The idea of deep breathing to reduce stress may sound like a new concept, but it’s really an ancient one. The Yoga Sutras, a philosophical guidebook organized around 600 BC, outlined breath control, called pranayama in Sanskrit, as a method for calming and clearing your mind.
👉 And for kids, learning breathing exercises gives them a powerful tool to help regulate their emotional responses.
The benefits don’t stop there either. With focused breathing, children can find inner peace, improve concentration, settle nerves before testing and big events, and generally calm down faster.
Today I’m sharing five breathing exercises that kids can practice to recenter after a meltdown or make it a part of their bedtime routine to ease the transition from an anxious day to a restful night.
Since these breathing exercises are for kids, go ahead and have fun with them!
#1 Buddy Breathing
Also called conscious breathing, belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, buddy breathing teaches children how to breathe deeply.
Deep, conscious breathing decreases the heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. It also increases the amount of oxygen sent to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your body in charge of calming you).
Have your child pick a favorite small stuffed animal then lie on the floor. Have them place their “buddy” on their belly and take big breaths in and out through their nose. The goal is to make the stuffed animal move up and down in a slow, steady manner so it doesn’t fall off.
Deep breathing is recommended for all ages and skill levels.
#2 Alternate Nostril Breathing
Also called nadi shodhana, and like all the breathing exercises I’m sharing, promotes a calm mind and relaxed body.
A few small studies have show that alternate nostril breathing can improve cardiovascular function, strengthen your lungs, lower your heart rate, and improve well-being.
This breathing technique is best practiced in a seated pose like criss-cross applesauce. To begin, have them hold the right thumb over the right nostril (if they’re left-handed start with the left thumb and left nostril).
Inhale through the left nostril and at the end of the in-breath, switch sides by closing off the left nostril with the right ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Next, inhale through the right nostril, switch sides to exhale through the left nostril.
Continue the pattern for several cycles and watch out for giggle fits because they might feel silly holding their noses.
This technique is recommended for older children because of the unusual pattern. Plus you’ll want to avoid this technique when the kids are sick or congested.
#3 Dragon’s Breath
Similar to lion’s breath, practice this forceful exhaling breath when you need to just let it all out or release built-up anger and tension in your body.
Other benefits for dragon’s breath include stretching your entire face (jaw and tongue, too) and energizing you physically and mentally.
You can do this technique standing or seated although lion’s breath is typically done from a seated kneeling position.
This is one where kids really get to use their imaginations and pretend they’re fierce dragons breathing out fire. Have them take a deep breath in through their nose and then with a wide open mouth, tongue stretching out and curling down, exhale through the mouth with a roaring “ahhhhh.”
Dragon’s breath is recommended for kids of all ages.
#4 Humming breath
Also called bee’s breath, it gets its name from the humming sound of a bee, and is another breathing exercise where kids have an opportunity to pretend.
Practice this technique when you need to quiet your mind. The “buzzing” of this breath helps disrupt the endless loop of worries and negative thoughts and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Kids can do humming breath in a comfortable seated position. Have them keep their lips tightly sealed, then inhale through the nose. As they exhale they can buzz like a bee (or make the sound of the letter M) until they’re ready to inhale again.
Humming breath is appropriate for beginners.
#5 Star Breath
Star breath is a type of breathing exercise that teaches children how to make their inhalations and exhalations equal length. Although this one uses a star shape, any symmetrical shape (square, rectangle, infinity loop) will work.
Either you or your kids can draw the shape on a piece of paper. Along the sides of the shape, assign a breath count per side (3, 4, 5 breaths per side works). Using their fingers, the kids can trace the lines of the shape matching the length of their breath to the number indicated.
Star breathing is appropriate for beginners.
Whatever breathing exercise you choose to do will depend on what you want to achieve. Some techniques are energizing and while it works to let out midday frustration might not be the right choice just before bed.
As you’re teaching a new technique to your kids, it’s best to do it when they’re already relaxed. The calmer they are, the easier it is to learn the new exercise. Then once your child has learned how, you can use have them use this exercise in times of stress, overwhelm, frustration, and anger.
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