Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing is the foundational breath to teach children.

Using the Hoberman Sphere is the best way to visually understand the components of healthy breathing. We call this deep, slow and rhythmic breathing, Belly Breathing. This format, utilizing the Hoberman Sphere, a counter and compliments is found in the Yoga Calm® Curriculum.

Here is a step by step guide about implementing (and growing) a student led breathing routine.

Step 1- Teacher Models
To begin, start by modeling breathing with the Hoberman Sphere. Inhale open, exhale close, One. Inhale open, exhale close, Two. 5-10 breaths is what is needed to transition from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.

Step 2- Student Leaders
Then, a student steps into the role of the breathing leader and manipulates the sphere. Shortly thereafter, another student became the “counter”. The counter chooses the number of breaths (between 5-10) and also keeps count while the leader uses the sphere.

Counting Breaths
Step 3- The Chime
Next, we introduce the chime. A student rings the chime to begin the breathing routine. It takes about 20 seconds for the ring to stop, so it is a good way to settle into our bodies before the breathing ball begins.

Ringing a chime

Step 4- Glitter Jar
A great option to add in is the glitter jar. It serves as a metaphor for the body (or even for the classroom) when things are crazy, confusing and tense. A student made the observation of, “When you stop shaking the jar, its like ringing the chime! So, can I shake the jar before the chime ringer does her job?” The glitter jar serves as an extra visual (and leadership opportunity).

Shaking the glitter jar

Step 5- Compliments
As it happens mid year, many of our routines were needing a pick me up! That is when I introduced compliments. After the breathing routine, the class would offer a compliment for each leader. It not only served as a bucket filler, but also a good reminder of our purpose. Compliments like, “You spoke with a firm but calming voice” and “You stayed grounded the entire time” made all of us smile!

But… then one day a breathing leader said, “You know, we all get compliments, but what about the rest of the class? Can I give them a compliment?” Sure. So, after the leader received a compliment they turned around and gave a compliment to someone else! (incase you are keeping score, that is eight compliments)

So, in total… that is five breathing leaders. Remember though, this routine developed organically, mostly driven by the students, and started with me simply taking five breaths with the Hoberman Sphere.

This routine grew because the students see value in the practice. They see value in taking two minutes for breathing. There is value in being involved in a community. Students will value being a leader.

The reason that this works is two fold.

It is a daily routine that happens every. single. day. We gift this time to our students. It allows us to slow down and feel the effects of breath.

Second, it serves as a “as needed” intervention. The students will say, “We need to breathe” and request the routine. Think, after an assembly. Before a test. In the middle of a big project.

Deep breaths

Want to see the routine in action? Watch this video  for an example of what the routine looks like in a real classroom. It is 2 minutes and 22 seconds. It is about 1 minute of breathing and about 1 minute of compliments. This video was taken at the end of morning meeting right before physical education. The students were going to start roller blading… a very exciting time for our school! I was amazed that the nervous, excited energy from minutes before completely changed with the muscle memory of this routine. Note: One of my favorite parts of the video you can’t really hear. The compliment for the affirmation, “I trust myself” is, “I like how you chose ‘I trust myself’ because we are going rollerblading and it takes some balance and trust to do that”.

Counters and compliments

Have you used a breathing routine? How have your students responded? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

12 replies
  1. Carli Andersen
    Carli Andersen says:

    I use the Hoberman Sphere and a chime. I sometimes will have the clients (in my case) raise their hands when they do not hear the chime anymore. I also have kids do a 30 second quiet meditation where they listen to their environment and identify sounds while they practice their breathing with their eyes closed.

  2. Coral Popowitz
    Coral Popowitz says:

    I love teaching this to kids using the Hoberman, I have several different sizes. I use the Hoberman for all kinds of metaphoric teaching and have a gigantic one I use outdoors; placing kids individually in the middle of it for the Compliment Game.

  3. Danette Jones
    Danette Jones says:

    Thank you for this entry! Even though this has been our experience in many of our classrooms at Red Rock Elementary, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We started our 30-Day Deep Breathing Challenge today. 🙂 I will be sending this entry to our staff to remind them how it can work and give new staff a template.

    • Stephanie Kennelly
      Stephanie Kennelly says:

      Thanks Danette! Please have them contact us if they have any questions! We are always more than happy to help and offer suggestions.

  4. Heidi Schuchman
    Heidi Schuchman says:

    We do belly breathing at the end of each morning meeting in first grade. It helps to set an intention for our morning of learning. We use the Hoberman sphere to belly breathe after lunch and recess, as well, and students take turns leading the breathing and counting. Belly breathing is the foundation of our classroom practice! 🙂


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