Learning to cultivate the power of every breath we take may be one of the most meaningful and important tools for our yoga practice on and off the mat.
One method I find successful for yogis of all ages—beginning with toddlers on up—is Flower Power Breath. The source of its success is likely rooted in its weaving of two familiar elements: a flower and smelling.
Engaging our sense of smell leads to a first key direction of pranayama: inhale through your nose. This simple action also illuminates two important teaching theories for people who teach yoga to any age group: multiple intelligences and constructivism.
Multiple intelligences was developed by Howard Gardner to differentiate among nine different pathways to learning. Most of us have access to each intelligence and usually one or two stand out as our strengths. The multiple intelligences can be engaged when teaching and practicing the Eight Limbs of yoga:
visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, mathematical/logical, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalistic and existentialist.
Constructivism is a theory about how people learn.
The foundation of this theory is that learners do best when their background knowledge about a subject is first activated. Then, with that background knowledge in mind, learners are encouraged to expand their knowledge beyond their comfort-zone. Thus, teaching flower power first with an imaginary flower, then later inviting youth and yogis of any age to try it without the flower, is a great way to build their comfort zone toward cultivating the power of breath.
Flower Power Breath:
- Find a comfortable seat (though this can be done anywhere)
- Reach out in front of you and pretend to pick a flower.
- Bring the imaginary flower to your nose and breathe in deeply through your nose.
- Breathe out slowly through your nose as you open your hand like a blossoming flower.
- Repeat with your other hand. Try to take five to six flower power breaths.
Working on pranayama/breathing can help children lengthen their breaths and strengthen their diaphragms and lungs. Steadier breathing will help them relax, and it will oxygenate blood more efficiently, supporting the organs. Pranayama also helps with academic and social stress as it:
- Increases abilities to focus & relax;
- Lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels;
- Calms mind & body via central nervous system
Be sure children do not hold breath.
Flower Power Breath is a great way to center a group of kids in a class, but I find its most powerful use is when its given to people as a tool to take with them beyond class time and off the mat into their daily lives. With or without actually picking your imaginary flower, this Pranayama can easily be practiced in classrooms and cars, at work and play, and anytime we need to reorganize our feelings, senses or physical self.
Go ahead. Give it a try
Elizabeth “Beth” Reese, Ph.D., E-RYT, RCYT, is the founder and executive director of Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®. A yoga practitioner for over 13 years, Beth is the mother of three OHMazing yogis under the age of 13. Her oldest daughter, Jordan, is part of the inspiration for Yogiños: Yoga for Youth® as she learned to navigate challenges associated with Sensory-Integration “Disorder” through practicing all 8 Limbs of yoga. firstname.lastname@example.org and here.
Editor: Tanya L. Markul