You’ve heard the phrase “it’s as natural as breathing,” describing an activity that can be mastered easily and quickly. Yet, breathing fully and deeply is absent from the day to day lives of many kids and adults.
In past generations, deep breathing was more natural. Adults walked to work, to markets and to social gatherings. They worked actively on their gardens and houses. Children walked to school and ran around in fields for fun and exploration
In today’s family, we almost have to schedule time to do activities that use our full breathing, like soccer practice or going to the gym. However, learning to breathe more fully greatly improves your overall quality of life, giving you more energy and stamina, and better mental clarity and emotional balance.
Learning deep breathing together with your child can be fun, and it’s not difficult to get them involved. Children love the physical challenge of deep breathing, especially when they see how it helps them in sports, dance and swimming. Fuller breathing helps them through drowsiness at school in the afternoon and during homework time, too!
Here are deep breathing activities you can start with at home:
All kids like to count how long they can hold their breath. Unfortunately they often take the breath in too fast and sudden, almost like swallowing air. This is not often a deep breath and doesn’t help increase capacity.
Instead, try a counting breath exercise to learn breath regulation, sitting straight and comfortably, breath in to the count of four. Hold the breath to a count of four, then exhale to the count of four. Finally hold the breath out to the count count of four before starting the cycle again with the in breath.
You’ll find it challenging to maintain a steady pace! When you and your child can comfortably and easily regulate your breath to the count of four, increase to the count of eight, sixteen, and so on.
Sun salutation with correct breathing
The 12-pose sun salutation is typically the introductory exercise for new Yoga students. If you and your child know sun salutation, use it to promote deeper breathing. Traditionally each position is paired with inhaling, exhaling or inhaling-and-exhaling. Thus you would inhale-and-exhale for the first position (standing with palms pressed together in front of your chest). Then you would inhale deeply as you bring your hands straight up over your head and bending slightly back for the second position, and exhaling as you bend forward to touch your toes for the third.
In classical yoga training focusing on the breath is actually more emphasized than the correct position. In fat, you;ll notice that the positions become easier, and you become more limber the more you concentrate on the breath. Refer to a yoga manual or online resource to review the positions and the breathing instructions.
Tadasana at night outside
Children from preschoolers to teens will enjoy Tadasana, as it is an active yoga movement that appeals to kid in all of us. Stretch your arms overhead, then lace the fingers together, palms turned upwards. Drop your head fully back and look at your hands above you. Now stand on your toes and start walking around on tiptoes. Keep walking around for a minute, gradually working up to two or three minutes.
To stay in balance you will need to focus on your breathing, not on your steps or your hands. It’s a very interesting lesson in how our bodies work! To make this activity even more special try doing it outside at night when the stars are out. Again, you must focus on your breathing to maintain balance – and the stars are quite the distraction. Coach your child that they can see and be aware of the stars, yet be focused on breathing. Then, this deep breathing activity doubles as a training in mindfulness.
If your child wants to, let them test how much more stamina they have, perhaps in activities like swimming underwater or running long distance. Seeing their progress in their own goals will further encourage your kids to keep the focus on better and fuller breathing.