Thursday, June 4, 2015

Yoga Breath with Kids in the Classroom

Have you noticed how stressed and anxious kids are?  And how it usually isn't even about stuff they need to think about--let alone worry about?

One of the many "extras" that we need in our classrooms is self soothing and calming strategies.  One of the best I know is different types of yogic breathing.  {I don't usually call it this, but my students do--those little smarties!}  I usually say "Deep Breathing" or "Relaxing Breath" or "Calming Breath."
I talk about times and ways they can use this breath.  I also talk about my own experiences of feeling so nervous it feels like there is a rock in my stomach.  Or when I feel so worried I can't sleep.  Or when I'm so angry I feel like I'm shaking on the inside.  {Kids really get this!}  I also tell them that the breathing only works for me because I've practice it so much, that it is almost automatic in a really stressful situation.

I ask them if they want to practice with me.  We usually practice when we come in from recess before a restroom break for just a couple minutes.  Sometimes we practice before we take a test.  Sometimes if we're antsy we will practice, too!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hint:  We always breathe in and out through our noses.  If kids use their mouth I don't make a big deal about it, unless they sound like they are gasping for air.

Big Balloon Belly Breath:  We fill our bellies full of air, so they puff out like a balloon.  We hold for a few seconds.  Then as we exhale we try to remove all the air like a deflating balloon.  It helps to imagine we are squeezing our belly button back toward our spine.  {Repeat several times}

Smell the Flower, Blow Out the Candle:  My son prefers smell the cookie, blow out the candle!  I've heard several variations on this.  Hold up the index finger that will act as both flower and candle.  Breathe in smelling the flower and breathe out through mouth as if blowing out a candle.  Kids love these and it really works.

Breathe at your Happy Place:  Child closes their eyes and think of a place they love to be--real or imagined.  I suggest grandma's house or their backyard or a place they have visited.  I tell them I'm on a sandy beach in a hammock in the shade.  I can see it, but I've never been there.  We just breathe.  It's crazy how fast my class will become completely still.

If You Can Hear My Voice:  If it's loud I will start in a quiet voice, "If you can hear my voice breathe in through your noise and out through your nose.  If you can hear my voice fill your belly like a balloon.  If you can hear my voice release all the air through your nose."  And so on.

Audible Sigh:  We will inhale and then vocalize our exhale as a sigh.

Should Lift with Breath:  We inhale our shoulders up by our ears, and as we exhale we slowly lower our shoulders.  This takes practice.

These are great for grown ups and for kids at home, too!  It's amazing how the more they are practiced the more students will request them.

Happy Breathing!

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