Just like adults, children need the time and space to unwind. Especially after a long day of learning and playing, their growing bodies and minds need time to decompress and regroup. Slow and mindful restorative yoga can be especially helpful for kids who seem to be wired for constant high energy. They may need to start with some high energy yoga activities before they are ready for the slower pace. A high energy dance along or quicker yoga flow can help them release some of the excess energy so they can be ready to move into slower restorative poses. If it seems like this burst of activity has the opposite affect and leads to some super charged kids, then it’s really time to slow it down. Gradually begin to move a little slower and slow down the breathing with some breathing exercises. Even kids who are calmer in nature or less physically active can sometimes have anxiety and tension that persists into the evening, making it difficult for them to sleep as well. Restorative yoga reduces over-stimulation from a busy body and mind. It has immediate calming effects on the mind and body.
To begin, make sure your child has a comfortable, quiet space. Turn off the phones, tablets, and TV. They could even use an eye pillow or a hand towel over the eyes. The gentle pressure on the eyelids stimulates the vagus nerve which activates the relaxation part of the nervous system. It sends messages of calm giving the mind and body permission to relax. Let kids know that it’s ok to relax. They should feel safe and allowed to not have to do anything for as long as you have time. As you practice slow restorative poses, you are continuing to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest response that relaxes the muscles, slows down the breathing, lowers blood pressure, and settles the mind.
Once everyone is settled in, here are some good poses to try.
Have your child come to hands and knees. Then have them bring their knees out wide, toes to touch, and sink the hips back to the heels. To make it extra calming, grab a pillow and put it under their head. Have them curl the shoulders forward and let their hands rest next to their feet. Tell them to melt like a marshmallow in a cup of hot cocoa. You can even rest your hand on your child’s back if it helps them settle. Hold for 5 breaths.
Seated Forward Fold: I call this one the “sandwich” pose in my kids yoga classes. Have them begin seated with their legs extended out long. They can prop a pillow on their thighs (or 2 or 3 however many pillows they want). Have them take a slow deep breath, getting really tall, then fold forward and lay their head on the pillow, making a pillow sandwich. Let the arms hang down on either side of the legs, like their yummy sandwich filling is oozing out of their sandwich.
For this pose, your child lays on the floor or the bed. Then they bring the soles of the feet together, with knees out wide. You can roll towels or blankets and place them under the knees for soft support. You can also place something heavy (like a heavy pillow or bean bag) on the feet to make them feel more grounded and calmer. This pose also gets into a gentle backbend, which opens the chest for deeper breathing and better digestion.
Knees to chest pose:
I like to call this one the Lemon Squeeze. For this pose, have your child laying on their back, then bring their knees up to their chest. They can use their arms to hold onto their knees and squeeze their knees into the chest. Squeeze the lemon tight and let the juice out. This pose can help with digestion, constipation, and tension in the low back.
Legs Up the Wall:
Have your child come close to a wall with their tush right on it. Then have them swing their legs up the wall at about 90 degrees. You can put a small folded blanket or thin pillow up under their hips for some cushion and slight elevation. Then place a pillow under their head as well. They can take their arms out to the side and let them relax. You can also put a heavy blanket on the pelvis for extra grounding. If the legs want to slide, fold a towel around the feet behind the heels. This is a lovely pose to help fall asleep.
Also known as savasana, this is a deep relaxation pose and great for calming. This pose comes at the end of all my yoga classes – for both kids and adults. It helps calm the body and mind so your child can feel restful. Have them lay on their back with their arms and legs stretched out long. Have them take slow, deep breaths. You can guide them through some progressive relaxation, play some soft music, or just allow for quiet and stillness.
Have you tried some of these poses? I hope you and your child are feeling super relaxed and calm. Restorative yoga can be a nice refresher break or done to help sleep at night. Let me know how it went for you.
For more yoga to help kids feel calmer and more resilient, have them join me for some fun yoga classes! I design my kids yoga classes to combine breathing, mindfulness, and lots of movement, along with a calming guided resting time that they love. We play yoga games and do poses along with songs and stories. Check out my kids yoga schedule here. I hope to see your child soon for yoga time!