I recently had the opportunity to interview master breathwork instructor and Modern Nirvana co-founder, Bryant Wood.
The Benefits of Breathwork For Kids
Impulsive children act without thinking which is why breathwork is a great way to calm their actions. Breathwork activates the parasympathetic nervous system, as well as redirects the mind to a simple task, distracting from anxious thoughts.
Q: How did you get started with breathwork?
A: I first came across breathwork at 11 years old. I was the slowest on the traveling basketball team so my legendary mother took me to train with the UCLA track coach. He taught me proper breathing techniques and running form. Within one week I was the fastest on the team during the sprints!
Q: What are the benefits of breathwork for parents, kids, and families?
A: Your breathing pattern is correlated to your emotions, and it can affect the unconscious processes of your body. When you learn to shift your inhalation and exhalation, you can change your heart rate, blood pressure, and emotional state. There is a proper breathing pattern, rate, and depth of breath optimal for the health of kids and adults. Kids tend to have a shorter rate of breath around 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out. Adults 5 seconds into 5 seconds out. First, breathe into your belly and lower back, then the side of your body feeling the rib cage go out and up, then all the way into the top of your thoracic cavity. After the inhalation, the breath should naturally fall out in an exhale at a rate of 4 to 5 seconds. A balanced breath often correlates to a balanced nervous system. Breathing with your kids is key for them to understand the importance it has for their bodies.
Q: What is a good age to begin working on breathwork with kids?
A: Any age. I recommend for parents to put their kids on their chests at birth and get used to breathing deep with them. This creates a feeling of safety for the children. When we feel safe, we will breathe deep and peacefully. As they get older, teaching kids how to have diaphragmatic control is extremely beneficial in them being able to manage their stress.
Q: What is your best suggestion for incorporating breathwork into an everyday routine with kids?
A: Not all breathing styles benefit every kid. First, it’s important to see how they react to deep breaths. Sometimes, breathing patterns can be triggering so it’s important to always give them the choice not to do a breath exercise if they don’t want to. Secondly, when a child is in a freeze, or when they have a hard time breathing and it gets caught, or the temperature of their body is dropping, have them use a breath that activates their vagus nerve. Shaking it out or humming while breathing in and out through the nose a little faster will arouse the nervous system and get them out of the freeze response. When they are in a fight or flight response, and they are hyper-aroused and alert, first it is important to check if their body needs anything; food, water, a hug, or sleep to calm down their mind. You can then suggest some slow parasympathetic breathing, which is an elongated exhalation through the nose. 4 seconds in and 8 seconds out to calm their heart rate and ground their body.
Q: Are there other suggestions you have for mindful parenting and supporting childrens’ mental health?
A: Children pick up the behaviors, emotional states, and energy from their parents. Do your best to regulate your own nervous system by taking care of your stress first and doing whatever self care you need to feel good and balanced, so you don’t pass on a dysregulated nervous system to your children.
Bryant has helped so many people reconnect with their emotions through breathwork and awareness exercises to dilute a stressful and anxious situation. You can learn more about Bryant and Modern Nirvana here and follow Bryant on Instagram.
Jessica — Mom of Sophie & Jake