Did you know that teaching children to be more aware of their breaths could create more peace within and without?
Breath is connected to life. It’s what keeps us alive. The breath oxygenates every cell in our bodies, and it helps to regulate our brains and emotions. It helps us to see colors go from anger, frustration, or sadness to calm, relaxed, and open.
So when in doubt, breath.
Take a big breath in, and a long breath out. Then another. Then another.
Go ahead. Do it… Feel it.
Why? Because you’re kids are watching… and they’ll want to do it too…
There are so many fun little tricks of coming back to the breath when the child is feeling disoriented and out of the body. Peace begins with you. What a wonderful gift to show any young child – how to control these invisible ranges of emotions that can be so overwhelming for both the adult and the child.
Here are four basic, easy breaths to show your littles. I highly recommend practicing these breaths with your child(ren) before a heated moment comes up, that way when you are trying to talk them through an emotional time the child will already know the steps. Most emotional episodes do not usually occur when you are sitting or standing in a comfortable position, but this is a great way to practice. Closing the eyes also helps to keep any visual distractions at bay. The child’s drishti (focus) can also be on your eyes if that seems to help.
1. Counting Breath:
Sit or stand in a comfortable position, and close the eyes. Relax the body beginning with the head and shoulders, then down to the feet. Ask the child if he can feel the air moving into his nostrils when he takes a big breath in. Tell him that you want him to try and see how long he can feel it moving in and out while you count (This will keep his mind focused on his breathing and not so much the thoughts or emotions).
On the inhalation, slowly count up to four then gently say stop. Then start to exhale even slower while you count to six. Gently say stop and continue the exercise by inhaling and counting to four, then exhaling and counting to six.
Try doing this number set a couple more times, and adjust the times as needed.
The point is for the exhalation to be longer than the inhalation. This is a GREAT one to start with because you can incorporate it into any of the following breathing exercises.
2. Straw Breath:
Sit or stand in a comfortable position, and close the eyes. Relax the body beginning with the head and shoulders, then move down to the feet. Start to inhale big slowly, making sure the shoulders are not tensing and moving up towards the ears.
On the exhale shape the lips into a small circle as though you are blowing air out of a straw. Make the count of the exhale a little longer than the inhale. The shaping of the mouth in this exercise helps to regulate the amount of breath moving out of the body too quickly.
Breath in through the nose, exhale through the straw. Practice this inhalation and exhalation until the body and mind are calmer.
3. Hummmmming Breath
Sit or stand in a comfortable position, and close the eyes. Relax the body beginning with the head and shoulders, then down to the feet. Start to inhale big slowly, making sure the shoulders are not tensing up and moving up towards the ears, and then take a long exhalation.
Take another big, long inhalation, and then on your exhalation keep your lips lightly close and make a soft hummmmmming sound until you’ve exhaled completely. Take another big, long inhalation, and then another long, slow exhalation softly hummmmmming your breath completely out. Keep the mind focused on the softness and smoothness of the hummmmmmm. This might bring a few giggles because it can be pretty ticklish on the lips. If this seems to be too much of a distraction, the mouth can come slightly apart.
Continue a few more times until the body and mind are more relaxed.
4. Darth Vader Breath:
(Also called Ujjayi, or victorious breath, and is often referred to as making the sound of the ocean. Some children might like that reference better, so please use either explanation.)
Sit or stand in a comfortable position, and close the eyes. Relax the body beginning with the head and shoulders, then down to the feet. Start to inhale big slowly making sure the shoulders are not tensing and moving up towards the ears, and then take a long exhalation.
On the next inhalation, close the back of the throat slightly with the back of the tongue until the breath starts to sound like Darth Vader breathing through his mask (or the sound of the ocean from a distance). Continue to take big inhales and longer exhales while constricting the throat. Have the child imagine Darth Vader coming to peace and putting his weapons down (you could get really silly and imagine him holding a bouquet of pretty flowers!).
If it’s hard to get the noise right, try this. Take a big breath in, then open your mouth to exhale. As you exhale, act like you’re using your breath to fog up a mirror. This gets the feeling of constricting the back of the throat. Close the mouth while you’re exhaling and you’ve awakened your inner, more peaceful Darth Vader.
May the Force be with you.