Breathwork Techniques for Children
You don’t need to wait until a child is upset to tell them to breathe! On the contrary, young children welcome the focus - and the effects - of simple breathwork instruction. These techniques are also the foundations for managing the mind and emotions, valuable tools at such a young age!
So many people haven’t been given the opportunity to learn how to deal with their thoughts and feelings. By passing on the knowledge of breathwork to children you are giving a gift that will last a lifetime, the gift of connection and mindfulness.
Here are four easy-to-teach breathing exercises suitable for toddlers through to ten-year-olds to get you started.
- Belly Breathing
Children naturally engage with belly breathing – but the aim of this breathwork exercise is to get them to make the connection between controlling their breath and moving their belly.
Grab a soft toy and tell your little one that they are going to take it on a tummy ride. Get them to lay down and place it on their belly, and ask them to watch it go up and go down as they inflate their belly and deflate their belly.
- To encourage a relaxed pace encourage them to count to 4 as they breathe in to inflate, and also as they breathe out to deflate.
- Make it a game, so that in times when you know the child could benefit from a little winding down, you can suggest taking a toy for a tummy ride.
- Turn the tummy ride into an adventure, with each breath like taking a step on a journey. Maybe after a few steps with the breath you reach the front door, and a few more takes you down a path, and then the next few take child and toy to a beach, a forest, a meadow or special place they like to go.
This practice can be done for just a few breaths or a few minutes.
- Bunny Breath
This is a wonderfully focussing breath for children that can be used to elevate their mood or calm them down, and it comes with a few variations that can help keep it fresh!
With the child sitting comfortably, hands resting on the knees, ask them to sniff three times, flaring their nostrils if they can like a rabbit; and then to exhale softly out of their mouth as if they were misting up a mirror or window.
- For very young children, instead of hands on knees, get the child to take the hands to the head and make bunny ears sticking up. For each of the breaths in get them to twitch their ears.
- Make the three in-breathes quite fast to raise energy levels, or prime the child for a challenging task.
- Introduce a pause between each in-breath to create a sense of calm and relaxation.
Three rounds of this breath is effective for little ones.
- Bee Breath
You might well know this as bhramari pranayama – it is great for the immune system as it boosts the production of nitric oxide in the body, and it is a wonderful way to create a sense of calm by lengthening the out-breath.
It is also the perfect practice for bringing attention to the senses – here are the different ways that you can teach children to engage with bee breath.
- Place fingertips gently on the lips, inhale through the nose and hum the breath out, with the lips gently closed. Encourage the child to notice the vibrating sensations in the lips.
- Place one hand on top of the other at the heart, on the inhale bring their attention to the way the the chest rises, and on the exhale the vibration of the breath in the chest.
- Place hands over ears, breathe in through the nose and then hum the breath out, asking them to notice the way it sounds in in the head.
This practice can be done sitting up or lying down, for a round of three breaths (either following the format above, or choosing just one variation) or for as many as nine breaths. If the child feels comfortable to do so, encourage them to close their eyes.
- Snake Breath
A focussing breath that uses the hissing sound to lengthen the out-breath and promote a sense of calm. It can also be modified to breathe away bad feelings and welcome in positive thoughts.
This technique is best practiced in a seated position, with hands gently resting on the knees. Ask the child to breathe in through the nose, filling their chest with their breath, and then ask them to gently hiss the breath all the way out like a snake, or even a like a gently deflating ball.
- On the inhale suggest that they are smelling a flower, or their favourite food or drink – maybe a hot chocolate or freshly baked cookie – this will encourage a deeper inhale.
- Prompt the child to smile as they inhale – this sends signals of positivity to the brain!
- To get rid of any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty ask the child to imagine that they are using their hissing breath to fill a bubble with any feelings they don’t want. After just one breath they then imagine that bubble floating away, taking any feelings of negativity with it.
Three rounds of this breath is effective, but even just one round in difficult situations works wonders to bring calm and focus.
Building a mindfulness practice for children
These breathing techniques are a foundation for mindfulness and self-soothing – if you are interested in more mindful techniques to share with younger children, take a look at one of our past articles Encouraging Mindfulness in Toddlers.
Brightest Blessings 💫
The Yogalap team