We know it’s important to breathe. Aside from a beating heart, it lets us know that we’re still alive. But it’s also an indicator of how we are doing internally.
From our last yoga post, breathing serves as a reflection of our emotional state, stress level, and state of mind. In our rhythm and timing post, we talked about how the brain structures that are responsible for timing are also linked to the regulation of our emotions, behavior, and arousal. By controlling our breath, we not only alter our mood, but also our rhythm and timing. But how do we teach our kids how to breathe? Don’t they just do it?
For this post, we’re focusing on breathing techniques to calm kids down in moments of stress or high arousal.
By now, we’re all pretty familiar about the perks of yoga. It promotes our overall health and well-being, reduces stress, and helps us “find our center.” The practice has been trending in the past decade and schools have even implemented it to help guide children’s focus and self-regulation.
Research has shown positive outcomes from regular yoga practice, including:
- Increased attention, decreased hyperactivity, and faster task completion in 5-year-olds who completed yoga 2x/week
- Mental and emotional benefits in children ages 5-18 years, including decreased anxiety, boosted concentration and memory, improved confidence and self-esteem, and improved academic performance
- Brain scans revealing reduced activation of the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for emotions and arousal levels) in 6th graders
- Improvements in attention as well as decreased oppositional behaviors, restlessness, and impulsivity following 20 sessions of yoga with boys diagnosed with ADHD
- Improvements in imitation and play with peers in children with ASD following 10 months of yoga 5 days/week
Sounds good on paper, but yoga with kids can be intimidating. “Am I doing this right? Can kids even do these poses?”
It’s not just a bunch of poses and breathing. Although that notion is partially true, there’s more to it. The goal of yoga is to grow self-awareness, connecting the mind and the body to the present moment. It’s because of this broadness that makes participation in its practice easy.
A couple weeks ago, my toddlers where downstairs in their playroom. We were just hanging out after snack, and my daughter Aeris decided to play with a set of Leapfrog building blocks, similar to Duplo.
Aeris is much more independent compared to her sister, and is very focused on what she wants to do with her toys. In this case, she wanted to take all the single blocks and build one tall, skinny tower.
She had about four blocks left when her tower started to bow and snap. She tried reassembling it but once it got too tall, it wouldn’t stay upright. She is only about 3′ tall, and she could not keep a hand on the tower and attach the last few blocks to the top at the same time.
I could see her frustration every time the tower fell. She was getting red in the face, she was slamming down blocks trying to get them to fasten tighter, and she was refusing to let her sister help her. More importantly, she hated that her vision of what she wanted to do wasn’t working.
The first five years of your child’s life is bursting with curiosity, exploration, and…emotions. One moment, they’re happy and the next, they’re bawling their eyes out because you gave them the wrong color cup or because they can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.
In our past post about self-regulation, kids need to adjust their arousal levels to meet and manage the energy demands of their tasks throughout the day. This includes how to appropriately handle emotions.
Self-regulation is a vital skill needed to complete day-to-day tasks efficiently. But, the term is used so broadly and defined in so many ways that you can get confused on what it ACTUALLY is. Although we have talked about self-regulation in a previous post, let’s clarify what it is, what it isn’t, and everything in between.