Being a kid seems fun and carefree, especially to adults. What grown up doesn’t want to be a kid again? What we don’t remember with our rosy glasses looking back is that there is actually a lot of stress already in that time. Kids act out, they explode, they deal with confusion and social pressures. Conscious breathing has long been a tool for adults to decrease stress, be more mindful, and more creative. Breathing exercises also work for children and gives them a lifelong tool to manage stress and cultivate inner peace.
Conscious breathing takes your out of operating on the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight response, and into the parasympathetic nervous system, which governs relaxation and receptivity. There are four simple practices that you can teach children, which they can master and graduate to higher level breathing exercise. Take a moment after lunch, while you’re in the car, or before nap time to go through the breathing exercises.
A flower breath consists of breathing in deep through the nose and exhaling from the mouth, as if you’re smelling a flower. You get bonus points for this tension-busting practice if you actually go out and smell the roses.
This is similar to the flower breath, but drawn out. Breathe in a deep inhale through the nostrils and then exhale from the mouth to create a hissing sound. Extend the exhale as long as possible and slow down the child’s breathing speed for the rapid default pace. This translates to helping the child slow down mentally and physically, being more present in the moment.
The bear breath is perfect for getting ready for nap time as it is meant to reflect a hibernating bear. Breathe in through the nose and pause, and then exhale through the nose as well and pause. Inhaling should last about four seconds with a pause (when you’re all full of breath) for one or two seconds before exhaling for another four seconds. When your lungs are empty, there should be a second or two of pause before inhaling again, and then repeat.
The bunny breath is the go-to for a fun game. It’s just three quick inhales through the nose, like sniffing, and then one long exhale through the nose. The result looks like a little bunny wiggling his or her nose. This exercise is also good for upset or frightened children who can’t seem to catch their breath. This exercise helps them connect to the exhale and their breathing instead of spinning out.