Back Breathing

What is the best strategy to connect with others through breath?

Back breathing from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum is the perfect partner pose to help foster empathy and compassion for others.

Before introducing back breathing as a partner pose, practice individually. Start in child’s pose, resting head on stacked fists. Practice breathing into the back, feeling the ribs expand to the ceiling. Inhale and exhale focusing on inflating the back. From this position, it is almost impossible to breath into the chest or stomach.

In the classroom setting, I would recommend using this activity only after students have built community and trust. Since back breathing feels slightly more intimate than some other partner poses, try using back drawing first to get comfortable with appropriate touch.

During back breathing, the partner gently places open hands on the other’s back. I find it helpful to discuss appropriate pressure. Too light and the effect is lost. Too heavy and breathing feels restricted.

child's pose and support

While the physical touch is an important component of back breathing, the act of synchronizing breath can have a tremendous impact on building positive relationships. That being said, I always make this activity optional. Students can join the group with a breathing ball to match breath.

back to back breathing

Afterwards, have students switch roles so that they can experience giving and receiving. The idea of “supporting one another” can sometimes seem abstract to young children, so having a direct experience can go along way.

As students become comfortable, there is also an opportunity to discuss anatomy. Move hands from low back, mid-back, and upper back with the directive to “breathe into the hands”. It is amazing how much surface area the lungs take up in the chest and how, with concentration, you can activate the breath in certain areas.

Back Breathing at Home

Try using back breathing at home with your children or loved ones! I love back breathing with my boys before bedtime. As I place my hands on my son’s lower back, we begin to sync long, slow breaths. I even will sometimes use verbals cues like, “inhale… exhale”. This strategy is a quick and effective way to connect non-verbally and slow down the body for sleep. I also like to use our Move Mindfully® Blend Essential Oil to encourage an optimal balanced state. View our Peaceful Parenting document for more strategies!

Back breathing mother and son

Have you tried back breathing? Would you use it in your classroom? Give it a try with a family member and let us know how it goes. Post a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Trust Walk

Are you thinking of fun ways to build community in your classroom?

Trust Walk is a game found in the Yoga Calm® curriculum. Students begin by choosing a partner. One partner will be the leader and the other, the follower. The follower closes his eyes and presents an index finger. The leader then leads the follower, with eyes closed and voices off, around the classroom. That’s it! That’s the game!

However, there are many social emotional layers involved that make this game a student and teacher favorite.

We begin the activity with a discussion about the importance of body connection and communication. Students must rely on sense of touch and body language. I found it helpful to make sure the class was grounded before starting the activity. Try Belly Breathing from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck or follow along with the video from the Move Mindfully® Teachers Pay Teachers store before you start.

After the activity, the followers were able to give compliments and specific feedback about what made a good leader. The follower extends an index finger, but the leader is able to choose how they will connect. Most students agreed that another hand supporting the wrist made the follower feel safe. Also, the speed of movement and careful turns made the follower feel comfortable.

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Then, the leaders share the factors that influenced their decisions. For example, watching the followers facial expressions gave clues about their comfort level. Was your partner smiling, maybe even giggling? Did your partner have furrowed eye brows? These discussions, of course, are also a metaphor for the social emotional connections happening in your classroom. Feeling safe, comfortable, and watching body cues are all important building blocks for a solid community.

Next, the partners switch. The leader becomes the follower and the follower becomes the leader. Who liked being the leader? Who liked being the follower? What did you like most about this game? What did you like least? How these questions are answered will tell you a lot about your classroom dynamics.

Variations

Here is another twist. I had the students form two lines, facing one another. One line closed their eyes and extended a finger. They were the followers. Then, the other line became the leaders and chose a follower! The followers did not know who was leading them. I once even said, “Choose someone who will be totally surprised that you chose them”, meaning, do not chose your best friend. It was fun to see the different partner combinations that emerged. When the round was over, before the follower opened their eyes, they had to guess. Once you have a community established, this is a fun way to see how in tune with each other your students have become.

Finally, for one more layer, add in a sensory adventure. The leaders presented the followers with various classroom objects. With only an index finger touch, the follower would have to guess the object. An eraser, a pencil, a chair! You could try this with items from your sensory/science table. It could be an anticipatory set for introducing artifacts or building vocabulary and background.

Would you play Trust Walk with your students? Leave a Comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly