Teaching Breath

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

Breath on Land

Air is an integral part of life. Without it, we cannot survive. If we are deprived of it, we panic.  

What causes panic in the water? 

Feeling like we can’t breathe!

We breathe in and out all day long, but often, we do not learn how to fill our lungs fully with air.  

Have you ever paid close attention to your breathing?  

Exploratory challenge: With one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, breathe in through your nose for a count of 3.  As you do so, feel your chest fill and your belly expand. Then hold your breath for a count of 3. Finally, slowly breathe out of your mouth for a count of 3.  Notice that when you breathe out, your belly and chest deflate.

Breath in the Water

As humans, our bodies instinctively know how to breathe…on land. That all changes when we get into water. To turn into a water animal, humans need to learn how to consciously take a breath.

When we breathe while swimming, we do the opposite of what we do on land.  We breathe in through our mouths and out through our noses. 

We’ve found children either don’t know how to take a breath (and actually get air into their lungs). Or they don’t get a full breath and feel like they are running out of air.  

This can lead to getting water in their noses or not having enough air available to bring them back to the surface. This can cause panic, so they start pulling and kicking to get to the surface instead of letting the air inside their body get them there.      

Photo by Andreas Weiland on Unsplash   Photo by Christine Larsen on Unsplash

Teaching Breath 

To teach breathing to our Turtles In Training (aka swimmers) at FLOW, we: 

  • Explain that each child has 2 “balloons” (lungs) in their body and that these balloons hold air.  
  • Give the children little plastic balls to push underwater. When they let them go, it demonstrates how the air in the balls takes them to the surface.
  • Explain if they learn to breathe air into their “balloons” and keep it there, they won’t get water in their noses and they will “fall up” in the water like the balls.  
  • To aid them in understanding and feeling this, we explore different activities.  For instance, we have the children practice letting the air out of their lungs by making a “SHHHHHH” or “AHHHHH” sound.  This sound is similar to the sound of air coming out of a balloon. When they can’t make the sound anymore, we ask them to breathe in and fill their lungs back up.  
  • Next, we focus on helping them feel the air movement in their bodies.  They place their hands on their chests and bellies as they breathe in and out. We ask them if they feel their “balloons” filling and emptying.  We ask if they can feel their bodies going up and down in the water as they breathe in and out.
  • Once these skills become comfortable, we have them experiment. We use different body positions, above and below the surface, to feel their breath and their buoyancy. 

Training each child to slow down and take in a full breath before putting his or her face in the water is essential. It helps prevent panic and increases body awareness and confidence in the water. Just like teaching children to calm their bodies, these are all skills integral to developing “turtle senses” on their FLOW journey to True Comfort.