The essence of mindfulness is connecting the mind with the body and the easiest way to do that is with our breathing. Now, if you are like many of the kids I’ve taught, you are currently rolling your eyes and thinking, “I already know how to breathe.” And that’s the beauty of it: yes, we all know how to breathe! However, most of the time, we are breathing without thinking about it. So what happens if we start tuning into our breath? We connect our minds and our bodies in the most natural way possible.
Here are some of my favorite breathing exercises:
Balloon Belly - For this breath, place your hands on your belly. As you breathe in deeply, picture a balloon filling itself with air and feel your hands widen. Hold the breath in for 3 seconds and then let the breath out through the mouth with a big sigh as you picture the balloon deflating and feel your hands moving inwards.
Count to Five – Make a fist with your hand and place it somewhere comfortable (I like holding it to my chest, others may like the belly or a leg). As you breathe in through your nose, count to 5 on your fingers. Pause with an open hand and the breath in, and then pull each finger back in as you breathe out through your nose.
Hot Chocolate – We all have had the experience of holding something warm in our hands and blowing on it gently to cool it down. This breath utilizes those memories for a cozy, warming experience. Cup your hands as if you were holding a mug of hot chocolate (or tea, or coffee, or soup, etc). Breath in fully through your nose, imagining the smell, and then slowly blow out gently through your mouth, cooling off the cup in your hands.
Ocean Breath – Breath in deeply through your nose. Cup your hands around your ears, and as you breathe out deeply, press the tip of your tongue against your front teeth. Does it sound like an ocean wave in the background?
In with the Good – This breath is all about shifting focus to the positive and letting go of the negative. Before you begin, picture one thing you are happy about or grateful for and one thing that is frustrating you. Now, as you breath in through your nose, picture that good thing as vividly as you can. Hold that good thing in for one moment; now shift to the bad and slowly blow out through your mouth, imaging you are getting rid of that negativity. In with the good, out with the bad.
Experimenting with various breathing techniques is a great foundation for mindfulness and something you and your kids can easily start to incorporate into daily life. (Try using it when dealing with that rude person at the supermarket!)