Is breathwork only for adults? Of course not! Regular breathwork for kids leads to positive results for kids of all ages and aids physical, mental and emotional development. Breathwork helps children be more peaceful, more attentive, and more competent in emotional control. Children who practise breathwork are able to focus more easily and for longer periods. Especially children with ADHD symptoms can benefit greatly from breathwork exercises.

Breathwork for kids

According to CDC data, as of 2016, 6.1 million children aged 2-17 years living in the US had been diagnosed with ADHD, with 62% of them taking medication for their condition. However, while stimulants used to treat ADHD can significantly improve patients’ lives, they can also cause various side effects, ranging from anxiety to psychosis.

ADHD is one of the most frequently diagnosed disorders in children, but it is still poorly understood. As a result, about 20% of these cases are thought to be misdiagnosed. For instance, a study published in 2015 in Paediatrics Child Health explains that “children who are relatively younger than their peers and are born closest to the school start age cut-off are more frequently diagnosed and treated for ADHD”.

Breathwork alleviates ADHD symptoms

Breathwork is an effective tool that enhances concentration and alleviates ADHD symptoms. By providing better oxygenation to the attention centre of the brain, helping keep norepinephrine secretion at an optimal level and balancing the autonomic nervous system, breathing exercises boost focus in the short term and the long term.

A study conducted by the Ural Federal University, published Biological Psychiatry in May 2021, showed that children with ADHD who practised deep diaphragmatic breathing were able to focus on complex activities for much longer. Experts state that the concentration level of children who participated in breathwork training three times a week for two to three months increased significantly immediately after the exercise. Furthermore, positive effects were observed even one year after the training.

Breathing, meditation and mindfulness techniques are fast becoming a part of the education system in the USA, Australia and many European countries, especially the UK. It is seen that the students who receive education on these subjects can manage stress better, and their attention quality increases. This helps increase course success, reduce emotional and digital violence among students, and create a more peaceful environment.

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A study done in 2015 by psychologist Dr Kimberly Schonert-Reichl demonstrates that students who practised mindfulness and breathing exercises over 12 weeks improved significantly in many areas. The study showed that the students’ stress hormone (cortisol) levels dropped while their social behaviour skills and even their math grades improved. Compared to students who followed the standard curriculum, participants of the study were better at attentiveness, memory, emotional balance, positivity, and empathy.

Deep and slow breathing techniques

Breathwork offers techniques that help kids remain emotionally balanced and teaches them self-soothing and resilience skills. It’s helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. A study on anxiety conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that chronic stress affects the brain structure of children and young people, leading to long-term mood disorders, behavioural problems and difficulty concentrating. It is possible to overcome chronic anxiety by practising regular breathwork. Deep and slow breathing is an effective way to deal with frustration, hurt, fear and anger. In the absence of stressors, concentrating, understanding and learning all become easier.

Beginning from the age of 4, children can participate in breathing exercises with age-appropriate games and activities. At 6-7 years of age, kids begin to have a much better grasp on breathwork. The following breathing games from BREATH HUB are aimed at boosting focus are suitable for all kindergarten and grade school students. It’s important to sit comfortably with a straight back in each of these exercises. Good posture is elemental for correct breathing.

7 Breathwork exercises for kids

Balloon Breath

• Imagine a balloon in your belly, which inflates each time you breathe in and deflates each time you breathe out.

• Inhale through the nose, expanding your belly.

• And exhale through the nose, letting your belly fall.

The Starfish Breath

• By bringing together several senses, this technique helps focus on the breath.

• Stretch out your arm and spread your fingers like a starfish.

• Take the pointer finger of your other hand and slowly trace up and down each finger.

• As you trace up the finger, breathe in through the nose, and as you trace down, breathe out through the nose, as slowly as possible.

Triangle Breathing

• This technique can be practised by imagining a triangle, but you can also have the children draw a triangle or give them a printout.

• Trace one side of the triangle as you breathe in through the nose for a count of three, hold your breath for a count of three and breathe out through the mouth for a count of three.

Square Breathing

• This is a more advanced version of triangle breathing.

• This time, we are tracing a square, which means we breathe in, hold the breath, breathe out and hold the breath again, each for a count of 3.

• It may also be practised in the form of a visualization exercise, where the children use their breath to draw a square. Each step of the exercise completes one side of the square.

Smell the Flower

• Imagine holding a beautiful flower. In your mind’s eye, see what colour it is, the shapes of the petals. Visualization exercises help focus on the breath.

• Inhale deeply through the nose, smelling the flower. Slowly exhale through pursed lips as if you want to blow the petals away.

Swing Breath

• Swing breath is a balanced breathing technique where inhalations and exhalations are of equal duration.

• Imagine that you are on a swing. With each inhalation, the swing goes up, and with each exhalation, the swing comes down.

• Continue breathing in and out rhythmically, paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly.

Bicycle Pump

• Imagine that your bicycle has a flat tire and that you will pump it using your breath.

• Let the pump fill with air as you take a deep breath through the nose.

• Exhale fully through the mouth so that the pump can inflate the tire.

Article by Breath Hub

Breath Hub is a mobile guided breathing and meditation app with a single mission: Helping people live better by breathing better. It is scientifically proven that poor breathing habits can trigger or worsen more than 200 symptoms, including asthma, panic attack, migraine, chronic pain and fatigue, depression, attention deficit problems and hypertension. It is possible to improve physical, mental and emotional health and stay well with the help of regular breathwork exercises. Breath Hub offers hundreds of breathing sessions prepared by breathing sciences experts, covering many areas such as focus, relaxation, sleep, balance, energy and breath awareness. Breath Hub also has a dedicated section on breathwork for kids, aiming to help kids learn self-soothing and resilience skills through colourful breathing games and experiments.

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