Volcano Breath

Breath work allows us to set an intention and align our body and mind.

The practice of mindfulness begins with noticing breath. Once you can sync breathing and movement, our physiology begins to shift.

A great breath to use starting out is Yoga Calm‘s  Volcano Breath. It is an upward arm movement synced to inhale, and a downward arm movement synced to an exhale.

Whether your site uses a Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting or you use another morning huddle/meeting routine, this is the perfect time of day to implement breath work. We end our morning meeting with a volcano breath. A proactive intervention to address tardies and absentee students is to take a breath for each missing student. Children will realize that they are a valued member of the community and are missed when they are absent.

Once you are comfortable with volcano breath, try adding in an intention. It can be an individual intention, but it can also be a class intention. Working on reading stamina? Have students visualize what it would feel like to get really into a book….so lost in a book that the rest of the room disappears and time stands still. Have them really step into this feeling. Then, breathe your volcano breath for love of reading. Guaranteed impact. Working on kindness? Visualize what it feels like make a new friend. Then, breathe your volcano breath for the love of friendship. You get the idea. What a great way to review learning targets for the day! Students are actively, physically, emotionally connecting to what it is you want to accomplish.

Another layer you can add is beginning or ending the breath by ringing the chime as students reflect on the intention. If your site allows essential oils, rubbing our Move Mindfully® Blend on hands before a volcano breath can help tap into the full sensory experience.

Students use breathing strategies during their morning routine.

Still skeptical? One of our reading interventionists approached me and said, “I was testing one of your students and in between books I told her she could take a little stretch break. She sat there, closed her eyes, and did five volcano breaths!” Students will begin realizing the power and strength they can find in their own breath. I challenge you to give it a try. It will change your students. It will change you.

For more ideas visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store to view our Intention Setting and Move Mindfully® Meeting resources.

Leave a comment below about your experience integrating breath work into a morning routine.

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Co-Regulating Breath with the Hoberman Sphere

What should you do when an agitated child refuses to do any breathwork or movement?

We often say, “you are the intervention”. In fact, we dedicated an entire blog post to the idea of practicing these techniques for our own self-regulation before even beginning to teach youth. But, what does that really look like in practice?

In co-regulation, the grounded adult provides the frequency to which the dysregulated youth can atune. This sounds simple, but in practice, can be quite challenging. Extreme behaviors in youth often trigger our own stress responses. This is expected and normal. However, it is at this point where we encourage the mindfulness practice to take over. Notice the child’s reaction with a non-judgemental lens, and choose another response from your toolkit.

mom and son back breathing

The Hoberman Sphere is the way we begin to teach Belly Breathing, our introductory breath. This tool and breathing strategy is a great resource for self-regulation. The idea is that this practice becomes so engrained that its response becomes second nature. It is important to note, that these strategies should first be introduced when the child is not agitated. Find the lesson plan in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

young child with Hoberman Sphere

Let’s paint a scenario. A student enters the office in an extremely agitated state. He has “flipped his lid” and is not accessing his “thinking brain”. You offer releasing breaths or other strategies that you have practiced before, but nothing seems to be resonating. Instead, he is only becoming more agitated. At this point, you pick up the Hoberman Sphere off of your desk. You begin to do deep belly breathing, even counting the breaths along the way. By the time you get to ten breaths, you notice that the volume in the student’s voice has dropped and his body is starting to still. A this point, you could invite him to practicipate in the strategies again as you continue your deep breathing.

High school student with Hoberman Sphere at desk

In this scenario, not only does Belly Breathing keep you in a calm, relaxed, alert state, but it serves as a model for desired behavior. You, as the regulated adult, are simply holding space for however the youth is showing up. While creating mindful spaces through color and decor are important, the real work begins by creating the mindful space within yourself. It is this space that will set the tone and energy for the youth you serve.

On a personal note, I’d also like to share how this strategy plays out at home with my own children.

My three year old was just finishing his first week of preschool. Emotional and physical exhaustion were at a maximum. Right before bed, an epic tantrum erupted. I recognized that he had “flipped his lid” and was operating in his lower brain. No amount of talking was going to turn the ship around. I brought out the breathing ball and asked, “Should we do some breathing?” The response was a resounding “NO” as he pushed the ball away.

