Just Breathe - Using breath to support the ups and downs of life

Updated: Mar 30

All day and all night, when we are awake and asleep, busy, relaxed, nervous, excited and every moment in-between, our breath is moving.

From the moment we are conceived, we begin the cycle of our breath which carries us through our entire lifetime, staying with us until one day it’s our time to go. We often associate birth as the moment of our first breath which is true, in a way. While our first breath as we know it occurs once we are born and begin breathing on our own, our tiny bodies were actually going through a cycle, a form of breathing within the womb too. 

Every single living thing on this planet breathes in some way, humans however have a very unique ability to not only breathe unconsciously, but we can also choose to take control over our breath too. 

Most of the day it’s forgotten, going along its merry way keeping us alive, giving us the life-force to continue on our ever evolving journeys. However today I want to share some of the ways we can take control over our breath and why this can be beneficial for all of us as humans, adults and children alike. 

Our breath operates in three different ways:

  1. Unconsciously - we don't give it a thought, it just does its thing for us.

  2. Conscious uncontrolled - we bring our awareness to our breath, but choose to observe it rather than force it, meaning we bring our attention to it as it naturally moves in and out of our bodies. 

  3. Conscious controlled - we bring our awareness to our breath and consciously control it, meaning we take control over it, choosing how it comes in and leaves our bodies.

Learning to incorporate parts of conscious controlled and uncontrolled breathing into our day can be so beneficial on our physical and mental states. There are certain breathing practices which have been scientifically proven time and time again to lower stress hormones in our body which in turn can help to manage all kinds of situations that arise in our lives. The more we as parents can learn to incorporate these practices into our days, the more we are able to teach and remind our children to do this too. 

There are certain breathing practices which have been scientifically proven time and time again to lower stress hormones in our body which in turn can help to manage all kinds of situations that arise in our lives.

I know as a parent myself there have been many occasions where I have needed to use breathing practices to calm myself down in an intense parenting situation. This in itself is teaching our children that we do have an ability within all of us to calm ourselves down without needing to resort to full blown meltdowns. There are also many occasions when my little one finds it hard to cope with the developmental leaps that come along with growing up, who in time will be able to assist herself to come back down to a calm state. She is only two, but already has begun to understand how to take big breaths in and out and I know over time she is going to be well equipped to use her breathing practices on her own. 

You can start teaching your child to consciously breathe as young as you like, you will see over time how they start to understand and pick up on what you are doing. Like everything we teach to our children, they will pick it up when they are ready. 

So here comes the practical bit. What are some breathing practices we can incorporate into our own and our children lives?

Below I have listed three exercises you can try out on your own and once you feel comfortable doing them yourself, share them with your child. Practice any of them for 1 - 5 minutes, using your judgement as to what feels best. 

1. Let it go ~ release stress, anger, frustration

This is the most simple of all of the practices and the easiest one to teach our youngest little breathers. 

Simply taking big breaths in through your nose and really sighing them out of your mouth. If you are somewhere that you can make a bit of noise, don't be afraid to really accentuate the exhale, making as much noise as feels good. 

You can even get your body involved here as you breath in, tense up just a little, raising your shoulders towards your ears and as you exhale completely let go, even shaking your hands as if you were flicking out excess energy.

Do this standing, sitting, dancing, anything goes!

This is all about letting go & releasing pent up energy. Especially helpful if you are angry or frustrated. Feel yourself letting go of whatever it is you need to on every exhale. 

2. Two Part Yogi Breathing ~ Calming & Connecting

Begin laying down in a comfortable position. If laying down isn't an option you can also do this in a comfortable seat.

Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. 

Close down your eyes and take a few deep full breaths to settle in.

On your inhale - allow it to fill up your chest first, before then moving down to your belly. As you inhale, you feel your hand resting on your chest physically raise and as the breath moves down into your belly your other hand raises too. 

On your exhale - allow the breath to leave your belly first, followed by the rest of your breath leaving your chest. 

Notice how much more peaceful and connected you feel once you are done. This exercise can be great to practice alongside your child, as soon as you feel they are at an age that they can understand.

3. Count your breath ~ lower stress, bring back balance, still busy minds

This is as simple as it sounds, count in your mind as you breathe (or count out loud for your child if you are helping them learn the process).

Either sitting, standing or laying down, using nasal only breathing, in and out of your nose. 

Below are a few different combinations you can try, which yield slightly difference results. 

4 in / 6 out 

As you breath in, count to 4 in your mind.

As you exhale, count to 6.

Incorporating a longer exhale helps to lower the stress hormones in our body. It helps to calm our bodies and our minds.

4 in / 4 out

Breathing in, count to 4

Breathing out, count to 4

Simple and effective at bringing some balance back when we are feeling ou