taking a breath in through the nose, we do a long exhale through the nose using a humming sound which vibrates and calms us down. Repeat for as long as necessary (usually 4/5 long hums), depending on the children.
Bunny Breath The simple act of a child wriggling their nose, sniffing the air a few times then exhaling, can be an incredibly refreshing boost and help them feel more awake and centred. With regular practice, bunny breathing can redirect a child’s energy and give them a more balanced, alert state of mind.
To practice Bunny Breathing, I tell the kids that we are little bunny rabbits hopping around looking for carrots. We wriggle our noses like rabbits, tuck in our chins and take in (or sniff) 3 short inhales through the nose, followed by a long exhale through the mouth. In line with the breathing, I sometimes get the children to use two fingers as bunny ears going up every time we breath in, then watch the ears slowly float down as we breath out. Alternatively, I give them a small bottle of bubbles so when we do a big calm exhale, they blow lots of little bubbles into the air.
“Breath with awareness is prana. Breath without awareness is just air.” – Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
After Animal Breathing or any other breathing exercise, I ask the children to think about how they are feeling at that present moment. Usually they say they feel fine, happy or calm, and they visibly look more at ease. If a child is unable to describe how they feel, I get them to draw a picture or point to an object or symbol to represent their feelings. The child is always reassured that its okay to feel the way they do. It’s great to get feedback from the children in a relaxed way, because it shows them how self-regulation tools like breathing, can help them during times of stress, frustration and anxiety.
I hope this most inspires you to be conscious of your breath and to help the little ones in your life do the same.
Miss H ♥