If you are noticing that you are have been using breathing exercises to help you stay calm and focused, then more than likely your students need the chance too! Consider how you feel after you take a few deep breaths. You may feel calmer, more focused, relaxed, less anxious. Adults have a better understanding of how to self-regulate, where students need to be taught the skills and when would be an appropriate time to take a deep breath.
Breathing exercises are a powerful way to teach social emotional learning (SEL), support a healthy immune system and to find those times within your daily schedule to incorporate some calming activities. Consider trying out a few of the following 25 Breathing Exercises to Calm and Focus Your Students.
Balloon Breathing (or Belly Breathing)
Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath in through your nose, blowing up your belly like a balloon. Hold the breath and then slowly exhale out of your mouth, deflating the balloon in your belly.
Snake Breathing (FOCUS)
Take a deep breath in, filling up your whole body. Pause and breathe out slowly and smoothly, making a hissing sound for as long as you can. Repeat for three to five rounds, feeling yourself slow down and become calmer each time.
Sit comfortably and take three big sniffs in, one right after the other. Then exhale in a long release out.
Elephant Breathing (ENERGIZE)
Stand with your feet wide apart. Link your hands and dangle your arms in front of you like an elephant trunk. Inhale through your nose as you raise your arms high above your head and lean back. Exhale through your mouth as you swing your arms down through your legs.
Birthday Candle Breathing
Breathe in deeply. Imagine seeing your birthday cake with all its bright candles, and blow them out, breathing out strongly through the mouth. As you inhale through your nose, stretch the arms up and out. As you blow out strongly through your mouth; bring them back together at the center of your chest.
You want to focus on each part of your body working from your toes up. Take a deep breath in and hold it as you curl your toes for about five seconds. Then release your breath all at once, immediately relaxing your toes. Then work our way up to tensing your ankles while you take your next deep breath in. Release the tension and breath. Continue working your way home tensing each muscle and releasing.
Inhale through your nose, pause for three seconds. Exhale out of your mouth for three seconds.
Sigh the Blues Away
Similar to the tension release exercise, you inhale deeply and tense up your muscles. This time you let out a deep sigh while you are exhaling.
The Deep-Dive Breath
In four- or five-second intervals for each section, have students inhale through their nose, hold their breath, and then exhale through their mouth.
Now with each ‘in’ breath imagine that you are breathing in a relaxing color. Just choose a color that you find relaxing. For most people it is usually a blue, a green or a purple. So with each breath you are breathing in that color. Feel it traveling all around your body, relaxing you as it goes.
As you exhale imagine you are breathing out the color bright red. Feel this color red leave your body with each ‘out’ breath, and with it you are exhaling any stress or tension that you have built up during the day.
Continue to do this for several minutes, keeping the eyes closed.
4 – 7 – 8
Prepare by resting the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. Inhale through the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 7 and exhale to the count of 8.
Deep inhale in through your nose and then exhale like you are blowing bubbles through a wand.
Inhale through your nose and exhale controlling your breath like you are blowing to spin a pinwheel.
Imagine a dandelion flower. Take a deep breath in and slowly blow the air out sending the seeds into the air.
Choose a shape in your mind like a square, triangle or star. Trace the shape with your finger while you are breathing in and out. Trace up one side of the shape while you breathe in and continue tracing as you exhale.
Place a finger over one nostril of your nose. Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly. Switch nostrils and repeat.
This exercise requires an individual to have a stuffed animal or light object. Lie down on our back and place the object on top of your stomach. Inhale deeply for the count of three and watch the object rise up. Exhale for the count of 4 and the object will lower. Continue for 5 to 10 rounds.
With your arms by your side, turn the palms of your hands forward stretching your fingers. Slowly float your arms up wide from your side up over your head in the arc of a rainbow filling with air. Exhale moving your arms back to your side.
Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale making a buzzing or humming noise.
Five Finger Breathing
Open the palm of one hand wide. With the pointer finger of your opposite hand slowly trace your fingers while breathing. Start breathing in slowly and tracing up your thumb on your open hand. Exhale and trace down the side of the thumb towards the pointer finger. Inhale deeply while moving up the pointer to trace back down while exhaling. Continue for the remaining fingers.
Shoulder Roll Breath
Don’t be afraid to add some movements in with your breathing. Roll your shoulders up towards your ears while you inhale deeply. Breathe out through your mouth and roll your shoulders down and back.
You may approach this exercise in two variations. First option is to imagine a set of tall mountains. Inhale deeply while you trace up one side of the mountain, hold your breath at the top of the mountain and exhale while you trace back down the side of the mountain. Second variation is to incorporate movement. Inhale through your nose and raise your arms high above your head. Imagine you are as tall as a mountain. Exhale through your mouth bringing your palms together in front of your chest.
Take a deep breath through your nose. Sticking out our tongue you are going to exhale like your mouth is “on fire” or you are “breathing out fire like a dragon”.
Taco Breath Cool Down
First you want to curl your tongue up like a taco. Take a slow deep breath in through your mouth. Hold the breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale out of your nose. This is a great exercise for calming down.
For this exercise you can incorporate various sounds that you may be working on. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Exhale making the sound you are focusing upon. You can choose a variety of options including short vowel sounds, long vowel sounds, digraphs or consonants.
If you have enjoyed some of these Breathing Exercises to Calm and Focus yourself, imagine how your students are going to feel! Besides incorporating some of these practices within my own classroom I also love to pair it with academics and literacy. Below are a few wonderful and highly recommended books that coordinate with many of the exercises above.
Help your students and yourselves become more relaxed, calm, and focused. Try one or more of these Breathing Exercises to Calm and Focus Your Students and take note of the results that you see in your classrooms. Now more than ever, it is very important that we are focusing on self-care, and the well-being of our students.
Written by: Christopher Olson
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