Focus and Reduce Stress with 30 Breathing Exercises


Talk about stress… we just finished our first marking period, report cards are due, I have parent-teacher conferences coming up, and oh yeah…just dealt with Halloween.  That is just in the classroom.  I’m just saying that teaching around Halloween could send any teacher off of the edge. Breathing exercises here I come! 

I am just trying to find my zen and bring in some self-care activities.  When talking about mindfulness activities and self-care, my first go-to would be breathing activities. These are not only the quickest but sometimes the most effective for my current mood. 

If you are noticing that you are have been using breathing exercises to help you stay focused and stress-free, 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 find those times within your daily schedule to incorporate some calming activities.   Consider trying out a few of the following 30 Breathing Exercises to Focus and Destress Your Students (and Yourself). 

10 Breathing Exercises to Help Focus

Snake Breathing

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.

Dragon Breathing

Take a deep breath through your nose.  Sticking out your tongue you are going to exhale like your mouth is “on fire” or you are “breathing out fire like a dragon”.  

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.

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.

Breathing Buddies

This exercise requires an individual to have a stuffed animal or light object.  Lie down on your 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. 

100 Breathing

This breathing exercise brings heat to the body and increases lung capacity while focusing.  Take five sharp breaths in through your nose and five strong short exhales through the mouth.  While you are taking these breaths in and out contact your abdominals.  Continue for 10 rounds (5×10=100)!

Bubble Breathing

Deep inhale 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. 

Five Finger Breathing

(Probably my personal favorite to do with my students on this list…)

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.

Sound Breaths

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. 

DeStress with these 10 Breathing Exercises

Tension Release

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.

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.  

Morning Breathing

What a great way to start off your morning routine than with a breathing exercise?!  From a standing position, bend forward. Bend your knees slightly while letting your arms dangle in front of you close to the floor.  Inhale slowly while you return to a standing position.  Rolling yourself up slowly, lifting the head last.

Hold your breath for a few seconds in this standing position before you exhale slowly as you return to the original bent position.

Taco ‘Cool Down’ Breath

First, you want to curl your tongue up like a taco.  Take a slow deep breath in through your mouth.  Hold your breath for a few seconds and slowly exhale out of your nose.  This is a great exercise for calming down.

polar bear

Bear Breaths

Inhale through your nose, pause for three seconds.  Exhale out of your mouth for three seconds.  

Birthday Candle Breathing Exercises

Breathe in deeply. Imagine seeing your birthday cake with all its bright candles, and blowing 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.

Dandelion Breaths

Imagine a dandelion flower.  Take a deep breath in and slowly blow the air out sending the seeds into the air.

Roll Breathing

Start off this breathing exercise with some belly breathing.  Place your left hand on your belly and the right on your chest.  Noticing how each is moving while you are taking some deep breaths. After 8 to 10 breaths typical breaths begin breathing slowly and regularly.  As you exhale slowly through the mouth, make a quiet, “whooshing” sound.  The movement of your belly and chest will begin to resemble ocean waves rising and rolling.meditating kid

Breathing Colors

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 blue, green, or 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.

Mountain Breathing

You may approach this exercise in two variations.  The 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.  The 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.

10 to go… Time to Energize Again

Rainbow Breathing

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.

Elephant Breathing

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.

Bunny Breathing

Sit comfortably and take three big sniffs in, one right after the other.  Then exhale in a long release out.

Shapes Breathing Exercises 

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.

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.  

One-Nostril Breath

Place a finger over one nostril of your nose.  Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly.  Switch nostrils and repeat. 

Balloon Breathing (or Belly Breathing)

Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath 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. 

Laugher Breathing Exercises

You may be surprised I included something like this in this list, but laughter is one of the best breathing exercises!  Laughter Breathing involves prolonged voluntary laughter to receive the same benefits as spontaneous laughter.  Trust me, once you and your class begin voluntary laughing…it will turn genuine pretty quickly.

Bumblebee Breath

Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale making a buzzing or humming noise. 

Skull Breathing

Sitting upright and comfortable, rest your hands on your stomach.  Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and out from your mouth.  Quickly and forcefully expel the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in.  Take a relaxed breath, allowing the stomach to naturally expand.  Repeat 5 to 10 rounds.

Are you feeling a bit more focused and stress-free yet after these 30 Breathing Exercises?!?

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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