Alphabet books date back all the way to the 1500s and were originally used to teach morals and religious principles alongside early reading skills. They've come quite a long way since then, with some excellent mindfulness-practice books now on the market, like Christine Engel's ABC Mindful Me and ABC Yoga.
Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing is an inspired new addition to this genre. Starting with "Alligator Breath" and ending with "Zzzz Breath," the authors — clinical psychologist Christopher Willard and mindfulness educator Daniel Rechtschaffen — combine breath patterns with animals and other natural imagery to relax and invigorate all who try them. Rechtschaffen devotes his dedication "To all the kids who invented these breaths as we taught, learned, and played mindfulness together," so they're bonafide kid tested.
Some of our favorites are "Gratitude Breath," where you breathe in thinking of someone for whom you're grateful and breathe out sending them a smile; "Join Your Breath," where you breathe in unison with a friend; and "Teddy Bear Breath," where you lie supine with a teddy bear on your belly and observe it going up and down. That's one of the many places we noticed how much illustrator Holly Clifton-Brown's endearing pictures add to the book: We see a girl looking curious and attentive as she blows over her teddy bear's belly, and his smile suggests that he's enjoying himself, too.
Alphabreaths is designed for 4 - 8 year olds, but what a pleasure it would be for an older child or teenager to take time out from their stresses and anxieties to read this book aloud to a younger sibling or friend, practicing in tandem. We confess to having gone through the entire sequence — sometimes a little shyly lest anyone misinterpret our "letting out a powerful (but quiet) roar" on the "Lion Breath" — and feeling much more awake and aware afterwards.