Attention has the compounding capacity to make things flourish, even the things we do not wish to grow. Weeds come to mind. A little extra water and sunlight and they sprout alongside our cultivated flowers and vegetables. This is an important reminder to us that where we place our attention has significance and power. What could be more important than attending to your breath? What might flourish if you chose to do so?
Sounds strange, I know. The body takes care of this chore without our even having to think of it. Convenient, right? It is, until you consider the impact of breathing with intention. The power of breathing the way nature intended. The strength and peace of mind to be gained from placing our attention solely on the practice of breathing, the quality, the pace, the depth, the life-giving sustenance that this simple act, one that our body will do without our conscious thought, can bring to the essence of our life.
Wait! I’m busy you say. I don’t have time for this next thing to add to my list of already too many things. But what if this was not an addition, what if this was actually something that lightened your load? Something that made your day more pleasant, your mind more focused, your balance more centered? Would you be willing to ‘add’ it? And just how does this pertain to parenting?
A significant benefit, besides the simple joy of playing together, is that with ‘belly breathing’ (using your diaphragm) you will be introducing your child and your family to a lifelong ability that has the potential to help your child learn self-regulation, ease tension, bring calm and restore emotional balance.
Have some fun with teaching your kids to belly breathe. Get playful and creative! Do it daily.
Here are a few simple ideas:
- Blow bubbles together. Focus on the exhale. How long can they exhale? How many bubbles can they make?
- Notice how you breathe in through your nose and name it, ‘breathe in like you are smelling a flower’ or add a motion to it, ‘breathe in and raise your arms above your head’.
- Notice how you breathe out through your mouth and name that too, ‘breathe out like you are blowing out birthday candles’ or add a motion to it, ‘breathe out and lower your arms to your sides’.
- Join the jungle world and breathe like an elephant might. Imagine that your arms are the mighty trunk and as you breathe in through your nose you have to swing and sway and lift that powerful trunk skyward and as you exhale through your mouth you release the forceful stream of water you have just inhaled into your trunk.
- Possibly you conjure a slithering snake taking a full inhale through your nose together and as you extend your exhale through your mouth you make the’ sssss’ sound with your tongue pressed against the back of your teeth as you slide along your way in the deep jungles of your imagination.
- Find other great ideas such as breathing like a bunny or a bumble bee here: https://copingskillsforkids.com/deep-breathing-exercises-for-kids
Because learning happens best through example, this is for the adults:
In reading Dr. Belisa Vranich’s book, Breathe book link here, she reminds us that stress busting is literally at the end of our noses! She lists other benefits gained through attention to breathing as improved sleep, memory, digestion, energy, thinking, as well as reduced anxiety and says that breathing research finds the quality of breathing as predictive of longevity. She shares some approachable ideas on this skill we assume will take care of itself:
- Ask yourself are you a vertical or horizontal breather? And, why is this important?
Dr. Vranich informs us that between the ages of 5 – 10 we shift from horizontal breathing, which is the proper and optimal way to breathe, into vertical breathers, which does not provide optimal benefit to our health.
- Vertical (chest) breathing utilizes the incorrect muscles and can actually add to muscle strain in the neck and shoulders while horizontal (belly) breathing makes use of the correct muscles that nature intended for us to breathe with; specifically the diaphragm.
Watch Dr. Vranich’s 10 minute youtube video here how to breathe to locate your diaphragm as well as more detail on vertical and horizontal breathing.
- Want to try a few simple breathing practices you can easily do during your morning or evening routine?
Military and Law Enforcement, like SWAT, Homeland Security, DEA, Border Patrol, are all interested in learning this easily accessible breath practice.
Tactical Breath, 4-4-6-2; inhale 4 counts, hold breath 4 counts, exhale breath 6 counts, hold 2 counts. Repeat 5 times.
Rock and Roll Breathing, encourages horizontal breathing. Begin seated toward the edge of your seat with good posture. Inhale as you rock forward an allow your belly to fill with breath and move toward your thighs, exhale as you roll backward and empty all of the breath from your lungs imagining your belly button pressing toward your spine and your body creating a sort of ‘c’ shape. Repeat 5 times.
Look here for another great breathing exercise, 4-7-8 breathing: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/