There are so many creative ways to teach children breathing and meditation techniques. With the way society is unfolding these are tools they will be using for the rest of their lives, not to mention the physical and mental benefits. These are a few of my absolute favorite exercises:
*These exercises are designed to go from easy to difficult, notes will be made for modifications.
Feathers (most of these exercises can also be done with the following materials:Puff balls (which come in a variety of sizes and shapes in order to make it more difficult), cotton balls, leaves etc.)
-Laying on your belly at the back of your mat place the feather in front of your mouth take a deep breath in and see how far it goes.
-Sitting hold the feather over your mouth take a deep breath in and simultaneously let go and blow out, try to catch it. (Once the child can do this comfortably have them to Kapalabati breathing through the mouth. Breathing quickly trying to keep the feather up in the air.)
-Using straws do the same first exercise. (Once they are comfortable breathing and blowing the feather through the straw challenge them to breath it in. See if they can hold the feather at the tip of the straw. You can also buy straws with different thicknesses to make the exercises more difficult.)
-Lay on your back place the feather on your belly and watch it go up and down as you breath deeply.
-The Hoberman sphere is a wonderful tool to further teach children how their body functions when breathing. You have them imagine that it is their abdomen, close their eyes and breath deeply simultaneously doing the movement with the sphere. It is a tool that I recommend doing after the children have some knowledge on breathing exercises.
-Balloons are great in small groups or pairs. They require more, stronger breath in order for it to be passed to one another. In large groups I have them lay on their bellies in a circle. In pairs one can sit on one of the mat the other on the other end meanwhile the ballon begins in the middle as they take turns blowing it to one another.
-These work very nice in pairs. The children have to take turns and coordinate have to simultaneously blow it in one direction to make it go fast.
Inhale & Exhale
-With children I do not say at first inhale and exhale. Often I say for some time breath in and breath out. When they have reach a proper level of understanding using the hoberman sphere etc. Then I bring in coloring pages, coloring in the image of and inhale makes it a tangible action for them (particularly for those 5 and under). Afterwards, I begin saying inhale and exhale and they get it, they understand what I mean. (Best coloring pages can be found in The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids book).
The Mind Jar
-Prior to doing the Mind Jar everyone should read the book: Moody Cow. It is an excellent way to set the tone for the experience. The mind jar in essence is a jar filled with water (a symbol of your mind) put sparkles (or something similar) inside the jar little by little while saying negative or angry thoughts the child may currently be experiencing. Put the lid on the jar close your eyes and take deep breaths. The child is not to move from this position until the sparkles have all reached the bottom. I usually like to ring a bell to end the meditation. Signal the jar and the ending of all the negative thoughts and emotions with the sparkles being at the bottom of it.
-Have the child lay down in savasana and place the stone on their third eye (right between the eyebrows) have them focus on that area repeating the word “peace”. (You can play soft music or a guided meditation).
-Have the child sit in wise pose holding the stone in their hands. Saying the following or something similar: “Imagine all the things you don’t like, things/actions that make you feel bad, that may be getting in trouble arguing with the friend. Send all those feelings to the stone. Let the stone take all those bad thoughts and feelings. Stretch your arms out, inhale and on the exhale let go of the stone. Now you’ve let go of all those negative feelings. Fill your mind with all the things that make you happy, your mom/dad, playing etc. Slowly open your eyes and give me a huge smile”.
-Have them lay down in savasana with eyes closed. Call out different colors, placing them in a particular body part for example, “feel the color blue coming out of your toes”. Go through standard colors (about 5-6) including black and finish with white filling their hearts and minds. Have them open their eyes and share their experience.
-Prior to beginning a full savasana (which for most children 5 minutes is too long) tense all the parts in the body try to bring them up off the floor, feet, hands then release, open your mouth stick your tongue out and say ahhhhh, take a deep breath in hold it for a second open your mouth exhale and relax. Start relaxing the body parts starting from the toes to your head, say each one. Then have them concentrate on repeating the word “peace” have it fill their hearts and minds.
*Other tools that are helpful for relaxation: Essential oils, eye pillows, blankets, guided mediation music, and bells (for signaling the beginning and end of the exercise).