Breathing is central to life; we can only survive minutes without it. Short of life or death, the quality of breath can greatly effect our present-moment experience -- no matter our age and place in this world. Let's look at four different yogic breaths that can be helpful when we're experiencing four different emotions.
Please note, these are temporary and complementary fixes to a more comprehensive yoga practice, an overall balanced lifestyle, and good mental health practices. If you're continuously facing negative emotions, it may be time to seek professional mental health help.
Bumblebee Breath -- when you're feeling anxious
Sit in a comfortable position (older kids may want to sit criss-cross applesauce).
Rub your hands together. Wait for everyone to copy you.
Then once they have, as you breathe in reach your arms up as high as they can go.
Then, as you audibly breathe out, lower your arms to your sides.
Finally start to bring your hands behind your back, elbows pointing out to the sides, as you say aloud, “Hide your hands behind your back! Now, you’re a bumblebee!”
Forming a stinger is optional. Do so by pointing out a finger or two.
Then, buzz-buzz-buzz as you move your torso in circles!
Repeat several times until children know what to say and do.
Notice how you feel. That humming is a soothing activity because vibrations feel soothing and calming to most people.
Breath of Joy -- when you're feeling sad
Stand up tall. Imagine you are holding music conductor sticks in both hands.
Quickly inhale 1/3 (1/3 inhale, as it’s a 3-part inhale) as you open your arms to their respective sides.
Quickly inhale another 1/3 as you inhale your arms up to shoulder height.
Inhale the final 1/3, arms up to the sky, meeting overhead.
Drop your arms down all the way back down.
Repeat that a maximum of five times.
How do you feel, any more joyful and alive? Oxygenating blood with breath, and combining that with active movement, can lift our moods.
Power of the Sun Breath -- when you're feeling tired
Stand in Mountain Pose and bring your hands just below your heart and above your belly button. This spot, known as the solar plexus, can store energy and power for you. As you inhale, reach your hands to the Sun and spread out all your fingers.
At the top of the inhale, imagine grabbing from the Sun’s rays and pulling the energy in.
As you exhale, draw your fists toward your solar plexus. Your elbows will bend and go behind you.
When your elbows are back and hands are in front of your solar plexus, yell, “HA!”
Repeat several times.
Stop after a maximum of 5 repetitions.
Notice how you feel -- more awakened and full of life, perhaps? Combining this breath with movement can enliven our senses and oxygenate our blood, making us feel more energized.
Ocean Breath -- when you're feeling scattered or overwhelmed
Close your eyes, if comfortable for you, or gaze softly ahead.
Feel long and tall through your spine.
Breathe in deeply.
As you breathe out, feel a slight closing in the back of your throat, so that there's a gentle rasp when you breathe out -- loud enough for you to hear but not necessarily anyone around you to hear.
Try that 3-5 more times.
Breathe normally to rest.
Notice how you feel -- do you feel more calm and centered? Maybe even more energized? Enjoy the feeling and try to carry it into the rest of your day with you.
Note that all of these breaths connect to nature in some way. As we reach towards wellness and shape our self-care, let's not forget the wisdom of the natural world. Children also have a fascination with and curiosity about animals, plants, and wild spaces. We can learn from them for our own greater well-being, and capitalize on that interest to guide them in reaching closer to theirs.
Want to learn more about yoga tools for social-emotional learning and health? We offer a course for that in our 95-hour Kids Yoga Teacher Training. You can take the course alone or as part of the whole 95-hour training.
This week, we go over the Turtle Pose. Inspired by the patient turtle, this pose increases mental focus and stretches the arms, back, and legs. This pose looks like a turtle withdrawing into its shell!