Recently I heard Brene Brown speak on her Rising Strong book tour. She spoke about her research on resilience and some qualities that people can embody in order to become more resilient in their life. Her studies showed that resilient people have a couple of things in common: mindfulness and deep breathing! She shared that many first responders, people who often support traumatic situations, reported over and over that the one tool that helps them to integrate strong emotions is the deep breath. Next, Brene led the audience in practicing the “square breath.”
This square breath is fun! It is fast, easy and a beautiful way to begin to teach kids about deep breathing and to introduce the deep breath. Better yet, it is an awesome visual for those children who learn better with their eyes. We can share it with our kids in order to continue building those resiliency muscles, to give them ways to self-regulate when they feel strong emotions.
If you google “square breathing” you will see many helpful images in teaching this simple deep breath. I have been introducing the square breath in my work with kids at school.
How To Take a Square Breath: Square In The Air
- Breathe in to a count of 4
- Hold for a count of 4
- Breathe out to a count of 4
- Pause for a count of 4
As you show this technique to kids for the first time, draw a square in the air with your finger. Begin in the lower left corner and model while using your finger to draw a square in the air. After you have modeled it for kids, invite them to join you by drawing their own squares in the air.
Next, once you have practiced the square in the air, move on to practicing with the following square breath visuals.
The Deep Breath Box
First, we combined taking a square deep breath with movement to fully embody the relaxation experience and get the process into the body. We used colored duct tape to map out the deep breath box on the floor.
As you map out your deep breath box using masking or duct tape, make sure that it is large enough that the child can take four steps on each side of the square. Once you have it taped to the floor, Then start in the lower left corner and breathe in while taking four steps up the left side. Hold the breath and take four steps across the top. Breathe out, taking four steps down the right side. Pause, counting to four while taking four steps across the bottom and then start again. Repeat as many times as necessary. Invite your child to check in with his body before he starts and after he finishes to note if there are any changes, to see what he notices.
Make a square for yourself and walk slowly along with your child on your own square.
This square can double as a place to take a break and practice all kinds of deep breathing techniques.
Change the tape often by using different colors. Invite your child to help you change the tape. There are so many different brilliant artistic duct tapes in the stores!
Tabletop Square Breathing
Tabletop square breathing is perfect for the classroom or even the dinner table at home. I used craft tape to map out a square. Because I believe that deep breathing is a key to relaxation in the body, I chose craft tape with keys on it to create my small square. Each side of the square had four keys to count as the student completed that side of the square breath. Just as above, invite your child to begin in the lower left corner. Breathe in, counting 4 keys, hold the breath and count 4 keys, breathe out counting four keys down the right side, and pause counting to four before beginning the next cycle.
Variations: Use craft tape of your choice and place small stickers around the outside of the square, four stickers per side. As the child breathes in, have her count the stickers silently by touching each one. Begin in the lower left corner, count four while inhaling on the left side, hold for four silent counts, exhale while silently counting four down the right side, pause counting to four along the bottom and then begin again. I chose candy stickers and we made sticky note reminders that read: “When I take a deep breath, I feel sweet!“
Experiment with your own themes and colors. Have fun relaxing!
Wishing you many peaceful moments…… Zemirah