I love to start my classes with a breathing exercise. It helps the kids center. Depending on the type of breath it can also energize or calm. Some of the breathing exercises and tools that I use to help the kids remember the different types of breathing are listed below.

  1. Bunny Breath — this breathing exercise can be done with a prop or on its own. Starting in sitting hero pose or sitting on knees, you take 4 to 5 quick breathes in through the nose with a slow exhale out of the nose. Sometimes I will bring a flower or paper cups with cotton balls that have drops of essential oils such as lemon or peppermint or vanilla from my pantry for the kids to pass and smell as they use their noses like bunnies. This breath is very energizing as the body is getting a large amount of fresh oxygen from the quick succession of breaths.
  2. 41nM5Oyza4L._SL125_The Yoga Calm program uses a Hoberman Sphere to help children visualize their lungs expanding while breathing in and contracting while exhaling. This product is very effective, however, it is pricey. Another way to demonstrate the same action of expanding and contracting is to use a plastic slinky found at any party supply store. This way the entire class can use them simultaneously.  I would use what YogaKids calls a Take 5 Breath with these tools. Breath in to a count of five. Hold the breath for one count and then exhale for a count of five.
  3. Another fun way to help children focus on their breath is to give each child a pom pom to place at the end of their mat and using a straw have each child try to blow the pom pom across their mats (or across the studio) using the least amount of breaths. This encourages slow, relaxed exhales.
  4. One final example of another tool for breath work is to give each child a pinwheel (or have the kids make their own) and have them watch the pin wheel while they exhale. Can they make the pin wheel move using breath from their noses? How hard must the breath be to create movement? All of these questions help students become aware of breath which is an important aspect of yoga.