By Kimaya Singh and Faye Martins
How should we teach breath awareness meditation to children? When teaching classes, almost every yoga instructor agrees that focusing on the breath is the easiest way to help students focus. Depending on the age of the yoga student, teaching children to be aware of their breath can be just as effective as teaching the practice to adults. In fact, many mindfulness meditation programs start with breath awareness techniques. While some may consider mindful breathing to be a beginner’s method, it is definitely effective for all ages.
Is the Breath Awareness Technique Age Specific?
Some children embrace stillness. For children under the age of eight, this is an exercise that you will probably want to skip. While breath awareness is a structured exercise that allows kids to use their imagination (a vital part of designing activities for kids) the mental and spiritual aspects of breath awareness are beyond their abilities to comprehend. It’s better to get them in Shavasana (corpse pose) and have them relax gradually in body parts. It is common for children to be more aware of their breath than adults. This is likely due to the fact that they have not yet developed the habits that adults have developed of shallow, rapid, and/or irregular breathing. However, the breath awareness technique is still beneficial for children of all ages.
Harnessing Attention Span
One of the main benefits of the breath awareness technique is that it can help to calm and focus the mind. This is especially helpful for children who may be easily distracted or who have difficulty paying attention. The breath awareness technique can also help to improve concentration and focus. The breath awareness technique can be used by children of all ages, but it is important to adapt the instructions to the age group. For example, younger children may need simpler instructions, such as focusing on the feeling of the breath entering and leaving the nostrils. Older children may be able to handle more complex instructions, such as counting the breaths or noticing the sensations of the breath in the body.
Can Parents Teach at Home?
Breath awareness meditation is a simple yet powerful tool that can help children connect with their bodies and develop a more positive relationship with their breath. When children are aware of their breath, they can begin to control it and use it to calm themselves down when they feel anxious or stressed. As a parent, you can teach your child how to do breath awareness meditation at home by following these simple steps:
1. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your eyes closed.
2. Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest.
3. Breathe in through your nose and feel your stomach rise.
4. As you exhale, feel your stomach fall.
5. Continue breathing deeply and slowly for 5-10 minutes. By teaching your child how to meditate on their breath, you are giving them a valuable tool that they can use for the rest of their lives.
Just like with adults, instruct the kids to take about ten deep breaths. Then have them to imagine a place that feels calming to them, like a beach or a field of grass. As they imagine the calming place, have them “walk” through breath awareness.
The yoga teacher can use a musical instrument, like a hand drum to have the kids count ten breaths. The benefit of the musical instrument is that you activate several parts of the children’s brains while simultaneously teaching them how to relax.
For older kids and teens, have them imagine each thought that comes up during the meditation as a bubble. Ask them to imagine that each thought is contained in a bubble, and it as it floats up towards the ski, imagine letting it go without judgment.
For this method of breath awareness, have two kids sit back to back, and instruct one child to pay attention to how her partner’s body moves with the partner’s breath. The benefit of this method is that each child becomes aware not only of their and their partner’s breath, but they eventually relax while supporting each other, and in many cases their breath will eventually become synchronized.
Rib Awareness Breathing
This method is particularly effective for preteen and teenage students. Have your students lie in corpse pose and ask them to place their fingers flat on their ribcage, fingertips touching. Tell them to monitor how their fingers separate and return with each breath in a nonjudgmental way. Rib awareness breathing is a type of yoga breath awareness meditation that helps children to focus on their breath and become aware of the movement of their ribs. This type of meditation can be helpful for children who are experiencing anxiety or stress, as it can help to calm and center them.
More About Rib Awareness Breathing
Another way to practice rib awareness breathing is to have your child sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Once they are settled, have them place their hands on their lower ribs, just below the breastbone. Have them focus on the sensation of their breath moving in and out through their body, and pay attention to the movement of their ribs as they breathe. You can also have them count each inhale and exhale, or count the number of times their ribs move up and down. After a few minutes, have your child slowly open their eyes and take a few deep breaths before getting up.
Adapting Teaching Methods
Teaching yoga breath awareness exercises to kids is very similar to how we teach it to adult students. Depending on the child’s age, you may have to change the way that you teach yoga breath awareness, but it is especially effective for teaching to children to focus. One of the first skills children take home from our yoga classes is the ability to concentrate, which leads to meditation.
Benefits for Children
Breath awareness meditation has many benefits for children. It can help them to calm down, to focus and to pay attention. It also helps to teach them how to control their breath, which is an important skill for many activities such as singing, playing a musical instrument or swimming. In addition, breath awareness meditation can help children to develop a deeper understanding of their own bodies and the way that their breath affects their body and mind.
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