How to Practice Breathing in Pranayama Yoga

Understanding Breathing
Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews in their book, Yoga Anatomy share the analogy of a water balloon and an accordion to explain breathing.
•  Use a water balloon that is filled only partially.
•  Let the kids press and shape the water from the bottom of the balloon to the middle and then the top.
•  Demonstrate how the breath moves through the belly or abdominal cavity.
•  Show how the water moves yet stays within the border of the balloon.
•  Demonstrate how the thoracic cavity, which can be compared to an accordion or a slinky toy, bellows in and out. Dividing the abdominal and thoracic cavities is the diaphragm, which is like a parachute shape.
•  Notice how breathing is like an accordion sitting on top of a water balloon.
•  Visualize the lungs, and belly chambers using these images.
•  Alternately, you can use PlayDoh, drawing or rolling paper wads into a sock and pushing the wads up or down to demonstrate the movement of the breath.
•  Show how the air moves into various chambers.

The Three-Part Breath
•  Invite the children to lie down on their backs. (This can also be done seated).
•  Ask them to place one hand on their belly and one on the chest.
•  Notice how the stomach extends out with the inhale, and in with the exhale.
•  Place a cotton ball, Koosh ball, tissue or a toy animal on the child’s belly.
•  Watch the object move up on an inhale and down with an exhale.
•  Feel the air moving into the lower, middle and upper lobes.
•  Put your hands on the ribs to feel the expansion and contraction.
•  Have the child feel for the clavicle (collar bone).
•  Notice how the clavicle moves up subtly on the last top lung chambers.
•  Invite the children to comment about how they feel.

Belly Down Breathing
•  Children can try belly down breathing while lying prone on their stomachs.
•  Place the hands stacked under the forehead to rest the head as you practice.
•  Feel how the air moves differently in the belly as you inhale and exhale.
•  Ask the children what they feel.

Ujjayi Breath-Ocean Sounding Breath
Ujjayi breath is called ocean-sounding breath because we make a hissing sound or a throaty “ha” in the throat that sounds like the ocean on the exhale. To learn this breath we teach it with the mouth open. When we practice Ujjayi, we close the mouth, which makes the sound appear softer.
•  Open the mouth and breathe out a throaty ha/hiss sound from the back of the throat that sounds similar to a gargle or a soft motor and sounds like the ocean. (It reminds me of the sound of holding a conch shell to your ear)
•  After practicing several times, try it with the mouth closed.
•  Practice the Ujjayi breath with the mouth closed until you feel comfortable with it.

Humming Bee Vibration Breath
The Humming Bee breath is a fun breath for any age child to learn, because they can make a sound, it has vibration and it feels like a sensory activity. The instructor can tell the story of the origin of the name of Humming Bee breath. In India, children were told a story that the Humming Bee breath occurred when a bee was humming inside your mouth. Invite the children to watch you do the Humming Bee breath demo first so they have a visual picture of it.

Therapist Demo of Humming Bee Breath
•  Start to hum with your mouth closed.
•  Place your fingers on your ears and close off the sound.
•  Cover the eyes and close off the vision.

Instructions For Students’ Practice of Humming Bee Breath
•  Instruct the children to make a humming sound in their throats.
•  Once they can hear the hum, instruct them to close their eyes.
•  Placing fingers gently in their ears, ask them to close off the ears
•  Gently close off the outside sounds. Gently experiment to find the right closure of the ear.
•  Try out different tones of humming to see which one they like.
•  Remember: Give instructions before the eyes and ears close.
•  Try rounds of this fun sensory breath with various low and high tones.
•  Invite the children to share their experiences.

Breathing with Embodied Cueing
•  Give cues to breathe into the abdomen and organs.
•  Bring awareness to the three-part breath.
•  Notice how the breath moves through all three areas of lower abdomen, lower lungs and chest as you inhale and exhale
•  Notice the skin and the layers under the skin.
•  Notice the muscle and fascia.
•  Notice the bones and the fluids flowing, the heart within the body.
•  While lying supine notice your spine and the relationship of your head and tail or the sacrum down to the coccyx bone.
•  Notice the pelvic halves on each side.
•  Place your hands on your hips and feel the large bones.
•  Feel the rib cage and notice it is the outer container for the lungs and organs.