A sixth-grade class at Guteskolan in Sweden have been doing breathing retraining for four weeks. In this article, students and teachers share their experiences that are based partly on the original article “Higher concentration with breathing retraining” which you can find here at Guteskolan’s web page, and partly on individual interviews.
During the spring, the students have been practicing on improving their breathing as part of the school’s health profile. The question was whether better breathing patterns could provide some nice benefits – for example, better results on the exams. And now, we’ve compiled the answers.
We can go for weeks without food, and for days without water. But without air, we survive only for a few minutes. This says a lot about the importance of oxygen. We take about 25 000 breaths every single day, but, according to research, it’s also important that the breathing happens in the right way so that the body gets all the oxygen it needs.
Breathing Retraining with The Relaxator
So, how do you go about optimizing your breathing patterns? There are several ways to do that, and one of them is to use The Relaxator – a gadget similar to a pacifier that extends the exhale, lower the inhale and makes the breathing slower and more rhythmical.
Since March, the six-graders at Guteskolan has been using the Relaxator together with Breathing Instructor Maud Hultqvist. The students have been practicing with the Relaxator for about ten minutes each morning, both in the form of regular use when sitting still and also in combination with simple body movements.
This helped them to move from a fairly overexcited state with a lot of thoughts and ideas, into a slower and calmer state, which helped them to start off their school days in a much better way. They’ve also been instructed to think about their breathing in everyday life – what it’s like when they’ve been frightened, felt angry, played video games, or while being physically active.
Emina: My reading comprehension has improved
So, what has it been like to do breathing retraining in the class? The majority of the students says it’s been exciting and useful.
To Emina, the experience has been positive in many different ways.
– I don’t become as stressed out anymore. My asthma has improved, and I don’t have to take my medicine as often as I used to. And my reading comprehension, which was actually pretty bad previously, has improved since we started using the Relaxator.
Tindra is also positive.
– When I practice martial arts, I think about breathing low, slow, and through the nose. And when I do that, I have more energy and greater stamina. When I’m stressed or angry, I adjust my breathing, and that makes me feel happier.
Here are a few more comments from the students:
– I can handle my anger better
– My nose isn’t as stuffed as before
– By breathing better, I can focus better on the tasks in front of me
– Breathing helps me to take it easy and not pant so much and I also get less afraid
– You need to give the breathing some time. Change doesn’t happen right away. It takes a lot of patience.
Better exam results
According to a great majority of the students, the breathing exercises has yielded a positive result, which can be seen in the compilation that was put together after the four week period when the Relaxator was used.
When asked to describe how the breathing retraining has affected their school work, 14 out of 16 students were positive. One student wrote: “Before we began it was harder to stay calm, but now I’m calm and silent, and my concentration is good.”
Better concentration is a recurring theme among the responses. And, according to teacher Marianne Weimer, it also shows when the students are taking exams.
– After we started with the breathing retraining, the big difference is that most of the students find it easier to settling down and reading the questions thoroughly. They claim to experience greater calm, deeper focus, and more energy, which makes it simpler to read and understand every problem, and thus be able to answer all the questions correctly. That could be one of the reasons why their results have improved, says Marianne.
When asked how the breathing retraining has affected the students personally, a couple of them say that it hasn’t affected them at all. At the same time, several others say that it has helped treat their anxiety, improve their mood, made them calmer, and above all given them more energy to do physical activity after school.
One student writes: “I sleep better and have more energy.” And the teacher, Marianne, who has also done the breathing exercises, agrees: – I think I’ve become calmer myself, and think more about how I breathe.
When it comes to recommending the Relaxator to other schools, one student answered no, and two said maybe. The others answered yes, and one student wrote: “Yes, to the schools that are more disorderly and have a noisy classroom.” Another comment said: “Yes, because the classroom is now quieter.”
All students wanted to use The Relaxator during national exam
Maud Hultqvist is a teacher at Guteskolan. She is also a certified Breathing Instructor and initiator of the breathing retraining at the school.
Maud feels that both teachers and students are very positive and that the Conscious Breathing Retraining is here to stay. Here are a few things she would like to highlight:
– During the project the students took their national exams in mathematics, and ALL of them wanted to use the Relaxator to concentrate better. So, they’ve all caught on 🙂
– The high school students were on a hike a while back. I was in charge of the station where they were supposed to relax. My previous students, who had been doing breathing retraining six months earlier, and are now in the seventh grade, could relax immediately.
For almost all of them, it took just a couple of seconds before they were in a meditative state and deeply relaxed. This was in HUGE contrast compared to the eight- and ninth-graders, who didn’t have any experience with breathing retraining. They had a much harder time relaxing, and a lot of them didn’t manage to wind down at all.
– A colleague who teaches first- and second-graders was inspired by our breathing project and nowadays when the young students are “all over the place”, they do breathing exercises, which makes them calm again.
– I also teach upper secondary school psychology. After finishing a 12-week course where we had covered everything from Freud to mental illness, I asked the students about their main takeaway from the course. Several of them answered that what they’d learned about breathing was fascinating and that it had made the most impact on them.