Deep Breathing vs Shallow Breathing

I was watching Daniel Tiger the other day with my 2.5-year-old. It was an amazing episode that was teaching children to take a deep breath and count to 4 when feeling angry.

“When you’re feeling mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to 4”. SO good!

I loved this so much I incorporated it into our curriculum.

However, what kept coming up was that these characters were all breathing in through their mouth with a quick inhale.

If we don’t teach kids how to breathe correctly- especially using a breath designed to soothe their nervous systems, it will not help them feel better.

They might realize that their breath is not a tool to calm and soothe and so when someone says, “let’s take a deep breath together” or “let’s take a little break and do a snake breath” it will be a trigger.

If we are helping children calm their bodies and minds, or easing a big emotion, the breath can be an extremely effective tool if they are doing it correctly.

Something helpful to keep in mind— The only time you need to engage in mouth breathing is when you are doing strenuous exercise and need more air to your lungs more quickly, or when your nasal passages are blocked from congestion.

                    How to breathe while experiencing big emotions

1. Stop what you are doing and get as still as a peaceful statue (or as still as you can in that moment)

2. Take a huge breath in through the nose as you fill the belly up with air (a hand on the tummy can be helpful here)

3. Exhale through the mouth- letting alllll the air out

                    Make it fun

Does the child like lions or snakes? Make the exhale into an animal sound. Just remember to concentrate on that big huge inhale

                   Try 3 and then move on

Getting playful and goofy with it will make it feel more like a game and less like an (t)ask

                   Practice with them

When we are regulated, it is much easier for them to find calm. Feeling angry? “I think I need to do a lions breath right not, I’m feeling angry” and then try it together.

                  Remember breathing is a practice

If you are not able to breathe into the belly or lower lungs that is ok. Breathing is a practice and the more we do it the easier it gets and the more it will become second nature.

Being kind and compassionate to ourselves is helpful to remember. If we were taught to breathe through our mouths forever, it can take a while to train our bodies to do it differently.