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2 Ways to Teach Breath Awareness to Toddlers

There's a very simple lesson that I wish I had learned as a child:

"If you change how you breathe, you can change how you feel."

When you're in a frenzied state of mind the breath is often shallow, short and quick. You may even hold your breath for moments without realizing it. Breathing this way signals the "fight or flight" response in the body which means you feel like you're in danger. It's an endless cycle. You breathe shallow, short and quick because you are stressed, and you feel stressed because you are breathing shallow, short and quick!

So what if in that moment you were able to pinpoint how you were feeling and bring attention to your breathing? What if you consciously slowed down your breathing to signal to your body that it could relax?

Now, imagine learning this lesson as a child.

In Story Time Yoga- a yoga class designed for babies, toddlers and their caregivers- I bring attention to the breath in age appropriate ways. While the children are too young to learn how to regulate their breathing, they are capable of noticing their breath. This is the first step towards learning the important lesson that "how you breathe can change how you feel."

Here are two simple yet effective techniques that you can try at home with your baby or toddler.

1) Sing the "I Stop and Feel My Breathing" song by Susan Kaiser Greenland.

We begin Story Time Yoga with a simple song that brings us into the present moment. It is a simple mindfulness practice that incorporates breath awareness. The song goes,

"I stop and feel my breathing *inhale and exhale*

Peaceful and calm, I'm ready for yoga."

At the end of class we repeat the song but change the words to:

"I stop and feel my breathing *inhale and exhale*

Peaceful and calm, I'm ready to say goodbye."

When singing the song for this age group, you can exaggerate the inhale and exhale and put your hands on your belly to truly demonstrate what your breathing actually is. I find that often the babies and toddlers watch with wide eyes as I take a deep breath, and sometimes they take a deep breath too.

This song can be used at home too. Maybe before eating a meal you can sing, " I stop and feel my breathing. *inhale and exhale* Peaceful and calm, I'm ready to eat." Or how about singing it before brushing their teeth? "I stop and feel my breathing *inhale ane exhale" Peaceful and calm, I'm ready to brush my teeth!"

You can listen to the tune here:

2) Hoberman Sphere Breathing

Before class begins I like to leave out some yoga themed toys for the little ones to explore. I bring the toys out again during free play so they can take a closer look. An excellent toy that I include is called a Hoberman Sphere.

A Hoberman Sphere is a expanding dome that easily folds down to a fraction of it's size. It opens and closes with ease, and is quite mesmerizing!

When you expand the Hoberman Sphere take a deep breath in, and as you close it back exhale. Repeat this a few times. Eventually, your toddler may get a hang of it. Check out Em practicing her deep breathing before class began this week!

There you have it. Two ways to begin breath awareness practice at a young age. Happy Breathing everyone!

#kidsyoga #toddleryoga #storytimeyoga #breathawareness

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