I would try anything to get my kids to sleep. Well, anything legal and sensible. Clearly, many parents feel like I do. We're tired -- oh so very tired (yawn!) -- of this no-sleep business that it spawned a book with a curse word that almost every parent has chuckled over whether we want to admit it or not. So when I heard that yoga helps kids sleep better, I found my ohm.
My new favorite person Susie Lopez is a yoga educator and founder of the Look Up yoga series for children shared some of the poses to try with your kid before bed to get them to wind down, clear their mind, and sleep better. I think it's something the whole family should try.
Susie's recommended yoga poses and tips:
Moon Salutes: A lateral twist to the traditional Sun Salute
The moon reflects the sun and mirrors the mind. A moon salute calms your mind and gets your body ready for bed. Start in Tadasana, Mountain Pose with your belly pressed back against your spine, inhale your arms overhead, extend your right leg far to the side, and relax into a deep lunge, right elbow supporting body on knee or hand supporting on the floor behind your right knee. Fan your left hand over your head, trace your eyes to the tips of your fingers, and breathe for five deep breaths. Inhale, straighten your right leg and exhale, stand with arms out in a star. Then the other side: inhale your arms over head, extend your left leg far to the side relax into a deep lunge, left elbow supporting body on knee or hand supporting on the floor behind your left knee. Fan your right hand over your head and trace your eye to the tips of your fingers and breathe five deep breaths. Inhale and straighten your knee, exhale, and stand in a star. Finally, all phases of the moon are symbolized by a full, lateral revolution of the body. Inhale and slowly start allow your arms, shoulders, and torso to lean to the right and down, in between your legs, inhale on the way up as you finish rising up on the left. Then repeat on the opposite side to starting to the left. From the star position, exhale back into Tadasana, Mountain Pose. This sequence may bring on some yawns, that means it's working!
Unity “Hook Ups”
Brain Gym is a modern therapy that brings focus and calm by techniques, which cross the mid line of our neurological system. I use Brain Gym all the time with my kids and have found it a wonderful compliment with yoga. Sit in a crisscross position or a “yoga seat” and extend your right arm in front of you, thumb down, and say “One for me” then extend your left arm forward to meet the right, thumb down, and say "One for you." Cross right over left, clasp hands, and bring both arms under to rest against your chest with the final “Together in unity” and breathe 10 deep, long breaths from the base of your seat all the way to the top of your head. After 10 breaths, inhale and stretch your arms up and release back down, with a huge exhale. In Brain Gym, they say this “reboots your brain” to cause an immediate clarity and calm. In yoga, if you try to touch your belly back to your spine, the breath will travel more up your back and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for digestion and relaxation.
This came out of a necessity to calm my hyper and often violent little boy in the early days of our trying desperately to soothe his anxiety and not knowing what was causing our boy so much pain. Little egg came from a Mama’s heart but really is a sensory game which soothes in seconds. Years later my kids still ask for it. Have your child rest in a fetal position, on their knees, curled forward or what yoga calls “pose of a child.” Cover them with a comforter or blanket and press your hands gently but firmly down their spine as you ask, “I wonder what my baby will look like?” You can pretend it’s a dinosaur or a bird, anything but make a big fuss when they stir and crack a claw out from under the covers. They emerge to “happy birthday” and “welcome to the world little baby, you are so beautiful!” Don’t be surprised when they want to do it all over again.
Dream Inspiration/Dear Inner Self
My husband took an acting workshop and learned a great tool for finding the character within. I find it can soothe a child spooked by nightmares by empowering them to start their sleep with positive inspiration. After your baby has hatched and fed on imaginary food, let them snuggle down and ask them to compose a letter in their minds to their inner self. Ask them what or who inspires them and why. Then ask what they would imagine as a happy dream, does it relate to what they find inspiring? Encourage your child to describe the dream with lots of detail, ask the color of things, the sounds, the smells; these are dreams, anything can happen! In the morning be sure to ask if a snippet or two of what they had described slipped into their real dreams. Either way you know they fell asleep stretched out, oxygen rich, and empowered with visions of something positive, instead of something lurking under the bed!
Thanks, Susie! My kids -- who are 2 -- already love doing basic yoga poses. I'm going to teach them more (why not?!) ... because we all need better sleep and I'm willing to try (almost) anything.
Do you do yoga with your kids? Will you try it in the name of better sleep?
Image courtesy of Susie Lopez and BentOnLearning.org