Breathing is an essential part of any yoga practice, especially yoga with children. Breath is the link between our inner and outer bodies, it is our life force and without breath we are not doing yoga. As adults it is the greatest indicator of quality of practice. It allows us to be alert and present during our practice and lives. It tells us when to slow down or even when to stop. The purpose of yoga is to unify breath, body and mind. Breath awareness creates not only quality of our physical practice but quality of our life.
Breathing exercises help children to focus, bring a sense of calm over the body, serve as a self soothing technique, bring more oxygen to the body and brain, promotes mindful living and much more. Breath awareness is the first step to introducing breathing exercises. Once children become aware of their breath they can begin to learn breathing exercises such as “Take 5”, bell breathing and easy pose breathing. Feathers, tissues, flowers, pin wheels, candles, bubbles, balloons and small scarves are a few great props to use so that children can “see” their breath. Rubber ducks or bean bag animals we call “breathing buddies” are always a hit! Kids always want to “take their breathing buddies for a ride” during relaxation. Show them how to lay on their backs and set a breathing buddy on their belly (as seen in the photo). As the children breathe they see the buddy move up and down, just like they are riding the waves on the ocean. At first children might want to just touch and play with their breathing buddy. Let them explore and then help them take their buddy on a ride. Sometimes I softly hold hands with a child but never force it. After a few experiences with their breathing buddy they know what to do and when they see you get it out they lay down with hands by their side eager to give their buddy a ride.