Belly Breathing

Deep Breathing, Diaphragmatic Breathing, Abdominal Breathing, Calm Breathing

Belly Breathing (often referred to as "Deep Breathing" with older students) is an emotional self-regulation technique that reduces stress and anxiety by increasing awareness and slowing of one's breathing. This is done by taking slow and controlled breaths from the diaphragm while maintaining awareness of the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. When experiencing anxiety or agitation, Belly Breathing can help students relax and maintain or regain self-control. Basic Instructions
-Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
-Place hands on knees or on belly, shoulders relaxed.
-Inhale slowly to the count of five.
-Feel your belly expand as you breathe in.
-Breathe out slowly through your nose, counting to five.
-Repeat this cycle five to ten times.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Self-Regulation Tool

6 Steps to Belly/Deep Breathing Posters

Posters to guide students to engage in a Belly/Deep Breathing exercise. The posters outline the six steps of Belly/Deep Breathing and include a variation with visual steps. Belly Breathing and Deep Breathing are the same exercises -- different language has been selected to suit younger and older students, respectively.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages

Self-Regulation Tool

The When and Why of Belly Breathing

Posters to inform students about Belly/Deep Breathing exercises. The posters contain information about the benefits of Belly/Deep Breathing and when to use the technique. Belly Breathing and Deep Breathing are the same exercises -- different language has been selected to suit younger and older students, respectively.

Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages

Self-Regulation Tool

Visual Checklists for Belly Breathing

Visual checklists to guide students to engage in Belly Breathing exercises. Variations include vertical and horizontal checklists that can be taped to student desks or inserted in a student’s notebook or binder.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 2 pages

Self-Regulation Tool

Binder Checklists for Deep Breathing

Binder checklists to guide students to engage in Deep Breathing exercises. The checklists can be taped in a student’s notebook or binder for reference throughout the day.

Grade 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages

Implementation Tips

Teddy Bear Breathing for Young Students
Use a variation called “Teddy Bear Breathing” for very young children. Place the child’s favorite stuffed animal or personal item on their stomach and have the student watch it rise and fall with each breath. Giving students something tangible to monitor their breathing helps them be more engaged and ensures they are implementing Belly Breathing properly.
Encouraging Participation
Increase participation and reduce students’ self-consciousness by modeling the action for the students before asking students to do so. Additionally, to reduce the risk students may feel when implementing, have them close their eyes and/or face the outside of a circle. Regularly practicing Belly Breathing as a whole class can also help students feel less self-conscious.
Visualize a Balloon
Have older students visualize a balloon being inflated and deflated as they breathe in and out. Using this strategy helps students to focus on taking proper deep breaths where the lungs inflate and expand their rib cages.


Classroom Routines
Upon returning from any major transition (e.g., recess, lunch, break, station work to individual work), a teacher invites students engage in Belly Breathing as a class. During the exercise, the teacher references an anchor chart that highlights each step of Belly Breathing. By adding Belly Breathing to the daily schedule, students get repeated exposure and practice, increasing the likelihood of generalizing the skill to other non-routine situations.
Test Taking
Before students begin taking a test, a teacher encourages the class utilize Deep Breathing to help them remain calm and focused. The teacher attaches a step-by-step visual checklist to the the test with written and verbal reminders of when to use the strategy (e.g., “Use Deep Breathing when you’re frustrated because you don’t know the answer, feel confused, or before you ask for help.”). Throughout the test, individual students pause periodically and engage in Deep Breathing before continuing.
Self-Regulating Behaviors
A teacher meets with a student who frequently engages in behaviors that adversely affect social, emotional, or academic well-being (e.g., yelling out in class, hitting classmates, tantrums). During the Student-Teacher Conference, the student and teacher discuss warning signs or triggers preceding negative behaviors, and the teacher coaches the student to use Belly Breathing in these situations. Throughout the day, the teacher provides verbal reminders to prompt the student when needed (e.g., “I see that you’re feeling frustrated. Let’s close our eyes and do Belly Breathing.”).

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