Breathing to Reduce Stress - Calling all Parents, Teachers & Kids

1:25 pm 11 April 2021 Jose Fernandez 0 Comments

During the pandemic, stress is daily and unrelenting - for kids and the adults in their lives. We’re all doing our best, but more help is needed to cope with heightening tensions, anxiety and fatigue (as we enter our third wave across the globe).

Whether you’re a front line worker dealing with daily risk, or at home with your kids trying to manage a new kind of workday, chronic stress has a corrosive effect on the brain and can lead to fatigue, and a weakened immune system. If left unchecked, chronic stress can also take a toll on productivity and personal relationships.

So what can parents and kids do to keep your daily stress levels in check? Well, there are a lot of simple strategies you can try - talking to friends, mindfulness meditation, journaling, doing art, listening to music, getting some fresh air and exercising.

But the easiest and quickest way to calm an anxious mind is to breathe in and breathe out. 

If you find “breath work” boring, you’re not alone! Here’s a shortlist of techniques we love, so you can find the one that’s easy and right for you. Scan this list and try a few. Then, teach your kids and students!

As always, most kids pick up on these techniques effortlessly (when compared with adults). If you teach children while they’re young, you give them crucial EQ skills to draw on for life. 

1. Pursed lip Breathing - easy, simple, fast to learn

This simple breathing technique makes you slow down your pace of breathing by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath. You can practice pursed lip breathing at any time. It may be especially useful during activities such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing.  Practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin in order to correctly learn the breathing pattern.

To do it:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.

  2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.

  3. Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.

  4. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of four.

2. Breath Focus with Soothing Phrases - for mantra lovers

This deep breathing technique uses imagery or focus words and phrases.  You can choose a focus word that makes you smile, feel relaxed, or that is simply neutral to think about. Examples include peacelet go, or relax.

To do it:

1.     Sit or lie down in a comfortable place. 

2.    Bring your awareness to your breaths without trying to change how you’re breathing.

3.    Alternate between normal and deep breaths a few times. 

4.    Note how shallow breathing feels compared to deep breathing. 

5.    Practice your deep breathing for a few minutes. 

6.    Combine this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase you like: 

As you inhale, you can say: “Inhaling peace and calm.”

As you exhale, you can say: “Exhaling tension and anxiety.”

3. Lion’s Breath - great for little and big lions

Lion’s breath is an energizing yoga breathing practice that is said to relieve tension in your chest and face. It’s also known in yoga as Lion’s Pose or simhasana in Sanskrit.

To do this:

1.    Come into a comfortable seated position. You can sit back on your heels or cross your legs.

2.    Press your palms against your knees with your fingers spread wide. 

3.    Inhale deeply through your nose and open your eyes wide.

4.    At the same time, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue. 

5.    Contract the muscles at the front of your throat as you exhale & make a long “ha” sound. 

6.    You can turn your gaze to look at the space between your eyebrows or the tip of your nose. 

7.    Do this breath 2 to 3 times. 

Here is a guided example of lion’s breath and a couple of pose variations on it.

4. Alternate Nostril Breathing - kids love this as it feels cool

Alternate nostril breathing, known as nadi shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit, is a breathing practice for relaxation. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to enhance cardiovascular function and to lower heart rate. 

To do this:

  1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.

  2. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.

  3. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.

  4. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.

  5. Inhale through the right side slowly.

  6. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).

  7. Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.

This is one cycle.  Continue this breathing pattern for up to 5 minutes. Finish your session with an exhale on the left side.

5. Breathing with Calming Circle visual (via - also dead easy

To do this:

1.   Find a comfortable chair or place to lie down. 

2.   Inhale and exhale with the video.

6. Navy SEAL Box Breathing - also called ‘square’ breathing

Do this (while thinking of the four sides of a box):

  1. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to 4 slowly. ...

  2. Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to 4. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut...

  3. Slowly exhale for 4 seconds.

  4. Hold your breath outside while counting slowly to 4 (so your full exhale is 8 seconds… completing the imaginary box!).

  5. Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times.

Another variation is to visualize four sides of a box changing to a new colour, one after the other, or in a line as though the box is being traced by a coloured pen in your mind (or imagine drawing it on your chest) - this makes this into a fun visualization exercise.

For little ones, you can actually use a gentle finger to draw a box (on the chest or stomach) while practicing the breathing together.

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