Deep breathing is an essential component to relaxing. There are many kinds of breaths and techniques. Deep breathing sends the message to our body that we want to relax. The body uses deep breathing as a signal. These signals are important in times of stress, when experiencing intense feelings, and to get ready for restful sleep. Children can use these breathing tools wherever they are and whenever without drawing attention or embarrassment. They can be used in secret, without drawing attention from others. Also, these techniques are a fundamental tool in which many other relaxation techniques build upon to create a sense of overall well being. Breathing techniques can be presented in just that way.
We are all born belly breathers. Usually by the time we are six or so, we become shallow chest breathers. The trouble with chest breathing is that our body does not get the full amount of oxygen that is necessary to keep all of our cells operating at optimal levels. When we re-learn to belly breathe, not only are we are teaching our body to relax, but providing much needed oxygen supply at the same time.
Teaching children how to breathe deeply involves more than just stating the command. When we say to breathe deep, children often raise their shoulders up to their ears, which inspires some tension in the neck area. Rather than a shoulder shrug, we want to emphasize the movement of the tummy. When we do deep abdominal breathing, our abdomen actually expands on the in breath and contracts on the out breath. Observation is the first step. For young children, place a sticker on the tummy, (for older children perhaps a tatoo or design drawn in eye pencil will work). Now to the count of three, take a deep breath and watch the sticker rise up. Now, let the breath out slowly and watch the sticker fall down. Place a hand on the tummy and practice again. Finally, give a stuffed animal a ride on your tummy for further practice.