Yoga breathwork practices provide deeply relaxing and healing benefits for all ages. For very young children, modified breathwork exercises are fun ways to help preschoolers enjoy quiet times, while gaining lifelong benefits, including increased stamina and mental focus.

Yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) can be strenuous. Although children love challenges (like trying to hold their breath for a long time), traditional yogic teaching suggests waiting until age 7 or 8 to start teaching kids pranayama.

However, preschoolers – and adults – can enjoy the ten modified exercises described here. They are great fun at circle time or just for a parent and child to do together. Ask the preschoolers to sit on the floor facing you.You will need to demonstrate first and then help them when they are trying the practices themselves.

  • Humming bees breath

Close both ear holes with your index fingers and close both eyes gently. Take a deep breath through your nose. Now breath out normally through the nose, mouth shut, while making a loud humming sound. Hum as loud as you can while breathing out.

Wait for all the children to finish humming, then instruct them to take another deep breath. Give them a moment then tell them to hum again, mouth closed, breathing out naturally through the nose.

Finally, have everyone sit quietly with eyes still closed and their fingers still closing the ears.  No more humming, just listening inside. They will hear a light sound flowing between the ears, like an ocean wave or gentle buzzing of bees, Let them stay quietly listening for a minute or two.

 

  • Tummy wave breath

Lie down on your back on a mat. If it is a group, place them so their heads are pointed towards each other, but about two feet apart.

While lying down, place one hand palm down across the tummy just below the belly button. Place the other hand across the tummy just under the rib cage.

Now breathe naturally, not necessarily very deep. Pay attention to your hands, as you learn the most healthful way to take a breath.

As you breathe in (mostly through the nose) try to fill the tummy with your breath from the bottom up. The lower hand will rise up first, then the upper hand will go up.

As you breathe out, try to empty the breath from the top down. The upper hand will go down first, then the lower hand.

Let the kids focus on their hands moving up and down, and not so much on completely filling and emptying the breath.

Continue for about a minute, naturally without holding the breath.

 

  • Looking at tip of nose (or Dragon Breath)

Learning how to “watch” the breath is a classic mindfulness practice that provides manifold benefits. After learning and practicing together, you can suggest to a child to try their watching breath practice to help when they get upset or stressed.

Sit comfortably on the floor or a mat, either cross legged or kneeling. Keep the head and back straight. If the children are in a group they can be facing each other about 4 feet apart.

Breathe in and out out naturally a few times. Now look at the tip of your nose while breathing. It’s hard to keep the eyes on the tip of your nose for too long, but that’s OK. Gently return to watch the very tip of the nose.The children can imagine their breath as a color or sparkles naturally entering and exiting the nose.

The focus is not on a certain type of breathing, but just watching. COntinue watching for about a minute,

 

  • Alternating breath

Breath control is important to deeper yogic practices and meditation. For small children, it’s fun to just get started with a simple version of alternating that won’t feel uncomfortable. Alternating breath is very helpful in clearing stuffy  noses! Also, it looks a little silly which makes it a hit with kids.

Sit comfortably on the floor or a mat, either cross legged or kneeling. Keep the head and back straight. If the children are in a group they can be facing each other about 4 feet apart.

Hold out one hand with the index finger and thumb extended and the rest of the fingers folded in towards the palm. Bring this hand up to your face so that the index finger is just outside one nostril and the thumb is resting against the other nostril.

First check which nostril is flowing more easily. This side 1. Close the other (side 2) and breathe in through side 1. Now close both nostrils for a moment, and release the breath through side, just naturally without forcing or holding the breath. Breathe in again through side 2, close both sides for a moment, and then release the breath through side 1. Breathe in side 1, and continue the pattern.

You can practice for 30 seconds or less so that the kids don’t feel frustrated, They get the hang of it after a few practice sessions.

 

  • Cooling breath

This is great practice to cool down overexcited or overheated preschoolers.

Sit comfortably on the floor or a mat, either cross legged or kneeling. Keep the head and back straight. If the children are in a group they can be facing each other about 4 feet apart.

Smile, showing your teeth. The upper row of teeth should be touching the lower row. Gently, naturally breathe in through the teeth. The air coming in will feel cool and refreshing. Release the through the teeth and nose.

If they salivate, the kids can swallow then continue. This practice can continue 20 to 30 seconds.

Remember, the goal of breath work for small children is not “building up” to a higher level of practice. What’s important is to find practices they enjoy and that help them feel happier and healthier. Don’t be surprised if you see them using their new breath work practices whenever they feel like it during the day!

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