Today, Rhythm of the Home co-editor Heather Fontenot shares a post from her blog, Shivaya Naturals, on working with children to find balance and a sense of peace through restorative yoga and mindful practice.
I did my very first yoga pose when I was 15 years old. I remember it so clearly, because I felt silly doing a pose called “Downward Facing Dog”. I had picked up a copy of Yoga Journal in the grocery store, and it looked pretty interesting. I had always thought that people who practiced yoga just stood on their heads for long periods of time, or sat in meditation for hours on end (for the record, I can stand on my head for a wicked amount of time, even in the Sand Dunes, after a good Margarita. Just saying).
I have been a yoga therapist for over ten years now, and I have spent most of that time working with chronic and terminally ill patients to try and improve their quality of life, and their experience of pain. I have also been lucky enough to work with young children through yoga and storytelling, and I am a very strong advocate of trying to incorporate yoga into the school system to try and help reduce the over stimulation that can occur in our ever growing classrooms.
Now as the mom of two young children, my yoga has returned to the beginning, to a place where my students are two cute little things who arrive on their mats with sleep in their eyes, and dreams on their minds.
Our yoga can look very different day to day, depending on moods and needs, but if there is one thing that remains a constant, it is that restorative yoga always has a calming effect on busy little minds, and hectic filled days.
I use restorative yoga with my kiddos mainly before bed. If I have not mentioned it in the past, my oldest struggles with sleeping problems, and we try all that we can to create a warm and calm atmosphere prior to sleep. Restorative yoga gives the children an opportunity to quiet their minds, and relax their bodies, and take a moment before sleep to simply be in the moment.
Here is a small snippet of three poses that are a part of our daily practice.
Child’s Pose. The most basic and powerful resting pose for adults and children alike. Using a cushion (a sofa cushion or hard pillow will work fine here), and a folded blanket, have your child begin with their knees up against the long edge of the cushion.
Have them sit back onto their heels, and then bend forward to rest their head on the blanket (younger children may only need the cushion).
They can place their hands on either side of the cushion, or they can rest them down near their legs.
While they are resting, place both hands on their back, as above, and ask them to take a deep breath in. On the exhale, slightly apply pressure, and begin to move your hands in opposite directions, allowing a nice stretch of their spine. If your child seems restless, place your hand firmly in the middle of their back and apply a slight pressure.
During my session with Jacob yesterday morning, Elwood crawled up into bed and put his cushions exactly as his big brothers. It was a good reminder to me that allowing children to practice in a space that feels comfortable is key. If that is a bed and their pillows, than that is where it should be on that day.
This next restorative pose allows your child to relax their back fully, while also experiencing a slight back bend, which opens the chest and allows for deeper breathing. With your cushion and blanket still in place, have your child turn over and place the small of his back against the cushion. Lay your child back, making sure that their head is on the blanket, and their shoulders on the cushion. Place an eye pillow over their eyes, and a rice pack, or heavy pillow on their feet (this is a really important step, because it helps to ground your child, and reduces the need for them to squirm around)
Legs up the wall is a must for helping little ones transition towards sleep. Lay a mat or thick blanket up against your wall, and have your child sit sideways, flush up against the wall. Have them swing their legs up and over, and lay down. Place a pillow under their heads, and have them extend their arms out to the side. If you feel that your child becomes restless in this pose, place the same rice pack as above on their tummies, or pelvic bone, and have them breathe deeply.
This is a pose where many children will actually fall asleep. It promotes a deep sense of relaxation, and it is one of the better poses to get children to relax completely into themselves. During our yoga time, the only thing that I really focus on is getting the boys to relax, and to do a lot of deep breathing. I am a huge believer in the power of our breath, and learning to control it for relaxation has had a huge impact for my children.
Soaking children’s feet in warm water for about five minutes after your yoga (or anytime actually) is so powerful, that I have often found one of my children asleep sitting up, feet fully immersed. On nights that the boys do not get a bath, they always get a foot soak. There is nothing fancy here, just some warm water, a plastic tub, a little lavender oil if on hand, and a quiet space. After about 30 seconds or so, you will start to see your child visibly relax, and fall into a much calmer state.
This is just a small look at some of those poses that I have found have the best result for us. Each child is different, and it is fun to explore what works for them. I love yoga because it uses the body to heal the body. It just feels good to know that my kids have the ability to calm and relax themselves, I just have to show them how.
Heather Fontenot, co-editor and publisher of Rhythm of The Home, lives with her family on the Front Range of NorthernColorado. She has a passion for natural and creative living, and spends as much of her time outdoors as possible. She loves to knit, sew, garden, photograph, read and home school her two sweet little ones. She writes the blog, Shivaya Naturals, where she chronicles her life as a mother, artist, and gluten free baker.