Yoga Nidra for Kids: How to Help Your Kids Experience Bliss

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | September 29th, 2010 | 12 Comments
topic: Family Health, Fitness, Health & Wellness, Yoga

Little boy doing yogaMichael Phelps’ Olympic swimming success has made him the supernova of the swim world. Part of his winning came not just from his supremely fine-tuned physique, but also from a wise coach who taught Phelps as a child to fine-tune his mind through relaxation, meditation and visualization.

At age 12, Phelps’ coach introduced a “structured relaxation” program based on the recitation of certain cues. At night, his mother sat with him in a dimly lit room and systematically had him relax different parts of his body. The effect it had was tremendous, and eventually Phelps could self-induce this sense of deep relaxation at will and no longer needed his mother’s help. His next step was to then visualize himself swimming his races. The rest is history!

Yoga Nidra

Yogis have been inducing tranquil states for millennia, and the meditation practice of Yoga Nidra sounds a lot like what Phelps practices. Yoga Nidra roughly translates as “yogic sleep.” Sleep scientist Roger Cole calls it “quiescence.” Yoga Nidra clears the mind, and can re-pattern thoughts, memories or the anticipation of future events.

Kids of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, athletes and the physically impaired alike can all benefit from the anxiety-reducing practice of yoga and especially Yoga Nidra. When kids are less stressed, they learn better. Kids seem to love Yoga Nidra because it is soothing, expands their imagination and places them in an inner space of calm. Many kids have difficulty “sitting still” as you might see in “classic” meditation. But Yoga Nidra is done while you are lying down … so it’s very comfortable.

Childhood is stressful even if you are not training for the Olympics, and while TV, web surfing and handheld electronic devices have become commonplace distractions for kids, it seems that these things only serve to perpetuate our “short attention span” culture. Yoga Nidra involves several stress-reducing elements that have been proven to eliminate loads of negative behavioral patterns in kids.

Yoga Nidra with your kids

The whole process should take 10-15 minutes. It’s appropriate for kids of all ages. Feel free to substitute your own words.

1. The Set Up: Have them lie down in a comfortable, quiet environment. Ask them to “keep your eyes closed and follow the sound of my voice.”

2. Breathing: Instruct them to “breathe in and out through your nose like you are blowing up a balloon in your belly.”

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Ask them to “relax every muscle in your body by squeezing and releasing them.” Then lead them through the relaxation, focusing on each muscle in turn, like this: “Tighten your hands as much as you can, tighter, tighter … and now release. Now tighten your shoulders as much as you can, tighter, tighter … and now release.”

4. Counting Breaths 40-1: In a soothing voice, ask them to “breathe in while mentally saying the number ‘40’ in your head, then breathe out and mentally say the number ‘39’ in your head. The next inhale is ‘38,’ and the next exhale is ‘37.’ Keep counting backwards all the way down to ‘1.’ If you lose count, begin again at ‘40.’”

Say positive, encouraging things to them, such as, “There’s no need to rush. Don’t get frustrated if you miss a number. Be friendly to your mind if it wants to fall asleep or forgets to count. Take a break and begin counting again when you hear my voice.”

5. Revolving Awareness: In a soothing voice, guide them on a full body tour. Pause for 3–5 seconds between naming each part of their body. Here is a sample script:

“Now I will ask you to move your mind to different parts of your relaxed body. When your mind moves to each part, it’s as if it touches it with a golden light. There’s no need to move that part of your body; simply move your imagination and that golden light there. We will move from relaxed part to relaxed part. Begin with your left-hand thumb, index finger, third finger, ring finger, pinky, palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, all filled with golden light. Move to the right-hand thumb, index finger, third finger, ring finger, pinky, palm, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, all filled with golden light. Move down to the left big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, pinky toe, top of foot, ankle, knee, thigh, hip. Then over to the right big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, pinky toe, top of foot, ankle, knee, thigh, hip, all filled with golden light. Move the light to your lower back, your upper back, neck, head, top of head, right ear, left ear, right eyebrow, left eyebrow, right eye, left eye, nose tip, upper lip, lower lip, jaw, tongue, throat, all filled with golden light. Then down to your chest, belly, heart, all filled with golden light.”

