Kids’ Yoga is full of fun and entertaining activities and great tools that provide stress management for kids. Yoga games, poses, and meditation are always part of a Kids’ Yoga class; these activities have many benefits and are helpful to children, but there is something that we do even while we practice all of them… We breathe.
We usually take our breath for granted, basically letting our bodies do whatever they need to, but in a Kids’ Yoga class, that’s not the case. Did you know that the way we breathe influences the way we feel? If you are angry and agitated, your breath will be short and fast, and if you are happy and relaxed, your breath will be deep and calm.
One thing I learned in my Kids’ Yoga training was PRANAYAMA. Pranayama means controlling the breath, and as we control the way we breathe we can change our state of mind and the way we feel. That’s why Pranayama is so important in stress management for kids. Teaching children how to breathe properly, how to get enough air in their lungs, and how to take a deep breath whenever they feel anxious or nervous is one of the best things yoga has to offer them.
In a regular Kids’ Yoga class, we practice Pranayama all of the time. The teacher is constantly reminding the children to breathe in and out of their noses; being aware of their own breath is going to help the children concentrate on challenging poses and a few rounds of deep breathing will prepare their minds for meditation. Pranayama has such a big impact on people, that sometimes just reminding the children to breathe in and out can make such a huge difference in the way they feel.
Pranayama is one of the best tools for relaxation for kids. It will help them to ease their minds with very easy techniques and they can do it anywhere! As Swami Vidyananda said, Pranayama is “your most portable form of stress management,” and that’s why is an easy way to practice yoga in schools. A few minutes of Pranayama early in the morning before class will oxygenate the brain and prepare it for action; a few deep breaths before a hard test will clear and ease the mind and help it to perform optimally.
One of the easiest Pranayama techniques is the three-part breath or Deergha Swasam. In this exercise, kids will use all of their lungs filling them with nutritious oxygen and prana. It is very easy to practice, and they can do it anywhere. That’s why three-part breathing is the first Pranayama they teach at every yoga teacher training.
The kids can practice it (or you can practice it, yourself) sitting with their backs straight or laying down in the ground, bellies up. They have to close their eyes and breathe in deeply allowing their bellies, ribs, and chests to fill up with air. When they exhale, they have to breathe out from their chests to their ribs then to their bellies until there is no more air in the lungs. The Kids’ Yoga teacher will guide the students, telling them to breathe in a positive word or thought and to breathe out a negative thought or feeling. An easy way to understand the three-part breath is to imagine we are filling up a glass: it’s like filling it from the bottom up as you inhale and emptying the belly when you exhale, from the chest through the ribs down to the belly.
It’s best to practice Pranayama after deep relaxation, as it enhances the benefits of the relaxation and prepares the children for the kids’ meditation. Kidding Around Yoga has a lot of Pranayama exercises: Alternate nostril breathing, Worry bubbles, Bunny breath, the Bumblebee breath, and even some really fun blowing games. Kidding Around Yoga even has it’s own Pranayama song!
If you are looking for a way to start doing some Pranayama with your kids, “Blow Your Horn” is a fun, easy way to include a Pranayama practice every day. It’s also a very good way to develop good coordination because it includes some hardcore hand jives. Click the play button below to listen to a sample.
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Before you practice this song, make sure your kids know the hand motions that go with it. Practice it with them a few times without the music to be sure they get it. Once they know the hand motions, you are ready to have some serious fun while doing some old school jammin’. Using their hands as wind instruments, saxes, flutes, trombones, and any other instruments you can think of, the kids will blow their worries away along to the music. If they are feeling it, the Pranayama is working! You can even get creative and add some entertaining props to the party. Prepare yourself to get goofy and to breathe your cares away!