Therapist Thursday: Breathing Exercises for Kids

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Mira Binzen, E-RYT, RCYT, a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, a certified iRest Yoga Nidra teacher and a professional Integrative Yoga Therapist.  She holds a degree in Child Psychology from The University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development and is co-founder of Global Family Yoga which offers training courses approved for AOTA CEUs. Mira originally shared this post on MamaOT.com. Thank you both for sharing!

Full, even breathing can soothe the mind and body while evoking a sense of calm.  It’s an easy, effective strategy that is often overlooked.

Conscious breathing (simply being aware of the breath) is one of the best tools we have to regulate the nervous system, the home base of sensory processing. We all feel “dis-regulated” at times and it makes sense to have breathing strategies in place.  The more they are practiced, the easier it is to turn to one in time of need.  When a child feels overwhelmed from sensory input, is frustrated with a task, has low energy or too much energy for the situation, or is just feeling a little grumpy, a few conscious breaths can make a big difference.

This is not news to most, but anyone who has asked a child to “take a deep breath” may have come upon some resistance.  It’s kind of like trying to feed a child broccoli.  There has to be a little enticement, a little fun…a little magic.  Here are three simple ways to get your child breathing better.

1. Be a Balloon

Breathing exercises to help kids calm and focus

Crouch down and hug your knees.  Reach the arms up and out as you come up to standing, filling your balloon (that’s you).  Then, let all the air out as you flutter to the ground like a deflated balloon.  Repeat a few times.  Fluttering and flopping to the floor adds proprioceptive input (body awareness) that can also be soothing to the nervous system.   Engage your child by asking what color the balloon is or what you may be celebrating with balloons.

2. Open Your Wings

This can be done sitting or standing.  Just as the name suggests, invite your child to reach their arms out to the sides and up overhead just as a majestic bird opens its wings.  This process stretches the intercostal muscles and invites in a fuller breath.  The breath comes in as the wings go up.  The breath moves out as wings come down.  Repeat several times.  You don’t even need to mention the breath.  The movement facilitates breathing.  Engage your child by asking what color her wings are, what kind of a bird he is or to where she might fly.

3. Sleeping Crocodile

Breathing exercises to help kids calm and focus

A crocodile waits, still and quiet by the edge of the lake… For details on the Sleeping Crocodile please see the original post on MamaOT.com.

“Conscious breathing for just a few minutes a day, several times a day can empower both you and your child to handle fluctuating moods, energy and focus. Full, even breathing is the foundation of well-being.” – Mira Binzen

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