When we teach breathing exercises to kids, we give them a life-long tool for managing their stress and cultivating inner peace. Each and every one of us has the ability to feel calmer, more relaxed, and more alert at any given moment. This ability is called “Conscious Breathing”. When we use it, we are less stressed, more mindful, more creative and just plain cooler and kinder.

When we focus on breathing fully and deeply, we move out of our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight ) into our parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation and receptivity).  When we consciously connect with and manipulate our breath, we plug into the communication highway, linking body and mind, with the messages we want to send. With specific breathing exercises, we can calm, soothe, support or energize our”state”  as needed.

Conscious breathing is simple to learn.

Start integrating the 4 different breaths below into your day – at circle time, meal time, transition time, drive time. Support children in regularly practicing by pausing periodically and taking the time to breathe consciously. Encourage them to notice and name how the different breathing exercises affect how they feel and think and behave. Remind kids to use conscious breathing to help them manage their feelings and shift their own mind-body state, the same way you would other healthy habits such as teeth brushing, saying “please” and “thank you,” lining up for recess, cleaning up after themselves, etc.

When you model connecting with the power of conscious breathing and encourage your students and children to explore it for themselves, you give them a way to cultivate their own inner wisdom and strength.

Below are 4 different breathing exercises to share with your children followed by a video demonstration.

Flower Breath: Imagine smelling a beautiful flower, breathe in through the nose and out the mouth, releasing any tension. Stop and smell the roses, daffodils, daisies or any other flower they like. This is a simple way to connect kids to their breath and how it helps them to feel.

Hissing Breath: Breathe in the nose, long deep inhale, and out the mouth on a hissing sound, slow and long. Extending the exhale will allow kids to slow down their inner speed.  It’s wonderful to connect kids to their exhale to help them learn to slow themselves down, mentally and physically.

Bear Breath: Inhale through the nose, pause; exhale out the nose, pause. Breathe in to a count of 3 or 4, pause for a count of 1 or 2; breath out for a count of 3 or 4, pause for a count of 1 or 2. Repeat a few times. This will help ground and settle kids. Wonderful for restful, reflective time. Imagine a bear hibernating. Helpful before nap time, story time or any creative activity.

Bunny Breath: Just 3 quick sniffs in the nose and one long exhale out the nose. Invite kids to pretend to be bunnies, sniffing the air for other bunnies, carrots to eat, or safety. It can be a lovely cleansing breath when you use it in this way. You can also use it when kids are very upset and can’t find their breath, because it will help them connect to their exhale, so that they breathe instead of spin out.