Yoga at bedtime? Yes!
As a kindergarten teacher, I used to have frequent conversations with parents regarding the importance of bedtime routines. Although it’s no secret that sleep is vital for kids’ health, I discovered that many parents were unaware of how crucial the moments leading up to bedtime were.
Creating a nightly routine that includes sufficient time for kids to unwind can make all the difference in helping children sleep better. Many adults have already heard the advice: “Shut down electronics one hour before bed.”
Some of you may already have a setting on your phone that turns your screen to sleep mode or reminds you to wind down for bed. Although many kids don’t have phones yet, they need ways to unplug before sleeping, too.
Yoga practices offer simple and effective ways to help kids calm down and refocus for more restful sleep. Here are five ways to incorporate yoga concepts into your child’s bedtime routine:
Read mindfulness stories: There are numerous picture books that incorporate mindfulness, breath and yoga. Reading a book that helps your children become mindful by calming their bodies is a perfect step toward unwinding from a busy day. Books such as ABC Yoga by Christian Engel or Good Night Yoga by Mariam Gates are two wonderful options.
Many families already read stories at bedtime: Why not try switching out your usual books with a kid’s yoga story instead?
Meditate with visualizations: Visualizing is similar to meditating. When a person visualizes, they allow their brain to concentrate on a single idea, which allows their brain-clutter to turn off.
Although kids don’t have office work or bills to think about before bedtime, they still worry about things such as homework, friends, gym class or piano lessons (to name a few). There are countless meditation apps adults and kids can use together. Wellbeyond is one that caters to kids —
or find more (rated by parents) at commonsensemedia.org.
Kids also benefit from listening to visualization stories read by Mom/Dad as a way to meditate. Visualization stories, read in a soothing voice by a person they love and trust, help children picture happy places as they close their eyes.
You can read free visualization stories at minnesotakidsyogaco.com/teaching-resources or simply Google “visualization stories for kids” and you’ll find several examples to get your family started.
Practice breathing: Using your breath to calm your mind is such a powerful tool. Breathing together as a family can be done by having kids count to 4 as they inhale and exhale or by using fun objects such as balloons, feathers or an expandable ball called a Hoberman sphere.
Kids love using toys as concrete demonstrations during breathing exercises. (I do it with my students all the time.) Teaching kids to use their breath as a way to calm down and relax is helpful, not just at bedtime, but throughout their days as well.
Yoga in bed: Have your kids try simple yoga poses in their bed! Make sure they practice poses that don’t require standing or balancing — to keep the heart rate low. Poses such as legs up the wall, cat-cow and child’s pose are ideal options for promoting rest and relaxation, much like during a surrender series at the end of a yoga class.
Affirmation volleyball: This practice is simply the art of giving compliments to a loved one, with compliments going back and forth. Having a child and a parent practice saying kind statements to each other creates a relationship built on love, respect and positivity. Affirmations recited before bed allow kids to fall asleep thinking about how much they’re loved. Further, the more you tell something to children, the more they believe it!
Can you imagine what kind of impact powerful words such as “I am proud of you” could do, especially if your child fell asleep hearing them each night?
One of my favorite quotes from the book Positive Parenting by best-selling author Rebecca Eanes is, “Your words sow seeds in your children’s hearts. From those seeds spring up either confidence or uncertainty … worth or worthlessness. … Your words create the beginning of their life stories, and they will carry this story with them always.”
Therefore, build confidence, joy and worth in your child’s life. Teach your kids to be strong, patient, creative and mindful. Help them develop a good night’s sleep so they can conquer the world (or at least school the next day)!
For more information on kid’s yoga — or to sign your child up for a yoga class — go to minnesotakidsyogaco.com.
Alexa Simon is a local adult and kid’s yoga teacher and the owner of Minnesota Kid’s Yoga Co. in Minneapolis. She also teaches a mindfulness curriculum to children around the Twin Cities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in special education.