Lesson plan

Mindfulness: Butterfly Breath

What if you imagine your lungs as wings? In this lesson, a butterfly helps teach students about mindful breathing. Learn to use the butterfly breath in three different ways!
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  • Students will be able to use a breathing technique to explore mindfulness.
(5 minutes)
  • Show the picture of the lungs, and ask the students if they can identify the image.
  • Give a brief overview of the lungs. For example: "Your lungs are inside your body and allow you to breath. Every time you breathe in they expand (open), and when you breathe out they contract (close)."
  • Ask the students to put their hands on their ribs to feel the expansion and contraction, guiding them through several breaths.
  • Ask the students how the breath helps them to be in the present moment. For example, "The breath is always happening, every moment, without effort."
(10 minutes)
  • Have the students sit in a circle.
  • Explain that they will learn a special way to breath, called the butterfly breath.
  • Explain that when you focus on how you are breathing, it is called mindful breathing, because you are paying attention to what is happening.
  • Explain that they can learn from the butterfly about how to breathe mindfully.
  • Show the picture of a butterfly.
  • Ask how the wings might look like lungs.
  • Ask the students to think about their lungs like wings that expand and contract, open and close, inside their body.
  • Explain that they can learn to use those wings even more fully through mindful breathing.
  • Demonstrate the butterfly breath. To do the breath: hook the thumbs and curl the fingers in toward the palms. With the in-breath the fingers open/expand, and with the out-breath they curl back in.
  • Lead the students in the butterfly breath 10 times.
  • Ask how the mindful breathing makes them feel.
(10 minutes)
  • Have the students stand up, spread out, and find their own space to stand with enough room to move their bodies.
  • Explain they will grow their wings and use their full arms now to breath.
  • Demonstrate how to use the full arm for the butterfly breath: expanding into full wingspan with in-breath, and curling in toward the center of the body with out-breath.
  • Lead the students in the full arm butterfly breath 10 times.
  • Ask how the mindful breathing makes them feel.
  • Bring students back into a large circle.
  • Demonstrate the last butterfly breath: the butterfly pose on the ground. For butterfly pose: the feet are together, knees apart, and the legs become the wings. Move the legs and knees down on in-breath, and together on out-breath.
  • Lead the students in this butterfly breath 10 times.
  • Ask how the mindful breathing makes them feel.
  • Explain that now the students will get to choose their favorite butterfly breath, seated, standing, or lying down.
  • Explain that they will now breathe on their own, and that you will sound the chime at the beginning and end of the time.
  • Ring the chime, use the timer to mark one minute, and then ring the chime at the end. Make sure that the timer is silent.
  • Bring the students back into the circle, and ask them to reflect on if that time felt different or the same.
(10 minutes)
  • Preview the Mindfulness: Butterfly Breath worksheet.
  • Distribute worksheets, and have students complete them independently.
  • Walk around the room and support students with their work.


  • Encourage students to write in complete sentences on their worksheet.
  • Have students invent another way to do the butterfly breath with their body. They can draw it out and list the instructions on the back of their worksheet.


  • If they are having difficulty with writing, allow students to just draw responses on the worksheet.
(5 minutes)
  • In partners, have students discuss what mindful breathing is and when they might want to use it in their lives. Rotate around the room and listen to the conversations.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students share their reflections. Ask how can they can use mindful breathing to help them. Ask students to help you decide on good times in the school day to stop and practice the butterfly breath together.

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