The belly breath is like a circuit breaker for a brain that is careening out of control and taking the kid (or adult) along for the ride. Belly breath can be a peaceful practice: getting you centered and your head straight for a day at work. Or it can be a lifesaving practice: overriding adolescent instincts that can take a kid from a bad situation to a terrible one.
Either way, you need the belly breath in your practice, and so does your kid. Here’s a simple practice you can do by yourself, or with your child.
If you’re doing this practice with a child, let the kid burn off some energy first, in the gym or on the playground. Figure out a way to release that restless energy that every kid has. Then, when your kid is a little more relaxed, and more receptive, sit down with them on a mat in a quiet spot.
In a perfect world you’ll have a little ambience going. Maybe a salt lamp or lava lamp for some mellow lighting, and a white-noise machine or a fan if there’s a ton of traffic noise. A comfortable cushion and some blankets. All these elements have an important role: You’re taking a familiar space and, by making a few small adjustments, adding an element of ritual.
Take a minute to visualize how releasing trauma and embracing self-love might feel: self-regulation, empowerment, beginnings of self-acceptance, even if you can’t get to self-love. Just starting to accept yourself.
As you begin, remember that the biggest win on this first day of practice is simply being willing to show up and sit down. Don’t worry if your breathing is off or if they can only hold the practice for a few seconds. Simply agreeing to try is a victory.
A Breathing Meditation to Calm Your Busy Mind
- Place your right palm on your belly. As you inhale through your nose to fill your lower lungs, use your diaphragm to expand your belly like a balloon. Expand your belly slowly and as much as possible. Pause for a brief second.
- Now exhale, leaving your hand in the same position, pulling your belly button to your spine, creating a space between your hand and belly. Inhale again, expanding your belly until it touches your hand. And repeat.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, using the diaphragm and expanding your stomach to fill your lower lungs. Then fill your middle lungs by pushing out your rib cage, breastbone, and chest. Then fill your upper lungs by poking out your chest to lift it and completely fill your upper lungs. Pause on the breath.
- Exhale slowly, relaxing and lowering your chest, breastbone, and upper rib cage. After your upper and middle lungs are emptied, slowly contract your stomach using the diaphragm to empty the lower lungs.
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