The International Journal of Yogic Human Movementand Sports Science says that Yoga is the perfect antidote for stress, effectively tracking the dreaded effects of stress on physiological systems by modifications on sympathovagal balance and restoring health. This basically means that the stress and pressure that your child is experiencing can easily be resolved through simple additions of yoga and breathing exercises for kids in their daily routines. Therefore, there is a direct beneficial impact on one’s nervous system that can be extremely healing.
Today’s hectic lifestyle, peers & parental pressures, and studies become stressors for children. They feel overwhelmed and confused, have negative thought patterns, and experience being stuck or not being able to express themselves fully. Therefore, we as their guides can enable them to release, let go of their stress and help bring clarity to their minds, thoughts, and words.
There are a few special breathing practices for kids and each of them helps create emotional and physical relaxation which then regulates the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system consists of the cooling parasympathetic and the heating / energizing sympathetic nervous system. The breathwork regulates these two nervous systems and it leads to reduced anxiety and stress. These two systems together are said to ‘ maintain homeostasis of all physiological functions and their balance will allow them greater control over their mind.
In Patanjali Yoga Sutras it is said, ” Yogah Chitta Vritti nirodha,” ie. Yogic breathwork will reduce the Vrittis( or modulations) in your mind. Anxieties, stress, and low energies are said to be the symptoms of the modulations in the mind and the more the mind is still, the closer we connect to our true nature which is peace and harmony.
Here are some breathing exercises you can try with your kids;
Keep one hand on your belly. Take long deep breaths that travel all the way to your stomach.
Feel the stomach riding and falling like a wave. Belly breathing is essential if you want to have a strong foundation in breathing correctly. You can do this 8-10 times.
For balloon breath, take a deep breath in through your nose and pucker your lips as if you’re getting ready to blow a balloon and exhale through the mouth. Balloon breathing helps improve lung capacity and can be done 4-5 times.
As the kids start practicing this exercise regularly, you can increase the number of times between 7-10. See that you give them enough rest after this practice and before the next one.
Bumble bee breath or Bhramari
This breathing practice is also known as Bhramari or the bumble bee breath. In this pranayama, keep your index finger touching your outer ear lobe as you flap them in and out. You will feel the air pressure change.
Make a high-pitched sound with your lips closed as if you’re humming like a bee. The sound is that of Mmmmm…keep sleeping your ears as you continue with this breathing exercise for kids.
Take another inhale and repeat this sound 3-5 times. This breathing practice will help relax your child, energise their vagus nerve, and is said to stimulate the serotonin hormone which induces relaxation. It’s a great practice to do Bhramari pranayama before sleeping.
Tongue tube or Sheetkari pranayama
Stick your tongue out and make a tube with your tongue. Some of us can’t do it for genetic reasons and so you can stick a bit of your tongue out between your lips if that is the case. Inhale through the tube/ through the lips and exhale slowly through the nose. Do this 5-7 times.
If your child is someone who feels anxious a lot, you can ask them to do this before an exam, a big presentation in class, or a match they’re playing in. Even bee breath works the same way by slowing down the heart rate and reducing your cortisol levels which put you into fight or flight mode.
Relaxing breath or Anti-anxiety breathing
This is the kind of breathing that is a preparatory practice that brings you into a state of complete relaxation. When we are anxious, we breathe fast and quickly. When we are happy our breath is long and deep. So, to get into a relaxed state consciously, we start breathing long breaths but the trick is to exhale longer than you inhale. So breathe in 4 and breathe out 8 counts. You’ll notice that your heart is slowing down, the smiles are getting broader and your mind starts to feel pretty good.
To make this breath really effective we add a hold on top. When you breathe in 4, hold the breath for 5-7 counts and then exhale 8 counts. The hold on top helps your lungs retain and pull a lot of oxygen from that breath and when you let go with a swoosh…it is as if you’ve released a burden of a thousand years. The body starts to feel really light.
If one can control the autonomic nervous system, one can remain cheerful and energetic for long periods of time. This is why pranayama and yoga have been called the antidote to stress.
Guided imagery, muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation
Guided imagery and muscle relaxation are other tools in addition to breathing exercises that can be really beneficial for your child.
Try this one exercise where you guide them into their favourite place in the whole world.
Ask them to visualise feeling happy, safe, loved, and secure. Guide them into feeling those emotions and relaxing the whole body. Taking them through the experience, slowly bring them out of their visualization. Gradually ask them to rub their palms together and place them on their eyes.
Once their eyes are open and they are alert, encourage them to share their thoughts, their happy place with you, and each time you can enhance and develop your guided imagery in accordance with what your child enjoys and specifically tailor it to their needs. Do get a meditation expert or professional to guide your child in case they experience a roadblock, face difficulty in school or want to get better at a certain practice. It is important for them to be flowing correctly through the sequences and gradually develop their individual capacities.
- All the above breathing exercises or rather pranayamas for children are safe and effective.
- They can be done multiple times a day or as needed.
- It is always best to do them on an empty stomach. They help bring more blood flow and oxygen to their body and brain.
- It is best done in the mornings and evenings. The practices can also be done in between studies when the mind is feeling dull or lethargic and can improve memory and recall.
In the Health Science Journal 2011 it was mentioned that breathwork helps decrease fatigue, increases calm, reduces anxiety, reduces symptoms of asthma in kids and adults and improves migraines.
Having these breathing tools can be useful as you can pull one out of your toolbox for whichever issue you’re having, without any side effects. There are so many benefits to each of these breathing exercises for kids that you can’t just pick one!
It is suggested that 6weeks of breathing practiceshould be unbroken to see results. ‘Positive impact on heart rate variability and improved anxiety and cognition ‘ are said to be some of the by-products of the breathing exercises for kids and the best part is that you can carry them with you anywhere you go. We hope your child uses these amazing coping tools and before you know it, these niggling issues will be a thing of the past.
The views expressed are that of the expert alone.
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