Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to have a better bedtime with your children using yoga.
During a busy school year, sleep routines become of utmost importance in keeping energy levels and mood balanced in both kids and adults. Yoga is renowned for its ability to relax the body and the mind. As a Yoga Therapist, I have seen many people start practicing yoga and improve their sleep. As yoga is a tool that can benefit both kids and parents alike, it is important that parents practice these exercises with their child. This builds a relaxing connection and gives the child a yogic role model.
Yoga Moves for a Better Bedtime:
Deep breathing is a very popular recommendation, for good reason. Deep, slow breaths trigger the relaxation response and slow our heart rate. The mind is connected to the body through the breath, so deep breaths also keep the mind calm and content. My favorite deep breathing exercise for kids is to have them imagine that there is a balloon inside their body. When they breathe in, they fill the balloon and when they breathe out, the balloon empties. After getting comfortable with this image, ask them to slowly fill the balloon in three smaller breaths. Breath one fills the belly, breath two fills the chest, breath three fills the balloon all the way up, and then slowly let the air out of the balloon. Repeat this breath at least two times, working up to ten or more repetitions.
Stretching is a great way to release tension that has accumulated in the body over the day and prepare it for sleep. Certain yoga poses energize the system and others relax it, so it is important to keep a before bed yoga practice slow, to allow the mind to unwind. Forward bends are particularly helpful, as they stimulate the vagus nerve – a deep nerve that induces the relaxation response through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. A simple sequence I like to practice before bed includes:
- Reach to the stars: Start by standing with your child, relaxed but tall. Reach your arms overhead so that your palms face inward, toward one another. Start by reaching your right arm a little higher than the left, keeping both feet rooted to the floor. Reach as high as you can for the stars, then relax your right arm, so that both arms are overhead, facing inward again. Now reach your left arm high to try and touch a star, then relax. Repeat this once more with each arm and then relax your arms down by your sides. When your breathing has returned to normal, reach both arms up again. Try to touch the stars with both arms at once and then reach your arms forward and down, to touch your toes. It is a good idea to bend your knees slightly, especially if you feel any pain in your back.
- Gentle Twist: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. You can sit on a blanket or cushion if this is uncomfortable. Sit up tall but relaxed and breathe in. As you exhale, bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand on the floor next to you, as you twist your belly and chest to the right, gently looking right or closing your eyes. As you breathe in, instruct your child to imagine all the positive things that will happen tomorrow entering his or her body. As you breathe out, imagine all the less than positive things that happened today leave her or his body. Breathe like this a few times. Inhale to bring your body back to center and then repeat on the other side.
- Child’s Pose: Child’s pose can be a very soothing pose, allowing us to draw our attention inward. Kneeling, bring your toes together, as you sit your bum on your heels. Lean forward and release your torso over your thighs, relaxing your head to the floor and arms down by the side of your body with your palms facing up. If this feels claustrophobic, move your arms overhead, with your elbows on the floor. Feel your breath as it moves your back and the sides of your body.
- Legs Up the Wall: This pose can be practiced in the sequence above or on its own. Putting your legs up the wall is very relaxing and feels great! Make sure that your bum is near enough to the wall, so you feel no strain in your back or legs. Bending the knees slightly can further relax the body. You may also try placing a folded blanket or small pillow under your bum and low-back or under your head and neck. Try to make your body as comfortable as possible. Focus on slow, deep breaths moving the belly. Stay here for 30 seconds or longer. Lie flat on the floor for a few breaths before standing up.
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NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!