Homework is done, bellies are full, the kitchen is clean and my daily mom duties are coming to a close. But for some reason, every night, when it is time for my three kids to get ready for bed, they get a second wind. They begin to run around, play or grab their favorite toy. They remind me of wind-up toys that keep going and going.
Their young bodies are not totally exhausted like mine, and they don’t desire the sweet silence of a sleeping house, so they are not motivated to go to bed. With my yoga background, I understand they cannot just flip the switch from active play to rest. Instead they need time to transition and prepare their bodies for sleep. Yoga breathing and poses help calm my children and create a shift in their mood, which triggers the relaxation response in their bodies, and enables them to not only fall asleep faster, but sleep better.
The first thing I do is reduce their sensory input. We turn the lights down and turn off the music and other electronics. While seated comfortably, we practice Take 5 Breath, which helps to calm and center them. We then do a special Peace Breath; as we quietly exhale the word “peace,” we begin to imagine what peace looks like. We also like to say other words, like “love” or “ kindness,” and try to visualize those words too.
Child’s Pose is naturally calming and is a great way to not only release tensions in the back and hips, but as a gentle inversion, it also calms the nervous system. While lying on our backs, we do a little progressive relaxation exercise described in Lemon Toes Pose. We pretend to drink sour lemonade through our toes as we squeeze all the muscles in our bodies and then relax them. This helps us to release muscular tension and rest. Lastly, we practice Swim Ducky Swim. By placing a little stuffed toy on our bellies, we breathe more fully and deeply with our diaphragm as we take it for a little ride. Focusing on the exhale helps to relax the body even more.
After a few minutes of deep breathing, my kids are finally ready to go to sleep and I can enjoy the beautiful silence. To help make the transition to bedtime a breeze, create a routine with your kids and include some yoga breathing exercises and poses. Do the poses with them and notice how you sleep better too! (Learn all these poses in our YogaKids book!)
- Take 5 Breath
- Peace Breath
- Child’s Pose
- Lemon Toes
- Swim Ducky Swim