6. Expanding the Light: Now instruct them to share the wonderful light in their hearts. “Think of all the people in the world that you love, and imagine sending them the golden light that you have pouring through your heart. Your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your friends, your teachers, everyone you know. Now think of all the people in the world who could use some extra light in their lives, and send it to them. Now imagine all of the world sending light back to you while you send it to them.”

7. Closing with Breath: “Now breathe into your belly and feel that light moving out and coming in. Feel your belly ballooning out and in. You are a wonderful, loving child. I love you and the world loves you. Slowly roll to your side, respecting the warm, loving, relaxed feeling you’ve created, and open your eyes.”

Let me know how it goes! For more information on yoga practices for kids, please visit www.yogaed.com. And for another example of Yoga Nidra, check out my Yoga Nidra CD called Breathe In Bliss Out.

Comments

  1. Great article. The powerhouse who was the director of Yoga Ed for its first 8 years and who co-created their curriculum, Leah Kalish, has founded another terrific educational resource company for kids. Move with Me(TM) Action Adventures already has 10 fantastic story based creative movement DVDs for children that include relaxation, self-care and self-regulation skills called “adventure skills.” They are brilliant. Your children will love them.

    Wendy Piret | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. I am so excited to try this with my 8 yr old Son (who has ADD) tonight. This seems like it could really help take the fight out of bed-time!
    Mahalo Nui Loa & Namaste

    Jessica | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. Do you have a teaching dvd for Kids Yoga?

    veronique | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. I think this is a lovely, helpful meditation and I reprinted on my blog today – http://www.adriveablefeast.com Thank you for sharing it.

    Amy Goddard Smith | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. My kids love the Ilustrated Yoga Adventure Towels, they feel so great and Kids love them.
    I hope Gaiam will sell them on their web site soon:):) Joy and Light, Satori Ebedes

    Satori | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. This is fantastic!

    laura | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. Wonderful article for teaching kids breathing techniques to calm themselves. I liked the expanding light one. In our kids yoga DVD we do a breathing technique just like your opening and closing technique, just focusing on belly breathing alone can help you fall asleep. Our students love it. We’ve even had a few kids fall asleep in class! Talk about relaxed!

    Danay | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. My kids are 2,3,4 yrs old. And I do that with them. When they feel stressed they sit down where they are and start meditating… :)

    Victoria | September 30th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  9. We have both of those Yoga Kid’s DVDs. My son of 4 enjoys them. What I’d really like is a Yoga Practice DVD designed for parents and kids to do together. One that incorporates more traditional poses with modifications etc. for kids. I enjoy squirming on the floor like a caterpillar as much as the next Mom, but it would also be enjoyable for my son to “practice” alongside me. Any thoughts on that Gaiam? Have any such thing?

    Anne | October 1st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  10. I did find Gaiam’s Family Yoga DVD, we will check try that out.
    http://www.gaiam.com/product/family+yoga+dvd.do

    I also tried this Yoga Nidra exercise with my son (4) last night, he was having a hard time calming down for bedtime. During the breathing part I breathed & counted aloud with him b/c he’s only just learned to count forward to 40. I could see him responding when I asked him about who he loves and he’d wiggle a finger when we walked through his relaxed body. He fell asleep at the very end which is what I was going for. He woke up in a great mood this morning so I assume he had a restful, peaceful sleep. We will definitely be practicing this again!

    Anne | October 6th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  11. Thank you so much for your wonderful responses to my post! The world would be so peaceful if we taught all of our children how to manage their stress in this simple accessible way. Have you noticed that when you do this practice with your child YOU also bliss out? Blessings to you all!

    Jill Miller | October 7th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  12. [...] Gaiam’s Yoga Nidra For Kids [...]

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