We all experience stress and anxiety from time to time. The feeling of being stressed can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease. Stress & anxiety has a negative impact on our physical and mental well-being.
Especially during these times of pandemic, stress & anxiety are common not just for adults, but to many children as well. These times can be even more difficult for children with special needs.
(Find out about the effect of pandemic on chiodren’s brain & the role of parents in this article.)👇
Thus, it’s very essential for all of us to practice some strategies to ease ourselves from the impending stress & anxiety. Deep mindful breathing or pranayama is a simple age-old technique which is very effective to combat anxiety.
Mindful breathing exercises or pranayama is the practice of focusing on our breathing as we breathe. You inhale, exhale & hold your breath purposefully in a sequence.
While this seems really simple, it’s a powerful strategy for self-regulation that can be easily taught to children.
WHY MINDFUL BREATHING EXERCISES ARE IMPORTANT TO LEARN?
When we pay attention to our breathing, and “breathe on purpose,” the oxygen that we take in literally sends a message to the brain that everything is okay…
In other words, mindful breathing helps us to move out of a reactive state into a receptive state, which also means we are more ready to learn and can make better decisions in whatever context we find ourselves in.
Benefits of Mindful breathing:-
- Lowers blood pressure & slows down your heart rate
- Decreases stress & anxiety.
- Acts like a “pause button”, moving you out of a flight/fright/reactive state into a more relaxed & responsive state.
- Clears up foggy thinking & improves memory,attention,focus & concentration.
- Helps you to solve problems & find solutions.
Teaching children about mindful breathing can be a little difficult, especially to kids with special needs like Autism spectrum disorders or ADHD since they are “on the go” most of the time and sitting to focus on your breath can be difficult if you just ask them to.
So, in this article, I have mentioned some easy mindful breathing exercises that can be taught in a playful way.
If taught in a fun/playful way, kids take interest to learn & also, remember them for a long time.
The best way to make your kids do something is to do it yourself. When kids see you practicing meditation or some deep breathing exercises, they will be interested to do with you, rather than if they are instructed to do it.
Some Easy Breathing exercises
⏩ Balloon breathing:-
- Imagine your belly is a balloon.🎈
- Put your hand on your belly to feel the rise and fall.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose & feel your balloon(belly) becoming big.
- Hold your breath and count 1,2,3,4,5.
- Now, breathe out through your mouth and feel your balloon deflating.
- Repeat the same for 5 minutes or as long as you can.
This technique is very easy to teach kids. They easily get the concept as it’s fun and can apply it anytime they feel stressed/worried. 😊
⏩ Cupcake breathing:-
- Pretend that you are holding a cupcake in your hand.
- Breathe in slowly through nose to smell the cupcake, while slowly counting 1,2,3,4,5.
- Breathe out through your mouth to blow out the candle on the cupcake.
- Now, repeat till 5 min. or until you feel calm.
⏩ Bubble breathing:-
- Imagine you are holding a wand to blow bubbles.
- Take a deep breath through your nose counting 1,2,3,4,5.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth as if you are blowing out a large bubble through the wand.
- Repeat until you feel calm.
This activity is so much fun. Because kids love to play with bubbles. It is easy to imagine and fun to practice. Try for yourself! 😃😄
⏩ Shape breathing:-
- Draw any shape on paper or on the board. 🕮
- Breathe in & out as you trace along the shape.(Breathe in tracing a line & out with the adjacent line.
- Focus on the shape.
- Repeat as many times as you can or until you feel calm.
Kids will love this breathing activity. This simple activity is an excellent way to improve their focus, attention span, visual tracking and much more along with relaxing their mind in a playful way. 😃😄😊
⏩ 5 finger breathing:-
- Stretch your hand out like a star. ✋ ★
- Get the pointer finger(index finger)of your other hand ready to trace up & down the fingers. 👆
- Breathe in slowly, as you slide up your thumb, breathe out through your mouth sliding down.
- Keep repeating the same, breathing in through nose while sliding up a finger and breathe out through mouth while sliding down for all your fingers.
- Now, repeat with your other hand.
This is another awesome breathing exercise which has multiple benefits. The best part is,enjoy this simple activity as its fun 😄😄
⏩ Rainbow breathing:-
- Draw a rainbow on paper. 🌈
- Start by placing your index finger on the white dot.
- Trace the arrow & take a deep breath in.
- Go till the end of the color holding your breath.
- Now, trace the next arrow and breathe out.
- Continue for all the colors.
- Repeat as long as you want or till you feel calm.
This is a must try activity for evryone ! Kids will love this colourful breathing actiivity ! Its much more fun to learn the colors as well while focusing on your breath! 😄😊😍
⏩ Buzzing bee breathing:-
- Close your eyes & mouth.
- Breathe in through your nose. Keep your lips tightly sealed.
- When you exhale, hum the sound of “M” like a bee
- Repeat the buzzing bee till 5 minutes or until you feel calm.
These are some of the mindful breathing techniques that you can teach your kids easily.
It’s best to practice one or two of these breathing exercises early morning every day when there is no distraction.
Start by practicing any 1 of these exercises for as short as 2 minutes. Gradually increase the duration.
Kids can use any of these breathing exercises during times when they feel overwhelmed/stressed out. But these need to be practiced every day in order to make a habit.
If you practice them everyday morning, both you & your kids will become naturally more relaxed, more focused, and capable of handling any stressful situations much better.
Remember ! The more relaxed & happy you are, the more relaxed, capable, confident, happy your kids will be!
Kids DONT DO what you say them to ! They DO WHAT YOU DO !
Make sure you are a good model.😄😃😊😊
You can also find some other very effective & easy activities for self-relaxation ain this article 👇
Happy parenting to all my readers.
About the writer :-
The writer’s name is Abhipsa Parida. She is an occupational therapist specialised in pediatrics and has been handling kids with special needs since 5 years. She is quite experienced and skillful in observation, assessment and planning intervention for kids with special needs. She uses evidence based practice and is very creative and updated in her approach while handling kids with special needs. She has her own clinic in Bhubaneswar and has handled many kids of different age groups with varying needs.
If you have any queries, you can mail them at abhipsaot21@gmail.