We have often heard that establishing a bedtime routine can help our children to settle down for bed and can help end bedtime battles. Bedtime routines can vary and often change depending on the child’s age. Some work well; others do not. Yoga can help calm the mind and body making it easier to drift off to sleep. I don’t advocate for ditching your whole bedtime routine (those teeth aren’t going to brush themselves!) but try the following ideas to see which one works for your child.
First and foremost, do you have a child that STILL has a lot of energy about an hour before bedtime? (You can’t see me but I’m raising my hand.) Instead of trying to suppress this energy with “quiet time,” help them get that energy out. Quiet time can fail and leave you and the child feeling frustrated. I let my child pick songs that they love to dance to. Let them shake and boogie even if it means they are also jumping around and falling on the floor. Or does that only happen in my house? I throw some Yoga poses into the songs as well, mostly standing poses. Just a couple songs and I guarantee your child will begin to slow down. Often times their bodies will slow down but their mind may still be going a mile a minute. This is where calming Yoga poses and breathing exercises come in handy.
Yoga poses where the head falls below the heart signal the parasympathetic nervous system to calm down. Childs Pose is the traditional resting pose in yoga that is calming and emotionally nourishing. If you like to calm down with your little one, you would get into Childs Pose and have them sit on your tailbone (not on your back) and slowly lay down, spine-to-spine, with their arms out to the side or overhead. My son calls this Lizard on a Rock. Down Dog brings the head below the heart which increases blood flow to the brain and calms the mind. Too antsy for Down Dog? Again you can help. The parent gets into Table Pose on hands and knees. The child again sits on your tailbone and lays down spine to spine. You can rock back and forth in this pose which is soothing to the nervous system. If you feel stable, drop to your fore arms which will allow the child’s head to drop below their heart. Other calming poses are Ragdoll, Plow, Bridge, and Dolphin. When doing these poses, the child should also be breathing deeply into their belly.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) is another thing we can do to signal our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in to help calm the mind. If you see your child’s chest rising and falling when taking a deep breath, then you will need to teach them how to get that breath down to their belly. Have them lie down and place a favored stuffed animal on their belly. Encourage them to get that breath all the way into their belly (expanding their lungs to their full capacity and therefore getting their diaphragm muscle to lower) and to watch their furry friend “ride” the waves of their breath. It may help to tell them to visualize they are blowing up balloon while inhaling.
Smelling essential oils while breathing deeply can also be used. My go to essential oil (5 drops diluted in a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil) is Lavender Oil. Taking 3 deep breaths of this scent has an instant calming effect. Roman Chamomile is also known to soothe a tantrum and aid in a good night’s sleep. Important Note: Since children respond very well to low amounts of these oils, use only half of the amount recommended for adults.) If I know my children have had a really tough day, I also massage their temples, arms and hands with my trusty Lavender Oil.
All the above have been kid tested in my household and I hope they help your dear little-ones drift off to a peaceful sleep.