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yoga for a better bedtime

Yoga For A Better Bedtime

Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to have a better bedtime with your children using yoga.

During a busy school year, sleep routines become of utmost importance in keeping energy levels and mood balanced in both kids and adults.  Yoga is renowned for its ability to relax the body and the mind.  As a Yoga Therapist, I have seen many people start practicing yoga and improve their sleep.  As yoga is a tool that can benefit both kids and parents alike, it is important that parents practice these exercises with their child.  This builds a relaxing connection and gives the child a yogic role model.

Yoga Moves for a Better Bedtime:

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a very popular recommendation, for good reason.  Deep, slow breaths trigger theYoga For A Better Bedtime relaxation response and slow our heart rate.  The mind is connected to the body through the breath, so deep breaths also keep the mind calm and content.  My favorite deep breathing exercise for kids is to have them imagine that there is a balloon inside their body.  When they breathe in, they fill the balloon and when they breathe out, the balloon empties.  After getting comfortable with this image, ask them to slowly fill the balloon in three smaller breaths.  Breath one fills the belly, breath two fills the chest, breath three fills the balloon all the way up, and then slowly let the air out of the balloon.  Repeat this breath at least two times, working up to ten or more repetitions.

Gentle Stretches

Stretching is a great way to release tension that has accumulated in the body over the day and prepare it for sleep.  Certain yoga poses energize the system and others relax it, so it is important to keep a before bed yoga practice slow, to allow the mind to unwind.  Forward bends are particularly helpful, as they stimulate the vagus nerve – a deep nerve that induces the relaxation response through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.  A simple sequence I like to practice before bed includes:

  1. Reach to the stars: Start by standing with your child, relaxed but tall.  Reach your arms overhead so that your palms face inward, toward one another.  Start by reaching your right arm a little higher than the left, keeping both feet rooted to the floor.  Reach as high as you can for the stars, then relax your right arm, so that both arms are overhead, facing inward again.  Now reach your left arm high to try and touch a star, then relax.  Repeat this once more with each arm and then relax your arms down by your sides.  When your breathing has returned to normal, reach both arms up again.  Try to touch the stars with both arms at once and then reach your arms forward and down, to touch your toes.  It is a good idea to bend your knees slightly, especially if you feel any pain in your back.
  2. Gentle Twist: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed.  You can sit on a blanket or cushion if this is uncomfortable.  Sit up tall but relaxed and breathe in.  As you exhale, bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand on the floor next to you, as you twist your belly and chest to the right, gently looking right or closing your eyes.  As you breathe in, instruct your child to imagine all the positive things that will happen tomorrow entering his or her body.  As you breathe out, imagine all the less than positive things that happened today leave her or his body.  Breathe like this a few times.  Inhale to bring your body back to center and then repeat on the other side.
  3. Child’s Pose: Child’s pose can be a very soothing pose, allowing us to draw our attention inward.  Kneeling, bring your toes together, as you sit your bum on your heels.  Lean forward and release your torso over your thighs, relaxing your head to the floor and arms down by the side of your body with your palms facing up.  If this feels claustrophobic, move your arms overhead, with your elbows on the floor.  Feel your breath as it moves your back and the sides of your body.
  4. Legs Up the Wall: This pose can be practiced in the sequence above or on its own.  Putting your legs up the wall is very relaxing and feels great!  Make sure that your bum is near enough to the wall, so you feel no strain in your back or legs.  Bending the knees slightly can further relax the body.  You may also try placing a folded blanket or small pillow under your bum and low-back or under your head and neck.  Try to make your body as comfortable as possible.  Focus on slow, deep breaths moving the belly.  Stay here for 30 seconds or longer.  Lie flat on the floor for a few breaths before standing up.

Click here to learn more about Five Keys Yoga.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

yoga and anxiety

Soothing Anxiety with Mindfulness and Yoga

Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to help your child with anxiety using mindfulness tools.

Everyone knows the feeling – your heart pounds, your stomach flips, and you start getting sweaty.  No one enjoys the feelings of anxiety and it’s even harder to watch your child struggle with them.  But with the right perspective, experiencing anxiety can be an opportunity to meet and rise above a challenge.  Yoga and mindfulness are powerful stress relievers.  Here is a process I enjoy using during anxious moments.

Honor the Anxiety

Like all feelings, anxiety serves an important purpose.  It can alert us to when things are dangerous,Soothing Anxiety With Mindfulness And Yoga when we are pushing past our limits, or if something just doesn’t “feel right”.  Therefore, it’s important to honor your child’s feelings of anxiety as useful information and only then assist her in soothing its unpleasant effects.  Ask your child what she is anxious about and why she is anxious about it.  Get down to the root fear that your child is experiencing.  For example, if your child is nervous to go to school, perhaps she is worried about sitting alone at lunchtime.  She is anxious about sitting alone because she is afraid she won’t have friends. She is worried about not having friends because she is afraid she is unlikable.

Address the “unlikable” part.  Ask her if she really feels that is a true, intrinsic quality she possesses.  Then bolster her self-esteem with some examples of how she is likable: she had lots of friends last year or get along great with her cousins or the neighbor next door is always asking her to play.  Give her as many reasons to feel confident as possible.  Encourage her to think of her own examples.  Then, bring it all home.  What friend-making strategies have worked for her before?  How can she implement those strategies in this situation?

Finally, have your child either draw a picture or write (or both) about her root fear.  Ask her how she feels about her artwork.  Does it represent who she really is?  Next, have her draw or write about the opposite, positive quality and then reflect on it with her.  What would it look like to embody this quality?  How would it feel?  It is very powerful for parents to do this exercise thinking of their own fears, with their child.  This will help the child to realize that anxiety is a normal feeling that we all have to work through.  Post your child’s positive quality artwork where she will see it everyday, such as the bathroom mirror or next to her bed.  Teaching your child to be mindful through difficult emotions is one of the most empowering gifts you can give her.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Now that you have confronted and questioned the anxiety and its root fear, work on releasing the tension that has built up in the body.  Start with five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Now shift so that you are breathing in and out through only the nose.  See if you can lengthen the exhalation by a few seconds, without strain.  Continue for five to ten breaths.  Have your child imagine negative thoughts and the anxiety leaving her body as she exhales and calm feelings and positive thoughts filling her body as she inhales.

With older children, you can also introduce a technique called alternate nostril breathing.  Alternate nostril breathing may balance the “fight or flight” part of the brain with the “rest and digest” part.  It is also a very soothing practice.  To practice alternate nostril breathing, inhale and then gently plug the right nostril and breathe out the left.  Inhale through the left nostril.  Switch, so that the left nostril is plugged and the right is unplugged.  Exhale through the right nostril and then inhale.  Switch nostrils, exhaling through the left, and so on.  The pattern is exhale, inhale, switch.  This can be practiced for upwards of ten minutes, though just a minute or two of alternate nostril breathing can relax the body.  Make sure that throughout the practice, the breath is smooth and slow and your child is not straining.  If this is too difficult, return to the simple deep breathing, as above.

Click here to learn more about Five Keys Yoga.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!