Winding down after a long day may be easy at times for adults but I have found it can be a challenge for my little ones if we do not approach it with a gentle bedtime routine. There are some wonderful yoga techniques that you can use to assist your children in settling in to bed, helping to calm their body and mind, and allowing them to drift away to sleep.
In this post I want to introduce you to the “belly breathe” or as some children like to call it “balloon breathing.”
Have your child lie on her back, gently close her eyes and place her hands over her belly. Let her settle in here for a moment. Fidgeting will probably happen, and let that naturally occur. Even as adults on our most rested day we tend to still fidget when the mind and body are first encouraged to relax. Ensure your child is dressed comfortably and is at a comfortable temperature (i.e.: does she want blankets, or no? Would she prefer to wear her socks, or remove them?)
With a soft voice ask your child the questions below, allowing for pauses and reflection. Ask your child to try not to talk but rather to think about his answer inside his mind.
1. Are any parts of your body moving?
*Most likely some part of her body will want to move: she may fidget, fix her hair, scratch an itch, etc. Try not to draw attention to it or dwell on any movement. This question is more to get your child to scan her body and begin to understand that if she quiets her mind and focuses on one thing (i.e.: is her body moving) she can begin to control her movements and thoughts.
2. Do you feel your belly and hands rising and falling with each breath?
3. Can you try to make your belly rise up even more?
4. Can you try to make your belly rise up very slowly and rise down very slowly?
5. Imagine your belly like a balloon. Try to blow up your balloon very slowly and very big and then let all the air come out of your balloon.
6. As your belly rises and falls imagine many balloons floating around in the sky. Notice their colours. Notice if they are flying high or low.
Encourage your child to continue filling his belly slowly with the breath as you speak in a soothing and soft voice. You may find your child is more responsive to this technique at first if you introduce it during the day and/or you participate with him.
May your breath be calm and slow and may many zzzzz’s come your way!
Amanda DeGrace, President & Founder of Little Lotus Yoga, can be found at www.littlelotusyoga.ca. When she is not sharing her love for yoga with others she is at home snuggled with her 3-year-old boy and 18-month-old baby girl. Follow her on twitter at @amandadegrace or on Facebook.