We all have a built-in guidance system that helps us navigate through the choppy waters and high winds that life often serves up. So do our students. Most of the time we respond to the obstacles that invade our day with habitual thinking or knee jerk reactions, and ignore our inner wisdom. So do our students.
What if we could easily develop the habit of paying attention to the wise insights that lie beneath our constant thoughts? What if we developed a pattern of tuning in for guidance instead of swatting the problems away? The way to do that is right under our nose. Literally. Or more accurately, it is our nose. And our lungs. And our complete respiratory system.
Following our breath in and out activates our body’s parasympathetic nervous system which signals our heart rate and breathing rate to slow down and also positively affects our blood pressure. It’s the soothing balm that gives our flight or fight nervous system functions a well needed vacation. When this happens, our thoughts quiet enough to allow deeper contemplations and inspirations to surface and take root.
We teach Slow Breath Practice to our students and we all benefit. It’s one of my favorite components of the SocialEyes Together program because it brings us into our bodies and specifically in touch with our heart centered wisdom. Not all students love to practice this and that’s fine as long as they don’t disrupt or disturb the ones who do participate. The reality is that all learn from witnessing the results.
All you have to do is breathe in to a count of 4, hold it for two seconds, breathe out for a count of 5 and repeat a few times. Making the outbreath longer than the inbreath activates our relaxation response and reduces stress. For a great visual, I use a Hoberman Sphere. It looks like a geodesic dome and expands and contracts to a fraction of its size. Students love it and breathe with it as I pull it apart to full size and contract it down again.
Because it helps my younger students to concentrate, I bought a bunch of mini Hoberman Spheres and hand them out right before we breathe together.
They get so excited when they see my bag of spheres come out and can’t wait to use them. Here are the instructions I give them (after I let them play with them for a minute):
- Hold the Hoberman Sphere in front of you with outstretched arms.
- Breathe in for four as you open the sphere and raise it over your head.
- Hold it at the top for a count of two.
- Breathe out for five as you lower and close the sphere back down in front of you with outstretched arms.
- Repeat four times (or more).
Students love this! They get to look on purpose as they expand the sphere. This gives them a visual focus point while they get comfortable breathing in and out slowly. It also brings their bodies into the mix to reduce distraction and give them a kinesthetic anchor. When they raise their arms overhead it opens their chests to allow more air to enter. Deeper breathing is key to getting the full benefits of this practice. Using the Hoberman Sphere introduces the Slow Breath Practice in a way that combines their large muscle movement, their visual focus, and their mind’s attention. Perfect!
I use Slow Breath Practice myself all the time (without the Hoberman Sphere of course) to help me stay calm, fall asleep at night, and reduce my anxiety. No one has to know what I’m doing. I just breathe in and out slowly and purposefully a few times. I do this even when I’m in meetings, talking to a friend, or getting ready for a tennis match. It’s a way to quickly reset and be ready to receive. Learning to work with our breath is a form of self-management and self-regulation. Students report an inner peace and access to a deeper thought process. I use this every day, multiple times a day, and it’s a game changer.
Try it with your students and let me know how it goes!