Mother co-regulating with three year old

At this point, I could have walked away, tried to persuade him into getting into bed or worse, forcefully put him into bed. However, I know the power of co-regulation. I brought out tools readily accessible in his bedroom, with which he was already familiar, the Hoberman Sphere and Essential Oils. Within three and half minutes I had completely redirected his behavior. To see the full video, visit our YouTube.

We’re not expected to be perfect. These strategies can be difficult to remember in times of turmoil and don’t always turn around each situation. However, knowing that these tools and strategies are available can make difficult situations seem much more manageable. The most powerful part of this work is sharing with youth, that our brains and bodies always have another chance to try again with a different response.

Have you ever had a successful co-regulation experience? What has worked well for you? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Hand Tracing Breathing

Have you wondered, where is the best place to start when teaching mindfulness?

Breathing is the best place to begin a mindfulness practice. For children, especially in a school setting, we recommend hand tracing as an excellent option for an introductory breath. Many school settings use “Show Me 5” as an attention signal, so we find this strategy fits in easily to existing school cultures and routines.

Start by placing your dominant pointer finger at the bottom of the opposite thumb. Continue by drawing around the perimeter of the hand, inhaling on the way up the finger and exhaling on the way down. This is a quick and easy way to get in five breaths and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Better yet, switch hands and use your non-dominant hand as the tracer for an additional five breaths.

Hand tracing is incredibly effective for addressing anxiety.  This strategy allows students to get “out of their head” and into their body and the somatic input creates a calming influence. We sometimes even offer the affirmation, “I am right here” or “I feel my pointer finger press against my hand”.

It is empowering for students to know that this technique is always accessible. When the situation doesn’t allow you to lie down, close your eyes or use a tool, your hands are always available. Model discreetly hand tracing under a desk to demonstrate that five breaths can be taken anywhere at anytime. Find Hand Tracing Breathing featured on our Move Mindfully® Permission to Pause Posters.

 

 

We like to show the variation of tracing your hand on a table as well. This is especially useful during transitions when students need to arrive at a new space and is effective when combined with head on desk. At home, try before dinner or homework time.

 

 

 


 

 

Also, hand tracing on someone else’s back can be a great variation of back drawing or back breathing. Paraprofessionals love using this during high tension situations, like assemblies or tests. Also, try this strategy at home on your child or loved one before bedtime.

 

 

 

Hand tracing is the perfect entry point for mindfulness. Coworkers, parents and students  can start using this highly effective breathing strategy for self-regulation right away.

Have you tried hand tracing? When might you use this strategy? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

 

 

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

Gratitude Breath and Glitter Jars

Gratitude changes everything.

Think about a situation where it felt like it took every last ounce of your willpower to stay cool, calm and collected.  As I write this, I have to admit that my moment just happened a couple hours ago when I just couldn’t handle it anymore…my kids seemed to be crying about e-ve-ry-thing!

I tried to stay calm, but that calmness muscle in my body had been fatigued, and I lost my cool. I threw my son’s‚ yet-to-be-eaten supper in the sink after he changed his mind twice about how he wanted it cut up, but then didn’t want it cut up. Let me just make it clear that I actually did throw it like a ball through the air into the sink. It felt really good at the time. However, my time with my kids is precious and I don’t want to waste it by being frustrated and impatient. I was able to recognize this quickly, and use some tools I have learned as a wellness professional and parent to make the best of this situation.

I stepped away and took a gratitude breath.

Gratitude Breath

Sit or stand up nice and tall through your spine. Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand over your belly button. Breathe in slowly through your nose and let the air travel through your chest and all the way down into your belly so that your bottom hand in gently pushed out by your belly.

Hold that breath for a second and then slowly release the breath so it takes slightly longer to breath it out than it did to breath it in. Continue this slow, deep breathing pattern for as long as you’d like. The hand that is on your heart reminds you to think of one thing that you feel grateful for at the moment. If it’s hard for you to come up with something, you can be grateful for a beating heart!

