It is never too early to teach your child the importance and joy of conscious breathing. Not only is awareness of the breath considered the foundation of yoga, many feel it is fundamental to healthy living. Learning mindful breathing will improve your child’s sense of self, powers of concentration and self-control.
Benefits of breathing for kids
Breath work offers children many benefits, including:
- Preparation for yoga and meditation
- Techniques to calm themselves and manage their emotions
- A sense of control
- Increased self-awareness
The following tips with help you ensure that children get the most out of their breath work:
- Be patient.
- Practice in a quiet, distraction-free environment
- If children become restless, consider alternating breathing exercises with children’s yoga asanas
Be sure to avoid the following common mistakes:
- Don’t push children beyond their skill level
- Don’t make breath work into a chore
- Don’t use adult terminology to describe breathing exercises, use child-friendly language (see below)
Three breath exercises for kids
Balloon Breath is a centering exercise—it’s designed to promote inner self-awareness and increase concentration levels.
- Have children sit cross-legged on the floor, on a carpet or a mat. Make sure that they keep their spines straight.
- They should put both palms together at the center of their chest.
- With closed eyes, have them take big, deep balloon breaths. (A balloon breath is when a deep breath is inhaled, while simultaneously raising the hands over the head, in the shape of a large balloon. As the children exhale slowly, their hands should come back to the joined position at the center of the chest).
- Have them try to take at least three balloon breaths in a sitting.
- Once the children have mastered this exercise, encourage a visualization technique: Have them try breathing balloon breaths in and out through their foreheads, through a point in the middle of the eyebrows.
Birthday Candles is a yoga breathing exercise for young children. It helps teach them focus and control..
- Have children sit on the floor cross-legged, spine straight, palms together, at the center of the chest.
- Have them inhale deeply while imagining a birthday cake, bright with candles. They should imagine the number of candles, the type of cake, the flavor of the frosting. As they breathe in, have them stretch their arms outward and up.
- Have them exhale to “blow out the candles” on the cake. While exhaling, they should slowly bring their arms back to their original position.
This exercise helps children learn to control their breath, and develops powers of concentration and visualization.
- The idea behind the train is to visualize taking a train trip into the jungle. Get the children to sit cross-legged, preferably on the floor.
- Have them hold their arms at their sides, bent at the elbows, hands balled into fists.
- Have them punch outward with one arm while inhaling deeply.
- Have them punch outward with the other arm, while bringing the first arm back to its original position and exhaling
powerfully through the nose.
- They should repeat the punching/breathing sequence for a minute or so, or as long as is comfortable.
- Bring to their attention to the fact that their breathing sounds like the wheels of a train in motion. Encourage them to picture the train in their minds.
- When you stop the exercise, tell them that the train has arrived at the next station.
One step further
To further develop your child’s inner strength and awareness, you may want to teach them some age-appropriate yoga exercises and simple meditation-exercises. Children love them, and adults love watching their children learn important life skills that aren’t taught in school.