By Heather Lee Leap
You know those nights when you just can’t sleep, when your mind is racing, or you’re tense and wound up? Those symptoms aren’t reserved for adults.
Young children can feel anxious, energetic or disconnected at bedtime, just like you. Research is beginning to catch up with the anecdotal evidence that suggests children who practice yoga-based movement, breathing and mindfulness activities are better able to regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves. Those same practices can help you and your child connect and wind down toward a more successful bedtime.
The following bedtime yoga routine begins with a few standing poses to get the last of the day’s wiggles out, then moves toward poses that are more soothing to the nervous system to ease you and your child toward restful repose.
The descriptions of the poses are for your general understanding. Please don’t pressure your child to do the poses “correctly.” Instead strive to cultivate a spirit of relaxation and fun. Encourage your child to follow along as you model the exercises.
Better-Bedtime Yoga Routine
Basic Sun Breath – Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Breathe in through your nose while raising both arms out to the sides and bringing your palms together above your head. Exhale and continue to press your palms together as you lower your hands to your heart. Repeat this breath sequence 3-4 times, breathing slowly through your nose.
Crescent Moon Pose – Pause at the top of a Sun Breath. Keeping your arms overhead, create a crescent moon shape by curving your torso to one side. Pause on that side for several breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Downward Dog Pose – Come down to the floor on your hands and knees with your fingers spread wide like starfish. Turn your toes under and lift your hips up and back. Yoga dogs sometimes like to bark or growl to get rid of the day’s frustrations. They also like to wag their tails by wiggling their hips or by stretching one leg at a time out and up behind them.
Butterfly Pose and Butterfly Forward Fold – Sit on the floor with your knees out to the sides and the soles of your feet touching. Place your hands on your shoulders and circle your elbows while gently lifting and lowering your knees to fly. Engage your child’s imagination by asking what color their wings are, or what they might see if they were fluttering through a garden.
Next, raise both arms overhead, stretching long through your torso, and fold forward over your feet. For greater connection, sit facing your child in this pose and hold hands to give each other a gentle, supported stretch.
Child’s Pose – Kneel with your hips resting on your feet and drape your torso over your thighs to rest your forehead on the floor, a yoga block, or a small pillow. Rest your arms on the floor by your sides, or stretch your arms forward to hold hands with your child.
Buddy Breathing – Tuck your child up in bed with a favorite stuffed animal. Have your child place the toy on his belly and imagine he is rocking his “buddy” to sleep as his belly rises and falls with each breath.
Adapt this routine to suit your energy and the available time. Just a few minutes of breath and movement can help you and your child release tension and drift more easily toward Dream Land.
-Heather Lee Leap is a writer, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and a Next Generation Yoga Teacher. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps member in a program to support families with children ages 0-3. Find Heather at www.wellnessandwords.com