Consider using this exercise once per day at a point of transition and savor how it makes you feel‚ perhaps more settled and happy! Better yet, try it with your kids! Using the breathing ball, or Hoberman Sphere, can help children visualize this breath work as well.

children practice gratitude breathAnother tool that helps inspire calm is a glitter jar (aka: calming jars, mindfulness jars, relaxation jars). I have used them with adult clients as well we with my own children. Visit the Move Mindfully® Teachers Pay Teachers Store for a lesson plan on how to introduce this tool.

When you shake the jars, they show an excellent illustration of how our mind, body and spirits can feel when life gets too chaotic and out of control. As we watch the glitter inside the jar, we begin to take calming deep breaths all the way down to a relaxed belly. As those breaths flow in and out, we watch the glitter begin to settle to the bottom of the jar. We notice the top of the jar beginning to become clear once again. Then, we notice that our bodies are settling and our minds are becoming more clear.

It takes a matter of two minutes to notice the shift from chaos and clutter to peace and clarity. These jars can be used by people of absolutely any age which is why I am sharing the recipe with you. You can give these as gifts to people to show your gratitude for them. A win-win for all!

Create A Glitter Jar

Supplies needed:

  • Container of your choice with a tight fitting lid
  • Elmer’s clear glue
  • Water
  • Fine glitter
  1. Fill the container 20% full with glue. (use more glue if you’d like the glitter to settle more slowly)
  2.  Next, fill the jar to the 80% full level with very hot/slightly boiling water.
  3. Gently stir the water and glue together until they are blended evenly.
  4. Add 1 tsp. of fine glitter and slowly stir into the water and glue mixture. (1 tsp. works well in an 8 oz. container. Adjust according to container size)
  5. Next, add room temperature water until almost full. Place cover on tightly, shake it up, and enjoy!

Hopefully these two examples, the gratitude breath and the calming jars, can be useful to you in the future to help you find find peace and calm. Each of us already has a toolbox of strengths, talents, support systems and techniques that we can have access to during difficult situations. Now, grab your tools, find your calm, and live on!

Brooke Campbell

About the Author:

Brooke Campbell is a wellness coach, personal trainer and group exercise instructor. She believes in SAVORING experiences, living SIMPLY and SHINING with joy and abundance. She can be reached at brookecampbell23@gmail.com.

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

Find additional Belly Breathing resources on our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

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

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Pinwheel Breath

What do you do when a student is stuck in a feeling of anxiety or anger?

The best thing you can do in this situation, is provide a strategy to regulate breathing and oxygenate the body. I always like to introduce pinwheel breath early in the school year. The pinwheel serves as a incentivizing tool. Watching the colors go around and around will memorize almost every user. The “toy” also makes this breath accessible because it seems a bit more lighthearted.

The Yoga Calm® Curriculum describes pinwheel breathing as a focus on the long steady exhale. It is a releasing breath that helps regulate the nervous system and calm anxieties. The pinwheel serves as a focal point, which increases focus and can be effective when used before testing or other activities that require intense concentration.

From a science perspective, you can visually experience the transfer of your energy (breath) to create motion energy (pinwheel). No breath, no energy. This idea integrates fabulously into science and engineering standards.

Here are some tips for integrating Pinwheel Breath into your science objectives.

1. Building Background

A great place to start is by building background about wind energy. Students wrestled with the real-world pros and cons that face our political and industrial leaders.

Next, I shared a real world example and read aloud the inspirational story of William Kamkwamba. William engineered a windmill to save his African village. See his Ted Talk  and read more about his biography. The picture book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is a great read aloud for all ages.

Reading a Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

2. Field Trips

If possible, take students outside to experience wind power first hand! We visited our local nature center to observe the electricity turbine and windmill water pump. We then went inside the schoolhouse and built circuits to power turbine models. How is wind energy utilized in your neighborhood?

Students visit wind turbine     Students participate in a wind experiment

3. Engineering

Once back in the classroom, have students use this Pinwheel Template to create their own pinwheel. Better yet, provide an assortment of supplies and allow open ended inquiry. Students can apply their knowledge to engineer a device that gains motion energy from wind energy

Students use STEM standards to create pinwheels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students test the movement of a pinwheel      Students use classroom supplies to build a pinwheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it all comes back to the social emotional work we do during mindful movement. Students are now invested into the pinwheel as a tool. They understand the importance of their breath. They have a strategy when the anger or anxiety bubbles back to the surface.

