Although breathing is one of the four pillars of health — along with eating and drinking, exercise and sleep — up to now our culture has not tended to pass down much “common knowledge” about how to breathe well.
Nevertheless whether it happens consciously or not, kids develop a foundational breathing pattern that will become their baseline as they grow up.
Here are some ideas about healthy breathing habits to share with them. And of course, as parents, teachers and mentors, the most important way of imparting the knowledge is to embody it ourselves!
- Breathe through your nose all the time, including when you eat, talk, play and do sports. Slow down if you need to, to make it happen. No panting unless it’s an emergency!
- If your nose is stuffed, pinch it closed and hold your breath as long as you comfortably can. (That means your mouth is closed too.) When you’re ready to release the nose hold and breathe again, make sure to inhale super-gently afterward. Your first breaths should feel as light as a soft breeze, like when you take in the aroma of a fragrant flower, not a gust of wind. If you gasp afterward, you held too long.
- Keep your room clean! Remind your parents to help you wash all the fabric items in your room regularly — including your bedding, curtains, decorative-pillow covers and the one stuffy you sleep with.
- Sit and stand like a giraffe — hold your head up, on your long neck! When you’re reading or looking at a hand-held device, make sure to position yourself so you’re looking straight ahead with good alignment rather than head down or forward.
- Breathe slowly like a turtle. In the animal world, there are plenty of examples that prove the faster a critter breathes, the shorter his life. For instances mice breathe extremely rapidly and live two to three years whereas sea turtles breathe 4 times a minute and can live more than 100 years.
- Breathe in and out with a regular rhythm, so you could breathe along with a drum machine or a piece of music and not miss a beat.
- When you inhale, take the air all the way down to your belly like an elevator going down to the bottom floor of an underground garage. Don’t stop at your chest, which would be halfway down at the garage.
- When you feel scared, breathe out longer than you breathe in. Practice this when you’re calm so you can summon the skill naturally when you need it.
- Act like a statue for fun. Breathe silently and keep your body still as you inhale and exhale, like a bunny or a fawn when a fox is nearby.
- Practice holding your breath until you can do it for at least 70-80 seconds easily! When you drive through a tunnel, see if you can hold your breath the whole time you’re in it.When you’re bored in the car, hold your breath for one second after every inhale-exhale to pass the time. When you swim freestyle, see if you can go a little further before you take your next breath. (So if you normally take a breath every other stroke, try doing it every 3 strokes.)
- Stay chill, and tell your family to chill, when things get funky. When anybody gets worked up, it affects everybody and all your breathing. When that happens, relax and focus on tips #1 and 5-9.
- After you play or do a sport, breathe easy again by calming your breathing back to normal as fast as possible. Remember, don’t pant! Do #1 and 5-10.