Sleep has always been a challenge in my house, for children and adults alike. Sleep affects everything from our overall energy level to mood to even our academic and professional skills. One thing that has helped my own sleep, as well as my son’s, is yoga.
Here are some of my favourite ways to incorporate yoga into sleep hygiene for your little ones—and for yourself.
Think like a yogi before bedtime
About the author
Emily Gold is a yoga therapist and teacher, doula, and public health specialist. She is currently living abroad, in Brussels, Belgium.
Yoga is all about balance. Ideally, active practices would happen in the morning, with a slowing down at night. Of course, this can’t always be possible in the real world but as much as possible, try to cut out active and stimulating activities at least an hour before bedtime. Ideally, nighttime yoga focuses on slowing down and letting go.
One of the best ways to “come down” in yoga is to forward fold. This means to bring your forehead forward towards the ground. It helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, known as the “rest and digest” system. Forward folds can be practiced sitting or lying down. If your lower back bothers you, keep your knees a bit bent. Your kids may also like the “butterfly” version of this pose: Bring the bottoms of your feet together and then invite your butterfly to “go back to their cocoon” bringing the forehead towards the feet.
This is a popular yoga pose, for good reason. As its name suggests, it’s a pose children often take for comfort. When my son was a toddler, he often slept in this pose. It allows for turning inwards, like the forward folds, plus stimulates some of the cranial nerves in the forehead that are great for relaxation. For many people, this is a very safe pose to be in and you can even do it on your bed.
Happy baby pose
This is a great way to settle into bed. Lying on your back, hug your knees in towards your chest. Then take the soles of your feet towards the ceiling, holding onto either your feet or the back of your thighs, knees towards armpits. Rock slowly back and forth. This is another “natural” baby pose and it can still provide a real sense of comfort and relaxation for your baby no matter their age.
Legs up the wall
This is another regular favourite in our house that can be done on the floor or in bed. Sitting down, simply bring the side of one hip to a wall and scoot your body so your back is against the floor and your legs are up against the wall. It’s fine if your hips and bum aren’t touching the wall—just try to have your tailbone and low back on the floor. This is a great way to change up the circulation, change your perspective, and settle in. Great for adults and kids alike.
Yoga bedtime stories
If you’re looking for some more yoga poses and ideas there are some wonderful yoga picture books for kids of all ages. Kids can follow along doing all the bedtime-themed poses.
Tense and relax meditation
Invite your kids to lie down and bring their awareness to their feet. After a few moments, invite them to breathe in and squeeze their feet “tighter, tighter, tighter” and then breath out and relax. Depending on the age of your kids, you can focus on bigger or smaller body groups. For preschoolers, I usually focus on “feet and toes, legs, belly, arms and shoulders, hands and face.” With older kids, you can do a slightly longer version of this sequence. You can lead yourself in this practice before bed or if you wake in the middle of the night.
Guide a relaxation
Instead of just telling a story with words for your child to visualize, allow them to bring their whole body into it. There are a number of ways to do this by focusing on visualizing a safe comfortable environment to fall asleep. You can ask them to pretend to be their favourite animal and think of where they’d sleep: what does it feel like, smell like, what’s the temperature? You can also invite them to imagine falling asleep in their favourite place in the world and invite all of the senses to imagine what this would feel like.
Photos of forward fold and child’s pose courtesy of Emily Gold.