Mindfulness in the Classroom- Breathing

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Breathing is one of the most natural things a person can do and an automatic reflex that is hard wired in our brains. How many times have you heard someone say, “Breathe!”, when someone is upset? What about a deep sigh when one is frustrated. It is purely natural reflex which helps us relax.

What is the science behind the effectiveness of deep breathing? The breathing changes energy from tension to relaxation. It does this by turning off our sympathetic nervous system that produces stress hormones. This then turns on our parasympathetic nervous system, which turns off the stress hormone pump. So, deep breathing relaxes the body, decreases the heart rates lowers the blood pressure and creates the feeling of calmness.  In addition, the deep breathing ensures the essential extra oxygen the brain needs for optimal function.

Who wouldn’t want this to happen in stressful situations and who wouldn’t want our children mindfully using breathing techniques to deal with stressful situations?

Breathing is a “pack and go” mindfulness strategy that is useful in a variety of situations. I have seen it used by teachers, parents, support staff, office staff and children. It can be used by one person or, when I do whole school assembly, with more than 400+ children.

Breathing Techniques- Great for children and adults alike!

There are many different kinds of breathing techniques you can teach the children. Here are a few:

Belly Breathing– Sit or lay comfortably. Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath in for four counts, blowing up your belly like a balloon. Hold the breath for one count and then slowly exhale for five counts, deflating the balloon in your belly. Continue to do this for a few minutes until you see or feel calm and relaxed.

Snake Breathing– When they are coiled and resting, snakes look around calmly, and when they move, they are slow and smooth
Sit up tall. Take a deep breath in, filling up your whole body. Pause and breathe out slowly and smoothly, making a hissing sound for as loud as you can.Repeat for three to five rounds, feeling yourself slow down and become calmer each time.

Bear Breathing– In winter, bears hibernate in caves, sleeping peacefully. Sit up tall, close your eyes. Through your nose, breathe in for a count of five, then hold in for a count of three. Breathe out for a count of five. Then hold out for a count of three. Repeat five to seven times then see how you feel.

Bunny Breathing-Bunnies are very alert. Keep yourself awake and alert with this cleansing breath. Sit on your shins with your back straight, shoulders wide and chest lifted. Keeping your chin down, take three big sniffs, one right after the other. Then exhale in a long release, as though you are sighing out through your nostrils. Repeat for five to seven rounds. When you’ve finished, you should feel clear, relaxed and alert.

Elephant Breathing– Elephants can shower themselves with their own trunks. Choose something to shower yourself with = love, laughter, strength. Stand with your feet wide apart. Link your hands and dangle your arms in front of you like an elephant trunk. Inhale through your nose as you raise your arms high above your head and lean back. Exhale through your mouth as you swing your arms down through your legs.
Repeat for three rounds. On the next round, stay up, arch back and shower yourself!

Birthday Candle Breathing– Who doesn’t like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake?! Sit with your legs crossed and your back straight. Breathe in deeply. Imagine seeing your birthday cake with all its bright candles, and blow them out, breathing out strongly through the mouth. As you inhale through your nose, stretch the arms up and out. As you blow out strongly through your mouth; bring them back together at the centre of your chest.

When and Where?

Breathing is an easy strategy to incorporate into your teaching as it can happen at any time and in any place. Some examples are below. But,do not be confined to just these examples.

  •  At the beginning of each lesson.
  • During any transition times so that the children can calm down and become ready for the next activity.
  • Any time the children seem restless.
  •  Teach them to choose a breathing technique and use it immediately when they feel upset or angry.
  • At the beginning or end of an assembly to help calm the children and focus the mind.
  • The when’s and where’s are endless!

How do you use breathing techniques in your school? Let me know in the comments below.

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