At Prancing Pony Prana, we take breathing very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that we put it in our name. Prana means "life energy." And what gives energy to life? Air. Breath. Breathing.
One aspect of the yoga that I teach to my students, just like most other yoga teachers, is Pranayama. This type of breathing has nothing to do with the subconscious actions of your brain as you survive. No, this is more focused than that. Pranayama is the awareness of breath. So much awareness that the very air itself can change your mood, your health, and your life.
Compared to adults, children need way more help staying calm and dealing with their emotions in positive ways. Pranayama can help! Every day kids struggle with fear, anger, and selfishness. You can help them at home in the same way that I help them in the yoga studio.
The secret is that people can change their emotional state through their breathing. If your kids are trying to get amped up for competitive sports or before a performance, there's a breath for that. If they need to calm down their anxiety before the big exam at school, guess what? There's a breath for that. Like the air that passes through our lungs, Pranayama is always in motion, never static. Just like your kids' feelings!
Here are a few breathing exercises from my repertoire that you can use to help out your kids:
Lion's Breath - Sit your kids comfortably on the ground or on a chair. The key here is to have a nice long spine. Tell them to take a deep breath in through their nose. Open their eyes and mouths wide, stick out their tongues, and breathe out forcefully through their mouth.
Bumble Bee Breath - Have your children sit comfortably with their legs crossed, breath in through their nose, then with fingers in their ears hum out while they exhale. The lovely comforting resonance of this has a calming effect and done with eyes closed can make it even more peaceful.
Candle Breath - This one has a visualization component. Tell your child to close their eyes and imagine a birthday cake with a lit candle on top. After a slow inhale through their nose, have them slowly exhale through their mouth, with their lips shaped in a small 'o' as if they are blowing out the candle.
Sitali Straw Breath - (This one may be the most fun for them)... If your kids are able to curl their tongue, they should stick out the curled tongue like a straw. Then, have them inhale through their tongue straw and out through their nose, the air passing through the curl in their tongue. If your child cannot curl, they can breathe through their teeth instead.