When it comes to enhancing our health, mood and wellbeing, the more tools we have access to, the better. At Bonkers Beat children and educators use both yoga and meditation, and enjoy a range of benefits these practices bring. One key element that these two practices have in common is focusing on the breath.
Did you know that you can harness the positive impact of breathing exercises at any time – not only when practicing yoga and meditation? This can be really helpful, particularly in circumstances when we might want to calm ourselves or improve mood and sense of wellbeing, but don’t feel comfortable or able to bust out our favourite yoga poses or quietly meditate.
The benefits of breathing exercises
Breathing exercises, often known as breathwork, have benefits that can support you at any age. Learning them as a child offers a powerful tool for life!
Some of the reasons why breathing exercises are so amazing include:
- Increased sense of calm
- Improved immune function
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Improved blood flow and circulation
- Enhanced quality of sleep
Getting your breathing right
While we are obviously breathing all the time, it usually takes place without us having any awareness. However, we can often be taking shallow breaths rather than deep breathing – and deep breathing is where we get access to all those amazing benefits.
Children can be guided to do deep breathing exercises easily from a very young age. It’s all about role modelling and gently talking them through it. Here is an example script you might like to follow, as explained on Raising Children.
Here’s how you could guide your child through the activity. Remember to speak softly and slowly, and pause after you say each step:
- ‘Let’s sit down so we’re comfortable.’
- ‘Close your eyes.’
- ‘Now breathe in very slowly through your nose. Feel your chest filling up. Feel your tummy rising.’
- ‘Now hold your breath. Feel how full your chest and tummy are.’
- ‘Now breathe out slowly through your mouth. Feel your chest emptying out. Feel your tummy relaxing.’
- ‘Would you like to do that again?’
Depending on your child’s concentration levels and interest, you could just do one round of breathing at a time to start with, and build up to 2-3 repetitions.
Best times to use breathing exercises
When might you use your breathing exercises with children? Any time is a good time really! Here are some situations when it could be worthwhile encouraging a child to put their breathing into practice:
- At the beginning or end of an activity to aid in smooth transitions
- When struggling to get to sleep
- When feeling overwhelmed, angry or upset
- During times of anxiety or stress
- While feeling relaxed and happy and wanting to be mindfully in that moment
Once a child feels for themselves how effective breathing exercises can be and how they can make them feel, we hope that children will begin to utilise this tool for themselves without any prompting!
Let us know your thoughts and experiences using breathing exercises with children on Facebook or Instagram! And don’t forget, we have a bunch of free resources including breathwork support that you can access on our Facebook group, access here.