Adults have really found value in breathwork to manage stress and uncertainty. Stephanie Mansour, health consultant and host of “Step It Up With Steph” (1) on PBS, discusses how a regular routine of breathing and mindful meditation can improve concentration and decision-making, as well as relaxation. Moreover, a good breathing technique – as discussed by Patrick McKeown in his book The Oxygen Advantage (2) – can even increase endurance and improve red blood cell circulation, improving cardio-fitness so even people suffering from chronic respiratory conditions can be active without gasping for air. Consistent breathing exercises are essential for good overall health.
Similar to physical activity, these breath-focused benefits apply to children as well. Mindful breathing is a simple strategy to calm down, especially when faced with overwhelming emotions. Fun breathing exercises also allow children to feel more in control of themselves. They can feel happier and less stressed, while increasing their focus and awareness. Here are four kid-friendly breathing exercises to help boost their concentration and wellness:
Dragon Fire Breaths
Get your imagination ready, dragon fire breaths are fun and energizing for kids.
To start, students should sit cross-legged or kneeling with a long spine, i.e. sitting up tall. Breathe in through the nose, then breathe out through the mouth with a ROAR! This should be repeated three to five times, and each breath should come out forcefully like a dragon. Kids are free to stick out their tongue and open their mouth wide while doing this, or even raising and lowering their arms like dragon wings when breathing.
Visualization is an important part of cultivating mindfulness, as highlighted in Whitney Stewart’s book Mindful Me: Mindfulness and Meditation for Kids (3). It can be a little boring for children to work on meditation and breathing techniques on their own, so a dose of imagination might be healthy as they work on their inner self. Why not encourage kids to think of rainbows as part of their practice? Have them start with their arms at the side of their body, which will then go up as they breathe in and go down as they breathe out. It’s also helpful to ask kids to visualize painting a rainbow arc with their hands so they stay in the right form.
Researchers in China recently designed and built a breathing exercise game called Bubble Beats (4). The game encourages children to blow bubbles to musical rhythm, which helps motivate players and improve their adherence to breathing exercises. No need to buy the game, with a few favorite songs and some bubbles, the idea is easy to replicate. Blowing bubbles teaches kids how to breathe deeply, carefully, and slowly — while still being a fun form of play.
Darth Vader Exercises
For kids who love the Star Wars franchise (or at least baby Yoda!) would likely enjoy copying Darth Vader’s iconic breathing style. This technique focuses more on inhaling and exhaling through the mouth. Imagine you have a straw in your mouth. Suck in air through the “straw” to breathe in, then exhale with a bit of a rasp. To deepen the mind-body connection, you can partner this breathing with the Frankenstein kick we taught in Easy Exercises to Get Bodies Moving and Recharge Focus. In between alternate leg kicks, children can include Darth Vader breaths for a true movie-style workout.
Article written by Riva Jamila
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