|Photo by Neil Bates on Unsplash|
by Catharine Hannay
“If you can breathe, you can meditate.”
But first, a note to new teachers: I've been asked several times,
"Where can I find mindfulness scripts for my students?"
Rather than reading from a script, please do the practices yourself several times before leading a group or class, so the phrasing feels natural to you.
In fact, you may actually want to use recordings with your students for a while before starting to lead the practices yourself.
Why Focus on the Breath?
In Looking at Mindfulness, Christophe André gives several advantages of breath-based practices.
- "It is easier to fix [our attention] on something that is always present but never still. This is why we can remain fascinated and awake for long periods looking at the waves of the sea, the flames of the fire or the passing clouds—they are always there, but never the same. No breath is just like the one before or after.
- We can exert a limited but real control over [the breath] by speeding it up or slowing it down.
- Our breath is invisible; we constantly forget it is there, but its role is vital—we have an absolute need to breathe. Similarly, there are many other things in our lives that we rely on but are unaware of.
- Breathing is at once voluntary and involuntary, teaching us to accept that we cannot control everything. This is something that our society is keen to have us unlearn, trying to make us think that everything can be controlled and mastered."
And at Edutopia, John McCarthy explains how Getting Mindful About Breathing can help educators "manage stress, listen more deeply, and defuse tense classroom situations."
Breath-Based Practices Here at Mindful Teachers.org
- Count the Ways to Count the Breath (basic instructions for beginning a mindful breathing practice)
- 'Check Up from the Neck Up' Relaxation Practice by Evalyn Gaskell of Harmony LifeBalance
- Relaxed Abdominal Breath: Stress Reduction through Mindful Breathing, used by permission from the book Yoga Sparks by Carol Krucoff
- The Top 3 Breathing Exercises for Anxious Kids by Sara Weis of Go Go Yoga for Kids
- Time to Breathe: Awareness of the Present Moment, provided to Mindful Teachers by Mindfulness Without Borders
Additional Breath-Based Practices
- At Mindful.org, Dr. Christopher Willard explains 7-11 Breath and The Silent Sigh.
- At Left Brain Buddha, Sarah Rudell Beach (and her five-year-old son) explain Pretzel Breathing, Drain Breathing, and Balloon Breathing.
For Adults (at Mindful.org):
- Shamash Alidina explains Belly Breathing.
- Dr. Grace Bullock explains How to Fight Stress with Intentional Breathing.
Using the 'Breath Ball'
|photo courtesy Renee Metty|
A popular resource for teaching mindfulness to kids is a Hoberman Sphere. You can see one in the picture above, from an interview with Renee Metty, the founder of The Cove School, a preschool specializing in mindfulness and social and emotional learning.
- Basic Instructions on using a Hoberman Sphere, by Sara Weis at Go Go Yoga for Kids
- Four Different Activities, plus instructions for how kids can make a 'breath ball' with their own hands, by Christopher Willard and Andrew Jordan Nance at Mindful.org.
- YoungYogaMasters.com explains about a Common Mistake many teachers make: children need to pace their breaths differently because they don't have the same lung capacity as adults.
In case you're interested in ordering a Hoberman Sphere or finding out more, here are the links to Amazon and Hoberman.com. (I don't have an affiliate account and don't track or benefit from purchases made through links from this site.)
You may also be interested in Mindfulness and Yoga for Young Children: Tips, Books, Apps, and Activities.
Recommended Audio Recordings
Dr. Dzung Vo includes two breathing practices with his Guided Meditations at MindfulnessforTeens.com. They're also appropriate for adults; in fact, when I use guided meditations personally I almost always choose something from Dr. Vo's site.
You can either click on Guided Meditations or on the links below to listen to and download the recordings (sound will start immediately):
3-Minute SOBER Breathing Space (Stop. Observe. Breathe. Expand. Respond.)
(If you work with adolescents, you may be interested in a Mindful Teachers post on Teaching Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga to Teens.)
[I've removed the broken links to two videos by Timothy Scott, Jr. (a.k.a. 'JusTme') a mindfulness instructor and mindful hip-hop artist. He seems to have deleted his youtube account and I can't find the videos elsewhere. He does have a vimeo account with short videos about mindfulness.]
"What kinds of things do you do when you're waiting?" Rather than feeling impatient, Fred Rogers suggests taking a few slow, calming breaths.
The next video is simply a shape that expands and contracts. This can be a nice alternative to verbal instructions, and a good way to practice slowing down the breath.
Or you might prefer to take some calming breaths with Elmo and friends:
For those of you who teach young children, there's a wonderful series of SEL songs by Narwals and Waterfalls, including this video about different types of breathing:
The final group of videos are from the 'Breathe with Me' PBS series by songwriter and kids' yoga expert Kira Willey.