The breath is like a bridge that links the mind and the body. Mindful breath soothes the mind and helps the body to stretch. Pranayama or yogic breathing is useful in creating a supportive and calm state of being. This improves attention to the present moment, enhances concentration, and relieves anxiety and fatigue.
As the new school and working year begins, introduce mindful breathing techniques either to energize or calm (as the moment requires), and reap the benefits for yourself, your children and your family.
Breathing to energize
Hot Air Balloon
You will breathe in through the nose, and slowly release the breath out through the mouth.
Starting on your haunches, with your hands on the floor, take three large sips of breath in to inflate your hot air balloon. (stand-up and raise your arms above your head as you do this).
Hold the breath in for a moment. Then slowly travel around the room as you exhale out your mouth with a “shhshhsh” sound. Coming back down to “land your balloon” as you finish your breath out.
Repeat this a few times, and then stand quiet in Mountain pose (Tadasana), feeling the feet firm on the ground, the head reaching to the sky and the rhythm of your heart and breath.
Sit on your heels, with your hands making two floppy bunny ears on your head.
Take 3 to 5 sips of breath in through your nose to inflate your bunny ears.
Take 3 to 5 snorts of breath out through your nose to make your bunny ears floppy again.
Little children may only manage 3 sips of breath in, and might let all the breath out in one go. As they get used to the breathing you can increase the count to five. Learning breath control takes time – be patient with this one.
Breathing to calm
Swim ducky swim
Learning deep diaphragmatic breath is very important – this means that as children grow to adults they are taking breath right into the bottom of their lungs, and not always taking shallow, short breaths.
Begin lying on your back. Place a toy duck or your child’s favourite soft toy on her tummy. Ask your child to breathe in through her nose. Let her try to breathe all the way to her tummy, and make her duck or toy swim up. As her to breathe slowly out of her nose, and watch the duck or toy go down as the breath goes out. Long, mindful breaths as the toy goes up and down with the breath.
Each Breath a Smile is the title of a children’s book by Sister Susan. This wonderful book introduces young children to connect with their breath and the way they are breathing.