BY: Kristi McDonald

I’m an educator and a serial entrepreneur. I was a first grade teacher when I started Yoga Teacher Training. As part of my training, I was required to teach yoga in a group setting several times, before the training would be complete. I was new in town and knew very few people. One day, as I was studying the health benefits of yoga, as well as its calming properties, I decided to try it out on my snowed-in group of first grade behavior challenged students. Here’s what I’ve learned will help you get the same calming benefits at home. 

  1. Just Breathe

Breathwork and yoga bring each individual, no matter his/her age, into the present moment. It raises our awareness of our physical bodies and physical presence in time and space. Being in the present moment eliminates a lot of unnecessary distractions. Something as simple as focusing on the breath can turn the volume down on the world around us until those distractions fade into the distance. By teaching our children how to recognize the present moment, we can teach them cues to always be able to go back to this time and feeling throughout the day. 

Remember when you were a child, red faced and fists clenched? I do!  would get so mad, I would literally hold my breath until I fainted!  At some point, some wise old soul taught me to take a deep breath and count to ten. One reason kids these days aren’t doing that, is because we’ve simply forgotten to show them. Are you breathing? Take a deep breath, center yourself and teach your child to do the same during a calm moment during the day. Try a calming routine to do this activity together, just as they wake up for the day, so they can remember and go back to this moment later. 

  1. Make Calming Breathing a Game 

Ujjayi breath is breathing from the diaphragm. A deep inhalation fills the diaphragm, then comes up to the lower abdomen, rises into the rib cage, moves up the chest and finally into the throat. Some yoga classes will refer to Ujjayi as the “ocean breath” because of the similarity between the sounds of the breath and ocean waves. For children, I like to also refer to it as “dragon breathing.” Dragon breathing creates fire and warms up the body. Ujjayi breath increases oxygen, builds internal body heat and regulates blood pressure. Every child I’ve ever worked with, loves to learn how to breathe like a dragon. When you are creating a visualization, it is important to remember you are trying to create a feeling. With counting and breathing, the heart rate will slow, blood pressure will begin to go down and calm will begin to set in.

3. Choose your words 

Your words create the feeling you are trying to achieve. Choose words that take action. For example, if you are trying to calm a child, choose words you associate with relaxation.  You may choose words such as: sink, drift or recline. Here is a short list of some of my favorite  visualization verbs to help you get started. 

  • notice
  • feel
  • relax
  • imagine
  • see
  • taste
  • smell
  • listen

4.  Take What Works and Leave the Rest

You counted down from ten and your child is still screaming? THAT’S OK! Some things will work and some things won’t. Every child is different and every situation is different, but trust me, when you find the magic phrase or the magic breath for your student – you’ll go to it over and over. Many of my students responded really well to music. Music became a reward. Some respond to stickers. 2020 is an unprecedented time for all of us. Continue to practice gratitude and positive reinforcement and watch how your student lights up. When they feel good, they act better. Take what works and leave the rest. 

5. Get Outside Help 

In a classroom, even the best teacher has an aide. There are now private teachers and tutors available as quickly as you can click a button on your screen. E Teacher App  is designed to connect high quality teachers and tutors  for face- to-face in person tutoring or private teaching. Many families desperately need a teacher to help either in person, or through virtual meet-ups. E Teacher App is a centralized platform to connect high quality teachers and tutors with these families. You are not alone. We’re in uncharted territory for all of us, but outside help is available. If you are interested in hiring a private tutor for one hour a week, or a private teacher for an entire week – teachers are eager to help. 

Why are we doing this?

When I started incorporating these tricks into my classroom teaching, It wasn’t until after I realized that I was on to something big, that I began researching why exactly this  was working. What I learned, amazed even me. I knew breathwork had been found to have numerous health benefits, including mental health. I was surprised to learn that programs that had adopted a regular relaxation practice into their curriculum, were seeing increased test scores, decreased behavior problems and increased classroom participation. Breathwork empowers people by creating focus. It allows you a space to become aware of how your body feels. 

By the way, this works great for both children and adults. Take deep breath Mom, you’re doing great. 

Kristi McDonald, is a serial entrepreneur, educator, and CEO of, the site created to help teachers and families navigate through the next school year. She is also a recognized children’s yoga specialist, published children’s author and Chapter Director of Boss Talks DFW. Connect with her or sign up at