Lesson 3: Relaxation: Breathing exercises

Learning how relaxation affects the body, children learn breathing techniques to aid relaxation

Before the lesson

Have ready

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Activity: Breathing exercises
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Learning objective

  • To use breathing exercises to relax

Statutory guidance

Mental wellbeing

Pupils should know:

  • simple self-care techniques, including the importance of rest, time spent with friends and family and the benefits of hobbies and interests.
  • that mental wellbeing is a normal part of daily life, in the same way as physical health.

Success criteria

  • I understand how relaxation affects the body
  • I know that it is important to have relaxation strategies
  • I know how to use breathing to help myself relax 
  • I can describe suitable times and places for using breathing techniques to relax

Cross-curricular links

  • PSHE Association’s Programme of Study for PSHE Education

Attention grabber

Ask the children how much exercise they have done this week. Have they tried any new activities? Were they on their own or were they playing as part of a group?

Discuss how they know when their body is ready for exercise and effects on the body during and after energetic activities. Explain that your body has ways of getting you ready for exercise, e.g. heart beats faster to get more oxygen around the body so that muscles can work harder. 

Ask how they feel when they’re feeling nervous or stressed. Explain that this can sometimes be a good thing because, like exercise, it is getting your body ready for what it needs to do.

However, it is not healthy to feel like this all the time. Relaxing and resting allow your body to repair itself so that you’re ready for what’s next.

Key questions

  • How does exercise help our bodies?
  • How do we feel if we are nervous or stressed?

Main event

Why is relaxation important? 

Discuss some of its effects on the body:

  • allows your body to repair itself
  • restores your energy
  • makes you more alert
  • helps your memory
  • helps you to learn and concentrate
  • helps your immune system – can stop you from getting ill
  • can make is easier to stay calm

Relaxation not only has positive effects on the body, but it can also help you to respond calmly and thoughtfully to difficult situations. Often, if dealing with difficult emotions, it helps to step back, use relaxation techniques to calm down and then look at the situation again. This can help you to see more clearly rather than doing or saying something that you will regret once you have calmed down.

Get pupils to suggest ways to relax and note ideas on the board.

Ask: How might breathing help you relax?

Ask children to get into a comfortable position then talk them through either:

  1. The Activity: Breathing exercises and test each of the four strategies in turn, talking the children through getting themselves comfortable and helping them with counting their breaths.


  1. Watch the ‘4-7-8 breathing’ clip from GoZen! (who are endorsed by clinical psychologists) or the ‘Mindfulness Meditation’ video which will talk pupils through relaxing breathing exercises (from New Horizon).

Following whichever activity you chose, ask pupils to describe how they are feeling. Did any colours come to mind during the breathing exercises?

Ask them to name situations where this might be a useful technique to use. What would they need in order to do this? Quiet place? Space to sit down? 

Set pupils the challenge of creating a poster in groups showing each of these techniques.

Key questions

  • Why is relaxation important?
  • What can we do to relax?


Pupils needing extra support: Might need to work as part of a guided group to remember different breathing exercises. 

Pupils working at greater depth: Should try a range of breathing exercises and describe the pros and cons of each of them.

Should describe in detail how relaxation makes them feel and how it affects the body.

Wrapping up

Discuss when would be a good time to use these breathing techniques? Pose the fact that we brush our teeth twice a day to keep them clean rather than only cleaning them when they start to look dirty or unhealthy. In this same way, it is better to incorporate relaxation into our routine rather than only use it when we are feeling stressed or trying to manage difficult feelings.

Over the next few days you might want to take the opportunity to practice the breathing techniques again with the class so they can do them easily when they need to.


Key question


  • When might we use these breathing techniques?

Assessing pupils' progress and understanding

Pupils with secure understanding indicated by: Describing the positive effects of relaxation and knowing there are different ways to relax. Knowing how to use breathing exercises to relax.

Pupils working at greater depth indicated by: Understanding and describing how exercise and relaxation can affect the body and starting to understand how different emotions can cause similar effects. They know a range of relaxation techniques, including breathing exercises, and can suggest when they might be useful.


  • Exercise

  • Relax

  • Relaxation

  • Breath

Created by:
Sarah Huggins,  
Relationships & Sex Education specialist
Sarah has over 20 years’ experience in education. Starting as a Primary teacher, Sarah then moved into an advisory roleA particular job you do as part of a larger task that covered both PSHE education and Citizenship. She delivers courses…
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