No Need To Stress, Just Take A Breath
Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Our Hidden Super Power:
When talking about the breath with young children, I like to refer to the breath as their super power; a super power that helps their brain, the command system of their body, think fast and clear! But in moments of stress, anger, and sadness, we are unable to use our brain to its fullest capacity. When your child is mad or sad, you will often find that it is hard for your child to articulate their feelings. Many times when your child is stressed, perhaps worried about a future test, they end up not studying because they are too busy stressing out and worrying. In a state of stress and or anger, the body releases hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones alarm your nervous system to react in one of three ways; fight, flight, or freeze.
Reacting vs. Responding:
When we enter into a fight, flight, or freeze mode, cortisol floods our body and tells us to quickly react to the situation at hand. But what if we could respond in a calm and logical manner? What is the difference between reacting and responding anyway? A reaction would be an action or verbal response that quickly or automatically comes forth without prior thought. For children it can range from anything such as hitting, yelling, biting, calling people names, storming off, or throwing objects. A response, however, involves awareness and reflection. A response can be a follow-up question, a productive and non-judgemental comment or suggestion, or simply walking away from a situation. Although some of the reactions mentioned above are age appropriate for younger children, here at Humble Warrior Yoga, we want to give children strategies to safely and effectively respond to all levels of social interactions and situations with clarity and intention.
So how can we slow ourselves down? How can we take the time to think and respond to different situations instead of habitually reacting? This is where we introduce and integrate the power of breathing. The power of the breath is not only helping to calm us down, but to help “lift the fog” in our frazzled brain (by lowering our cortisol levels in our body). By taking a few deep breaths, we are able to calm ourselves down in moments of stress and anger. These breaths also give us a moment to clear our minds, think about the situation, therefore able to respond in a meaningful way.
Breathing Strategies and Tools:
Breathing is a strategy that everyone can use when in a state of stress, frustration, or sadness. Below you will find some fun breathing techniques that you can use with your little one(s) to help get into the mindset of responding rather than reacting. At any point in the day these breathing strategies can be applied: before/after school, before an event/exam, and before bedtime. These strategies can be especially beneficial during moments of anger, sadness, stress, or even in the middle of an argument. Basically, no matter the time or situation, these breathing techniques can be applied!
Over time, I have personally seen and heard from parents in my class that the use of breathing has helped immensely. Not only are these breathing techniques helping their child find calm in the midst of anger, chaos, or stress, their child is also teaching others about how to take deep breaths and when to use them. These examples prove how valuable breathing is for everyone, no matter the age. It is also important to note that it is impossible, and not our goal to be in a state of calm, control, and positivity 24/7. Our goal is to bring awareness to these various breathing strategies to help bring clarity to moments of anger, chaos, sadness, or stress. With time, I hope you find these strategies helpful as you and your child navigate through the inevitable waves of emotions in our day-to-day lives.
Breathing Ball: The Breathing Ball is a wonderful visual for young children to get the breath moving. The breathing ball paints a picture of what the lungs are doing when we breathe. To begin, start with the ball closed in its smallest setting (as pictured). On an inhale, expand the ball, pulling it to it's largest setting, demonstrating full lungs. On the exhale, push the ball back to the smallest setting. Repeat.
Starfish Breath: Hold up your hand and follow the diagram! You want to be sure you are taking these breaths at a slow rate (for example: 3 seconds in, three seconds out) rather than a fast one. This way you will do about 30 seconds of mindful breathing.
Lion Breath: When your child is feeling fierce, entourage them to let out a ROAR! (Or two or three!) Take a deep inhale through the nose. On the exhale open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out and "Rrraahhhhh!" Big emotions and energy are important to express too! To bring the energy back down incorporate either Snake or Bumble Bee Breath (indicated below).
Snake Breath: Snake breath is more of a calming breath. Inhale deeply through the nose and hiss like a snake through your teeth.
Bumble Bee Breath: Begin by covering your ears. If comfortable you can close your eyes or look down and one spot on the floor. Take a deep inhale and on the exhale buzz like a bee.
Candle Breath: To introduce the breath to young children, put your finger out in front of their mouth and have them pretend they are blowing out a candle! This will help to simply get the breath moving.
Balloon Breath: A wonderful technique to get your child to take a deep breath that travels all the way to the belly! Simply breathe in and watch the belly blow up like a balloon! (Children really enjoy when you put a stuffed animal on their belly so they can watch the it rise and fall with each breath.)