Release the stress; just let it all out.” -MC Yogi
Some say yoga is breathing. Breathing is what sustains life so that makes it pretty important, right? Taking 9 deep inhalations will not only calm the parasympathetic nervous system, but supply oxygen to muscles and organs.
Babies fill their bellies with air completely every time they inhale and exhale, but somewhere along the way this calm, healing style is lost and shallow breathing is substituted. Shallow partial breathing can result in decreased focus, low energy, and heightened anxiety. Ugh! Lucky for us there is yoga.
Have children sit up tall in Easy Pose, lay down in Corspe Pose, or stand up tall in Mountain Pose. It may be helpful to have them breath while slumped forward at first. Then push the shoulders back and down, discussing the difference. Here are three of my favorite ways to teach breath control:
- Use cool props. Children love props. My favorite prop is the hoberman sphere, which is pictured above. Not only does it glow in the dark, but it is also a great way to show children how the belly needs to fill with air on the inhale and be completely empty on the exhale. Turn off the lights and put on the Star Wars theme. Before you know it children will be using Ujjiya breath to sound like Darth Vader. KSSSSH KUHHH…
- Play games. Have children start at the back of their mats. Give them a wide straw and have them blow a cotton ball to the front of their mats. After a couple practice rounds have a race. Remember to emphasize long inhalations and exhalations.
- Use aromatherapy. Check for allergies before using this technique. Also, some children with special needs can be sensitive to essential oils so when in doubt go without. Name it something fun like “jungle juice” and spray it on their hands. Have them slowly lower their hands to their nose at the end of a jungle themed practice and breathe deeply 9 times. They will love it!
I teach breath control in every yoga session, but I do it in a fun way so children enjoy it. This is the only physiological system we have conscious control over so why not use it to be calm and happy?