Boy relaxes by blowing a pinwheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you tried pinwheel breathing? Leave a comment with what you have tried!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Pulse Count

Do you have students fighting the calming breaths?

Sometimes, allowing yourself to be calm can be kind of scary. I have found that resistant students respond best to Pulse Count. Find the cuing language on the Pulse Count card from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “count to ten” when you are upset or angry. This breathing tool takes that to the next level. Not only are you counting (probably past ten), but you are also getting in tune with your body. You are literally feeling your body. High heart rate in gym? Good. High heart rate during a test? Bad. But here’s the good news is YOU are in control of your heart beat!

I began teaching pulse count with an overview heart and circulatory system. Then hooked them with the following activity.

Pulse Count

Take a 30 second pulse count. Record data.

pulse count

Do 30 seconds of jumping jacks. Take a 30 second pulse count. Record Data.

jumping jacks

Do 10 belly breaths. Take a 30 second pulse count. Record data.

belly breathing

Just looking at the raw numbers- the kids were blown away at the results. The real power here is in the recovery. With ten belly breaths, the body is able to totally self-regulate from a point of maximum exertion.

Here is a data sample:

  • Starting- 40 beats
  • After Jumping Jacks- 86 beats
  • After Belly Breathing- 36 beats

To bring this activity into your math lesson, double the counts to find beats per minute. See the math lesson plan on our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Doubling numbers to find bpm

Later in the week I had a boy in tears on the verge of a panic attack. I told him, “Remember pulse count? You can recover. You have the power to control your body. Let’s do a pulse count together”. Getting him out of his head, counting, breathing and feeling in control, he was able to self-regulate within a minute. Almost seems magical.

Please leave a comment with ideas of how to connect Pulse Count to other science or math standards!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Woodchopper Breath

Sometimes we need calming breaths… and sometimes we need releasing breaths!

Sometimes mindful movement can have the stigma of “all calm all the time”. However, our mission centers on responding to the body where it is at… and sometimes it is not calm. When there is so much built up (tension, frustration, anxiety, anger) in the body, it must be released. Wood Chopper Breath from the Yoga Calm Curriculum is an excellent tool for students to “huh” it out it a controlled and safe manner.

Sometimes, these feelings can cause students to feel overwhelmed and demoralized. I also like to use Wood Chopper as a vehicle for creating positive self-talk and developing a Growth Mindset. Here is a visual of positive self-talk replacing the negative.

Growth Mindset bulletin board

As I began teaching Wood Chopper, I noticed that the first dozen times the students made the “huh” sound on the exhale, there was a lot of laughing and giggling. It is a funny, slightly uncomfortable, feeling that many have never expressed. One of my students even expressed it as, “It is like hitting someone in football, except you don’t have to hit anyone”. There is a real release happening and laughing can be an instinctual reaction to this emotion. Let’s face it…if we want to teach self-regulation when need to have the students practice going from 0-60 and 60-0.

Students use a releasing breath in classroom

Eventually, I had students lead our Wood Chopper breathing. We worked together to develop an anchor chart of things that we want to bring in and what we would have to let go of to create that space. Students could cue from the poster or come up with their own ideas. For example it may sound like, “Breathe in bravery (inhale), breathe out fear (huh)!”

Growth Mindset anchor chart

It was the end of the day, a time when craziness inside begins to stir, and two boys were rough-housing as they were stacking their chairs. I gave them the raised eye brows look and one caught my gaze and said, “I breathe in calm, I breathe out silly” as he did a woodchopper breath. He looked at me and smiled, knowing he was being somewhat cheeky… but the thing is—it worked. It calmed him down. Furthermore, he had the ability to recognize his state and self regulate.

Students use Yoga Calm Woodchopper Breath

Use woodchopper to emotionally prepare. Taking in the positive and releasing the negative is the first step in being able to develop a growth mindset. In knowing that you are not a fixed point in the universe. You are continually growing and changing and that ultimately, you are in control of that trajectory.

Visit our Teachers Pay Teachers Store for a lesson on using the idea of choice during a math lesson! Also, check out the Wood Chopper card from our Move Mindfully Card Deck.

Please leave a comment on how you have used Woodchopper!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly