With five kids that each have their own different sleep and bedtime styles, I am always on the lookout for ways to make bedtime easier. Adding a few yoga poses to the wind down time can make the transition so much smoother, for all of you.
First, make sure you have a calm, serene space for your bedtime yoga. Whatever space you choose, tidy up the area so there are fewer distractions. You can try some calming music (some of my favorites are by Christiane Kerr), maybe dim the lights a little bit, you can even put some drops of a relaxing essential oil in a diffuser to help set the tone. Kids really pick up and respond to rituals like these, and after doing them for a few nights, sometimes just starting the process can become soothing itself.
Animal poses are always a hit for kids because it helps them connect to the pose on more than one level. They can picture themselves as the animal, if they start to get distracted you can talk to them about the animal, and it's just fun for them to pretend.
For bedtime, you want to keep to poses that have a naturally calming effect on the body like forward bends, restorative poses, gentle twists, and simple inversions. Avoid doing anything that can be stimulating like warrior pose or back bends.
With younger kids, aim to try just a few poses a night. Let me give you a little tip here from my experience teaching kids yoga: lower your expectations. Not in a bad way at all, but just approach the idea of kids doing yoga with a relaxed, playful mind. If they want to take it in a different direction, just go with the flow. As long as you keep it relaxed, calming and light, it will have the desired effect. A great one to start with is downward dog, and chances are your kids have tried this pose before...
Bend forward at your hips and place your palms flat on the ground. Step back to put space between your hands and feet, with your buns up in the air, and stretch like a dog. Keep the kids engaged by asking them what kind of dog they are, what color fur they have, what their doggie name is. Tell them that the dogs in their poses are very tired little doggies and are stretching out ready to go to bed.
Next, bring them into butterfly pose. Come to sit on your buns with a tall spine, bend your legs, place the soles of your feet together, and show the kids how to gently "flap" their legs like the wings of a monarch butterfly, flying home to snuggle in for sleep. (ps, ALL kids like butterfly pose, seriously).
While you're going through these poses with them, make sure to keep your voice calm and quiet, and to lead them into making their voices calmer and quieter as they go through the poses. Model the poses for the kids yourself and avoid correcting them too much, this isn't about getting it "right", it's about getting the benefits.
Finally, have them finish out in child's pose. In child's pose, you begin by kneeling on the floor. Bring your knees together and your buns to your feet. Exhale and slowly rest your torso over your thighs so that your forehead touches the floor. See if you can have them take a few deep breaths in child's pose. Use this as an opportunity to tell them that just like the animals, children need their rest too.
Again, keep an open mind and keep it calm and light. Sometimes my two year old wants to do every pose and sometimes she barks in down dog the entire time. You get what you get, right? But as long as I keep it gentle and relaxed, it works. xoxo