“Mummy, I’m hungry. I need to go to the toilet. Can I watch TV?” Children will use any and every excuse to put off bedtime, but how often do you hear, “Mummy, can I do my yoga first?” For most parents, getting their children to bed takes time, effort and endless patience, something we often don’t have at the end of the day.
As a yoga teacher and a mother, I’m often asked how parents can teach their child to be calm and centred when bedtime rolls around. The problem is, when we ask our children to be settled, they often do the opposite. However, experience and research have shown me that yoga offers one solution to the bedtime dilemma.
My four-year-old daughter has picked up on my love of yoga and often uses this as an excuse to not go to bed, asking if she can do a few poses instead, which I use as an opportunity to take her on a journey that will lead her to bed and, ultimately, into a restful sleep.
Introducing your children to yoga
Research presented at the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR) in 2007 indicated that children who practise yoga have more energy, are better at regulating their emotions and managing stress and have higher self-esteem. Incorporating yoga as part of the regular bedtime routine provides a framework that can help your child in other parts of their lives, too. For instance, when children practise yoga regularly, they learn how to bring themselves back from silly to calm, thus making the transition from daytime activity to evening peace an easy and enjoyable one.
Yoga teaches children how to relax their minds and bodies in a simple and fun way. The characters, visualisations and stories used in children’s yoga show strength, courage and acts of love, generosity, peace and happiness. These are innate positive qualities that we all strive to bring to our lives.
If you find your child is quite awake when they should be heading off to bed, practising a few yoga poses with them will help lower their energy levels and give you both the opportunity to relax together, helping to make bedtime a beautiful, bonding experience.
Yoga can provide you with a variety of tools to help settle your child’s energy levels. What you end up using depends on your child and also on the kind of day they have had. So the first thing to do is meet your child where they are at. If they’re running around all silly and happy and laughing, the last thing you should do is make them lie down straight away. It’s just too far from where they are. You can spend a lot of time and waste a lot of energy trying to force them into a position they’re really not ready for. If they’re running around, you may want to try something that connects with their energy.
The manner in which you interact with your child is very important. Try not to be reactive. Children can sense when adults are becoming frustrated, so it’s important to be calm and patient. Yoga can teach both of you this. Patient and persistent adults help a child to build their self-esteem and confidence. When you see your child behaving well and appropriately, give them positive feedback. Always remember to be sensitive to their needs and creative with your solutions.