Belly breathing- A mindful breathing activity to use at home or in the classroom with children

Posted on August 01 2016

The following mindful breathing activity is deep and slow and its purpose is to calm and center the mind and body.  I practice this activity when I have a difficult time falling asleep, when my mind is racing with thoughts.  When we focus on our inhales and exhales, we are less able to focus on our thoughts. Deep and slow breathing stimulates our vagus nerve which connects the brain stem with the abdomen.  This nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system.  The parasympathetic system is responsible for calming the body. It’s sometimes called the rest and digest system. Deep breathing helps to activate the vagus nerve and slow the heart rate during exhalations. When we practice deep breathing, we can slow our breath to 5-7 breaths per minute versus the normal 12-18.

Belly Breathing

This is best done with students lying on their backs. Hand out a small stuffed animal to each student and ask students to place the animal on their belly. Invite them to imagine that the animal is in a boat on calm waves in the ocean. As they inhale and expand their belly to its fullest, the boat rises on a “wave” of breath. As they exhale, the belly softens as the wave passes. Repeat as needed to calm the mind and body and slow the breath and heart rate.

Note: If a stuffed animal isn’t available or if you are trying this as an adult, it can be done with hands resting on the belly to feel the rise and fall on each inhale and exhale. 

~Excerpt from the Beginner’s Mind Mindfulness Teaching Toolkit teaching manual.

The Beginner's Mind Mindfulness Teaching Toolkit is a mindfulness curriculum for elementary children.

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