Child Wellbeing|Insights

Breathwork techniques to successfully navigate transitions

After four years as a Latin and Greek teacher in leading boarding schools, Olly Layton now teaches Breathwork and Yoga to Schools, Individuals and Companies, alongside tutoring Latin and Greek. You can visit spirabreath.co.uk for more information, book a Breathwork discovery call here https://sprabyollylayton.as.me/schedule.php and for more breathwork tips and techniques, follow spira breath on Instagram at @spira_breath.

With summer fast approaching, your kids might be gearing up for exciting new experiences—whether it’s joining a new club, attending a summer school, preparing for the new academic year, or even starting a new school in September. How can you be sure that they will have a good time and get the most out of it?

It firstly helps to acknowledge that whilst starting something new brings exciting opportunities for your child to make new friends and broaden their mind, it can also be a huge challenge for them. Drawing from my time as a deputy housemaster in two leading weekly boarding schools, I’ve seen firsthand how these transitions, whether it be being away from home, on a different daily schedule, or meeting a new group of people, can cause stress and anxiety in children.

As parents, supporting your child through these transitions makes all the difference. This blog will explore three ways to prepare your child to thrive in any new environment.

Breathing Techniques

One effective way to help your child manage anxiety and stress in new situations is by introducing them to scientifically proven breathwork techniques. These can be used both before and during their new experiences.

Bhastrika (or Bellows Breath)

When: In the car before you drop them off pre-new adventure.

Why: Derived from the ancient yogic tradition, Bellows Breath has been proven in scientific studies to significantly reduce levels of stress and anxiety. This exercise is particularly useful for releasing built-up stress and nervousness, grounding your child before they enter their new environment.

How:

  1. Sit in a comfortable seat (cross-legged position).
  2. Make a fist and fold your arms, placing them near your shoulders.
  3. Inhale deeply from the diaphragm, raise your hands straight up, and open your fists.
  4. Exhale forcefully through the nose or mouth, bring your arms down next to your shoulders, and close your fists.
  5. Continue for 10 breaths.
  6. Relax with palms on your thighs.
  7. Take a few normal breaths.

The 4:7:8 Technique

When: Last thing before bed, if they are ruminating over their day ahead.

Why: Designed by Dr. Andrew Weil, this technique brings an instantaneous sense of relaxation and calm. The lengthened exhale through the mouth engages your child’s parasympathetic nervous system, helping to slow their thoughts and promote restful sleep.

How:

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven (or five if seven feels too much).
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  5. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Box Breathing

When: Just before they have to give a speech, are tested on their knowledge, or before approaching a new group of people.

Why: Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is used by athletes and Navy SEALs to help calm anxiety and improve concentration. The breath holding brings their attention back to the present moment, providing a sense of calm and control.

How:

  1. Breathe in, counting to four slowly.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  3. Slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds.
  4. Repeat steps one to three until you feel re-centered.

Like any habit, these techniques take time to sink in. Incorporate them into your daily routine to help your child become confident using them independently. Using the techniques yourself will also encourage your children to follow suit when they see how calm they make you feel.

Reading

When children read books that reflect their own life experiences, they naturally absorb and integrate that knowledge, consciously or subconsciously, which can shape their lives in meaningful ways. This process develops a deeper appreciation for books, enhancing their love for reading. In this way, you can encourage your child to read fiction where the main characters embark on adventures and meet new people. This can help them use their imagination to picture their upcoming experiences in a positive light.

  • Younger children: “Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend. The story of a young girl who is whisked away to the magical city of Nevermoor where she faces a series of trials to join the prestigious Wundrous Society. The story is filled with adventure and stresses the importance of friendship and self-belief when finding one’s place in a new environment.
  • 11-14 year olds: “The Explorer” by Katherine Rundell. This adventure story follows four children stranded in the Amazon rainforest, teaching them resilience, teamwork, and the excitement of discovery.
  • 13-16 year olds: “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Follow Bilbo Baggins as he leaves his comfortable home in the Shire to embark on an epic quest filled with adventure, danger, and personal growth.

Gratitude

Gratitude practices are scientifically proven to improve wellbeing. They can be particularly powerful in new and unfamiliar environments, encouraging positive thinking, managing stress, improving social connection, and aiding sleep.

A few weeks before a new experience, consider asking your child before bed to list three things they enjoyed or were thankful for in the day. As the new experience approaches, ask them to jot these moments in their own journal. Then get them to pack the journal for their new adventure.

Preparing your child in these ways won’t just help them to improve their experience in any new environment. It will teach them techniques to thrive in unfamiliar situations with positivity, calmness, and resilience.

If you or your child has any lung issues, high blood pressure, or other health concerns, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before starting these breathwork exercises. Make sure these techniques feel comfortable and stop if they feel dizzy or uncomfortable. If you are pregnant, please avoid these practices.