Take the beloved bedtime story ritual a step further with Mariam Gates’s sequence that will soothe little ones to sleep.
It’s bedtime. The kids are squabbling over bath toys, toothpaste, or nothing at all. Or they’re giddy—stuffed animals and giggles flying around the bedroom. Either scenario, you pine for family bonding, serenity and, sleep. “Sometimes your first impulse is to fight against what’s happening. You know, ‘Everybody, settle down!’ Sure there’s time that is your role,” says Mariam Gates, author of Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story. “This book says let’s take that energy and in a very short amount of time, learning how to use the body as a tool, we can settle.”
Presto! Your little one’s eyelids are smooth as silk, as she snuggles her teddy beneath the covers. Along the way, you share your love for yoga and teach your children to feel what’s happening inside their bodies. Good Night Yoga takes you all on a story of settling ladybugs, sparkling stars, and a little blue cat who lives in the moon. Each step of the journey into night has its own pose and breathing exercise that make up a pre-bedtime yoga sequence for kids in early to middle childhood.
“What we’re looking for is a reset button for families,” says Gates, who founded Kid Power Yoga and holds a master’s in education from Harvard University. “We have to teach our kids it’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be sad, angry, happy, proud, excited. All of that is part of this human existence. But we need to be able, at the end of each day, with all those swirling experiences and emotions, to understand that we get to reset.”
In a world where children’s calendars are packed with painting, soccer, girl scouts, and jiu-jitsu, Gates believes it’s vital they learn to let it all go at the end of the day. With Good Night Yoga, kids self-soothe by taking long breaths in and long breaths out, the easiest way to calm the nervous system, Gates says. The book also shows four- to eight-year-olds that they can move their bodies intentionally to release pent-up stress. It includes 11 poses plus a cloud visualization meditation. But, lucky us, Gates and two young yogis are demonstrating the sequence here, just for Yoga Journal. So tonight, roll out your sticky mats or simply spread out on the bedroom carpet. Your children will salute you with the gentle rise and fall of their bellies as they drift into dreams.
READ MORE Benefits of Yoga for Kids
Bedtime Yoga Sequence for Kids
IN EACH POSE Say the instruction aloud so children can follow along. Then say the affirmation and ask them to repeat it.
Lengthening the breath moves us from fight-or-flight to rest-and-renew state, soothing and preparing us for restful sleep.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Inhale your arms over your head. Exhale your arms back down.
AFFIRMATION I am calm.
Slow deliberate movement calms the central nervous system and communicates a sense of safety to the mind and body.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Inhale and bend your knees. Exhale and straighten your legs, lifting your arms above your head.
AFFIRMATION I am strong.
Five-Pointed Star Pose
This pose lengthens and opens the body including the chest, improving circulation and breathing for more restful sleep.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Press down through your feet. Reach your arms wide.
AFFIRMATION I am light.
Sidebending Mountain Pose
This pose opens the connective tissue of the side body which facilitates ease in breathing.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and bend to one side. Inhale to come up and exhale to the other side.
AFFIRMATION I am peaceful.
A distracted mind is tiring. Balancing poses require concentration, which is actually restful for the mind.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Focus on one point. Lift your foot behind you and balance. Then switch feet.
AFFIRMATION I am graceful.
The stillness of the body and concentration of the mind in this balancing pose lets a busy mind rest. This pose also improves posture.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Become tall in your spine. Rest your foot on your ankle or above your knee and balance. Then switch feet.
AFFIRMATION I am balanced.
This pose opens the hip flexors for a more comfortable night’s rest.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Bend your knees, roll your shoulders back, and press your palms together.
AFFIRMATION I am happy.
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This pose improves flexibility in the hips for a more restful night’s sleep.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Sit on the ground, press the soles of your feet together, and roll your shoulders back.
AFFIRMATION I am safe.
The slow buzzing breath and extended exhalation is relaxing for the mind and body.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Inhale and sit up straight with your arms back. Exhale and lower your forehead toward the ground.
AFFIRMATION I am relaxed.
This pose’s movements release tension in the shoulders, neck, and spine for a relaxing night’s sleep.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Inhale and look up, letting your spine drop low. Exhale and tuck your chin, lifting your spine high.
AFFIRMATION I am at ease.
See alsoAsana Built for Two
This restorative pose stretches the lower back, hips, and thighs and calms the central nervous system, which relieves mental and physical tension.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Press back onto your knees and rest.
AFFIRMATION I am at rest.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Finish the practice with this calming pose, known to reduce insomnia and stress.
HOW TO INSTRUCT KIDS Lie on your back and take slow natural breaths. Close your eyes if you wish.
AFFIRMATION I am at home (Or, I am at home, in my body, in my breath, in my life, in this moment).
See alsoA Fun Guide to Family Yoga
Rebecca Tolin is a freelance writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker living in San Diego. Contact her at www.facebook.com/rebecca.tolin.