Emotional Literacy Resources for Teachers – Breath and Breathing

Lungs - Emotional Literacy Resources Teachers Breath Breathing


Get your breath and breathing right and you are harnessing one of the most powerful Emotional Literacy resources for teachers – and students too.

We all take our breathing for granted – it’s automatic isn’t it? But it’s the way you breathe that’s vital. It affects every aspect of your emotional, mental and physical health. Let me take a guess of how you might well be breathing at the moment on an everyday basis:

  • You use your mouth as well as your nose to breathe in
  • You probably pull in or contract your stomach when you breathe in
  • Your breathing is shallow – feeling trapped in your chest area
  • Your breathing takes the form of quicker, shorter breaths – probably about 15-20 times a minute – even when resting
  • You keep holding your breath – probably without realising it

Looks and sounds familiar..?

So How are you Feeling Now..?

The way you breathe directly affects the way you feel. If you change the way you breathe, you almost instantly change the way you feel – and change the way you subsequently think and act. But at the moment, probably breathing the way you are, perhaps you might be feeling:

  • Tense – perhaps a feeling of fight-flight based anxiety
  • Tired of being tired – particularly when you wake up
  • A mild or severe headache – especially in the afternoon
  • That some of your muscles are sore to the touch
  • Occasional shooting pains – sometimes in your ribcage – that causes you to hold your breath
  • Frequently breathless

Looks and sounds familiar..?

So, First Change the Way You are Breathing

Never breathe in through the mouth

Why? Because by breathing in through the mouth, you are breathing in too much Carbon Dioxide which has the effect of constricting your arteries and blood vessels. It also makes your red blood cells “sticky”. This makes it difficult to extract and release negative ions from the oxygen into your cells.

Okay, occasionally breathing in through your mouth won’t make too much difference – but as a general rule – always either:

Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose – or

Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Purse your lips as you breathe out so that your out-breath is twice as long as your in-breath.

Slow and deepen the breath – gradually

Most people “shallow-breathe” – breathing about 15-20 times a minute. In effect, this is not only starving vital organs of oxygen, but also putting a greater load and strain on your heart – more of this later. The ideal breath rate is about eight times a minute. But don’t panic – it might look like a target – but it’s not a sales or performance target: it’s a gentle act of conscious self-discipline – and every act of self-discipline is an act of caring, love and compassion for yourself.

Work with the Normal Abdominal Breathing technique first – then take a look at The Square Breath exercise that I feature in a previous blog: https://www.the-lightworks.co.uk/childrens-mental…reading-kindness/

This very simple, but effective breath can be used in a wide variety of situations and will enable you to deepen the breath but also gradually slow the breath over a period of several months.

And now to Change the Breath Itself – Normal Abdominal Breathing

Chances are, with every in-breath, you’ve been constricting your diaphragm as you pull your stomach in  – probably for many years. This in turn has been contributing to a continuing state of everyday tension/fight-flight.

The diaphragm is located below our lungs and is the major muscle of respiration. Normal abdominal breathing will enable the diaphragm to act like an extra muscle for your heart as it routinely pumps up to 2,000 litres of blood a day.

Most young children do this naturally, but now as an adult, you’ll probably find that you will need to re-learn this basic method of everyday breathing. From now on, make this the way you always breathe. It might be a conscious effort to start with, but it will soon become habit, enabling you to create an everyday clarity through feeling grounded, centred and energised.

It’s simple – here’s how:


Emotional Literacy Resources Teachers Breath Breathing

When first working with this breath, it helps to lightly place both hands on your stomach.

  1. As a general principle – whenever you can – rest the tip of your tongue in the centre of the roof of your mouth. This enables a connection between between the back and front of you and allows your energy to freely circulate. Make sure your tongue is not resting on your teeth as this will break the back-front connection.
  2. Breathe in through the nose. As you do so, feel your lower belly expand as you direct and focus the breath into this area. At the same time, you are opening your abdomen, whilst your diaphragm naturally falls. To begin with, you might need to make a conscious effort to expand your stomach and abdominal muscles.
  3. Breathe out through the nose. As you do so, feel your belly and abdomen relax and draw in – as your diaphragm pushes upwards. You can also exhale through the mouth, but don’t forget to breathe out through pursed lips, letting the breath naturally drain away.

So Let’s Practice – Flower and Candle

  1. Imagine you are holding a flower in your left hand. Just take a short time to see that flower coming in to view…
  2. Now imagine you are holding a lighted candle in your right hand.
  3. So first, bring the flower up to you nose and deeply inhale the wonderful fragrance. Feel your stomach expanding with your in-breath.
  4. Now hold the candle in front of your mouth – and exhale through the mouth – pursed lips – to blow out the candle
  5. Now move your attention back to the flower and repeat Steps 3 and 4 several times

(Exercise – from Kids Relaxation)

The CoolFire Approach – Emotional Literacy Resources for Teachers


CoolFire Emotional Literacy Resources Teachers

CoolFire is different to many approaches in developing holistic Emotional Literacy, positive mental health and wellbeing. It integrates a number of established therapeutic disciplines – including breathwork, visualisation, dynamic movement, acupressure – and more – to create very practical daily regimes that transparently fit over the school and home day. This has both an immediate and longer-term positive effect on the way both students and teachers feel, think and act.

The CoolFire Approach is also firmly rooted in a proven science-based rationale that changes many widely-held perspectives on the interaction between Mind, Body and Feelings.

CoolFire enables each student and staff member to create their own Positive Inputs Framework that underpins every aspect of their positive mental health and wider holistic wellbeing.

Over 7,500 young people (ages 3-18+) and 3,500+ teachers and school staff have experienced The CoolFire Effect over the last five years.

Find out more on how you can use CoolFire to create a whole-school Emotionally Literate culture as the key to long-term effective teaching and learning.



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