Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga and is one of the most fundamental parts in any yoga practice.
Learning breathing techniques can help children to manage their emotions, develop concentration and gain the ability to calm and focus the mind through breath.
Most of us breathe very shallowly into the lungs and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Pranayama exercises focus the attention on the breath learn how to use the full capacity of our lungs. Using full yogic breath benefits the entire body; giving us more energy(prana) and oxygen to all our essential organs and blood, calming the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits.
These activities and games will help children to develop deep breathing skills will become the foundation techniques of meditations and relaxation strategies as they get older. They will learn the tools to express their emotions in a more controlled way resulting in a more balanced, focused mental and emotional health of a child in the present and an adult in the future.
Tell the children to imagine they are blowing bubbles. Take in a deep breath and slowly blow out bubbles in to the room. As they blow out the bubbles, ask them to imagine that the bubbles are magic bubbles that fill the room with calm.
Alternatively, for older children, use actual bubbles. Maybe have one or two bottles and ask the other children whilst they are waiting for their turn to watch the bubbles. To look at the colours and what happens to them. To then explain that this is what thoughts do too. So when they are angry or sad or anxious, they too will disappear and can be replaced with new feelings.
This will encourage children to develop deep and regular breathing skills. Ask them to imagine that they are blowing up a big balloon. Take in a deep breath and blow into the balloon slowly and mindfully. Tell them to breathe in deep from their tummy, imagining the balloon getting bigger and bigger on every slow breath out. Then imagine the balloon is floating away into the sky.
Explain that they may be feeling angry or anxious, blowing up the balloon can help him to feel calmer.
Ask the children to sit quietly on their mat and give each child a feather. Tell them really look at the feather and think about how amazing a feather is. What is a feather? Who has feathers? What do feathers help do? Then tell the children to place the feather onto their hand and take a nice big breath and then blow it up into the air.
Ask the children to lie down on their mat and place a stuffed animal or another object on their bellies (plastic butterflies or ducks are cute). Tell them watch how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down as they breathe in and out. Do they feel any other sensations as they breath nice and slow big breaths? Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles/butterflies/clouds and float away. Their Breathing Buddy helps the child focus and makes the meditation more fun and accessible. Quiet time can be fun too.
A BIG YAWN AND A HUGE STRETCH
Ask the children how we feel when we are feeling angry, anxious or scared? How do you think we breathe? Tell the children that we tend to take short shallow breaths when we feel this way. Yawning forces the body to relax by taking a deep breath and slowing down your breathing. Stretching helps them to stop feeling tense/tight/stiff in response to stress. Explain that that when they are feeling this way that they can yawn and stretch to help calm themselves
Demonstrate a big silly yawn and an over the top stretch. Ask them to join in.
Classroom Management Tip:
When you can see a tantrum developing, begin to do a silly yawn to remind them to calm themselves back down.
Ask children to sit criss cross legs with their backs resting against each other. Placing their hands on their knees ask them to feel their partner’s breathing through their back.
Begin to notice how the breath feels. Tell the children to begin to have one partner breathe out as the other breathes in and feel how you become connected to each other.
This is a great little exercise to promote calmness, being connected, non-competitive and respectful to each other.
Sarah Jane Hinder is author/illustrator of the book - YOGA BUG and illustrator of Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga. Sarah Jane is also a yoga teacher 200RYT with Sun Power Yoga and children's yoga and mindfulness teacher with Chrysalis Kids