Yoga has long been known to help release stress and anxiety, to calm our minds, soothe our emotions and relieve physical aches and pains. It is time to bring these long-lasting benefits to the children in our lives. Whether you are a parent or teacher, or you work with children in any capacity, here are some practices that provide real benefits and are easy to do in the comfort of your own home.
These three exercises will help children sleep more soundly, calm overactive little minds, and develop confidence and self-esteem.
No more sleepless nights
One of the most common complaints I hear from parents when they bring their children to yoga classes is that they are sleeping poorly.
Because of today’s fast-paced life, children’s bodies and minds get very little rest or downtime, so when bedtime comes, it is difficult for them to shut off. Yoga re-educates children about how to self-calm and regulate their minds and emotions – best of all, it can lead to a deep sleep, allowing them to get the rejuvenation they need. By the end of a yoga session, parents notice how calm the children are and how soundly they sleep that night.
Here is a great exercise to do before bedtime: it will channel excess energy and calm those little minds and bodies.
Bedtime Child's Pose
Give your little one the following instructions...
Curl up into a little ball. Tuck in your chin and nestle your forehead against the floor. Bring your arms down by your sides. Imagine you are a little seed planted deep into the earth. It’s warm and snug and you feel safe and secure. Feel the softness of the earth, the warmth against your skin and the rich smell of the soil around you. Get very comfortable as if you are settling in for winter, staying very quiet and very still.
Calming overactive minds
Building your children’s mental and emotional health from a young age will equip them to face the many challenges and opportunities that life presents. This exercise is an important starting point, giving them a tool to quieten and still their mind.
Belly breathing is a simple yogic exercise that you can use anytime children need some much-needed quiet, calm and relaxation time. It can also be used when the kids are tucked up in bed if they are still restless.
Start by giving your child these instructions...
Lie down on your back, with your feet apart and your hands on your belly. Take a big breath in and a big breath out. Take another big breath in and a big breath out.
Ask them if they can feel some movement underneath their hands when they breathe in and when they breathe out. Next, get them to bring their attention to their breathing.
Notice how your belly rises as you breathe in and falls as you breathe out. As you breathe in, feel your belly rising like a balloon filling with air, and as you breathe out, feel your belly sinking down like a balloon deflating. Breathing in, your belly rises like a balloon filling with air… as you breathe out, feel all the air gliding back out.
Lastly, ask them to notice how they feel at the end of the exercise. Does their mind seem quieter?
Building confident, empowered kids
The Superman Pose is a favourite because it builds back strength and helps spinal alignment. The improvement in posture results in children feeling powerful, strong and in control.
Ask your little one to lie down on their belly and spread their arms and legs wide into a starfish shape. Perhaps tell them to imagine they are a very powerful superhero who is on a mission to make the world a better place.
You are about to set out on a journey using your special and unique gifts to make the world a better place. Think about three things that you do to make this world a better place. Maybe you give great hugs, look after friends, tell bullies to stop, give the best smiles...
Next, ask them to tell you about three of their special qualities. Then let them know it’s time to get ready for take-off!
Take a big breath in, and as you breathe out, lift everything off the floor and FLY!
Get them to repeat this four to six times, and each time, hold the pose long enough to spread their gift to the world and share it with people who need it.
After the last time, tell them to lie down, turn their head to the side and rest, feeling their heart fill with joy and happiness, saying, “You are such a gift to the world and make it a brighter place.”
Have fun trying these exercises with your kids – if you do them at the same time, you might also have the best night’s sleep you’ve enjoyed in a long time.
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