Yoga Nidra, Story and Creative Learning

By Sydney Solis

More and more, I hear the youngest children say that their biggest challenge is “needing to relax.” With the busy schedule many kids keep, school activities and exposure to the intensity and distraction of television, children need a definite time to unwind just as adults do.

Every part of a yoga class, now matter how young the child, should include some sort of shavasana, or relaxation. With every age group, whether they are preschoolers, K-2 or 3-5th graders, I use some sort of variant of Yoga Nidra, or sleep yoga, which helps children relax by using imagery and body awareness.

I also drop in a short story in the process, allowing a child’s imagination to arise within their bodies. I call them “story siestas” and the process can enhance creative learning, develop confidence and self-esteem, lower stress, improve focus and attention, and give relaxation to the body and mind for over all health.

Yoga Nidra was developed by Paramhansa Swami Satyanand Saraswati, the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga in India. Called sleep yoga, Yoga Nidra brings the mind into a deep state that beyond dreaming, sleeping and waking states. Using a sankalpa, or resolve, this resolve changes the samskaras, or the habitual patterns, that are programmed within us. In Saraswati’s book, Yoga Nidra, there are numerous studies that show Yoga Nidra’s effectiveness for various illnesses, such as ADHD, cancer, depression and more.

Very simply put, yoga nidra uses a rotation of consciousness, or allowing the mind to rest on different body parts successively. Afterwards, a series of rapid images are given, and the sankalpa is used. Participants feel refreshed, and can notice a change in their energy and mental habits.

I learned yoga nidra at Naropa University with my teacher Sreedevi Bringi, ( who studied at the Bihar School of Yoga. She has a variety of Yoga Nidra CDs available that I highly recommend. From her teachings and Saraswati’s book and my experience in teaching hundreds of children. I have adapted Yoga Nidra for children for classroom use.

The form for adults takes about 30 minutes. For children ages 3-12 I adjust accordingly. Most preschool children, as well as many older children, will wiggle around. That’s ok. You are just exposing them to relaxation and creating a practice. To reduce wiggling, it’s useful to offer a reward, such as ringing the bell, or allowing them to teach a segment of the class, or stickers, etc.

Also, you can try the Yoga Nidra at the beginning of the class. I noticed that in after school programs, kids were tired after a long day at school, or had just had a snack. The relaxation and story let them unwind, digest, visualize and be entertained, and then get ready for yoga. Afterwards, you can guide the children in acting the story out with yoga, or just use the story as a theme.

With all children, encourage them to relax at home. Encourage them to practice with their parents and friends and to tell the stories to their parents and friends as well.


Basic method of Beginning Yoga Nidra adapted for children

  • Preparation: find a quiet place with dimmed lights, but not total darkness. There should be no interruptions. Children should lie on their backs with arms slightly away from the body, palms facing up. I encourage children to cover their eyes with a beanie baby or a washcloth or even a sock – anything to cover the eyes and cut down distractions.
  • I use a small glockenspiel during relaxation, which really helps children focus and relax. I just play random notes to my liking. Children have told me how much they enjoy it, how much it helps them focus, even having the feeling of leaving their body.
  • Have children focus on their breath. Begin with three deep breaths. Inhale say “yes” to life, exhale, let go, and drop into the earth.
  • Tighten all body muscles, let go, and repeat 3 times.
  • Imagine a sun, the moon, being on the beach, something that they can visualize. Allow light from that sun or moon or their imagination to touch each body part as it is called out. Imagine it filled with golden, or silver light. Beginning with toes, proceed to name each body part, such as heel, ankle, entire foot, calf, knee, thigh, hips, stomach, chest, back, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, fingers, neck, chin, jaw, lips, cheeks, eyes, whole head, whole body.


    • Entire yoga nidra should not take longer than 2-5 minutes.    
    • 1) Imagine the sun touching general body parts, feet, legs, hips, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw, cheeks, lips, eyes, nose, ears. Whole head. Whole body. Relax.
    • Call our images, such as a rose, a candle, a tall mountain.
    • Make a suggestion such as “I am peaceful, I am relaxed, I feel safe.”
    • Return to silence.
    • Return awareness to the outside world, let them stretch, rock, roll over to their right side and rest before using their arms to get up.
    • Let children talk about their experiences and what they “saw and felt” within.
    • Have them draw pictures; make up stories around the images. Transcribe their words onto paper.


a. Expand on Yoga Nidra by taking longer, such as 5-10 minutes total. Adding more body parts, such as back of knee, armpit. Imagining space between lips, space between eyelids. Space where body touches the floor.

b. Drop in imagery, such as a rose, a candle, a rushing river, and then tell a short story, such as the Cracked Pot or from the list below.

c. Drop in a suggestion, such as “I love myself,” I am whole and complete, I have value. My ideas matter.

d. Afterwards, allow silence.

e. Ringing a bell, bring children’s awareness back to room. Return awareness to the outside world, let them stretch, rock, roll over to their right side and rest before using their arms to get up.

f. Ask the children what they saw and felt. Ask children to journal, draw about feelings. Children can make up new stories, or relate their lives to the story.


10-15 minutes you go through more body parts. I also introduce left and right sides of the body at this age. Such as right toes, right ankle, right foot, right calf, and so on up the right side of the body, then to the left, then both arms or legs together and so on. On the face, take more time with the left eye, right eye, right eyebrow, left eyebrow, etc.

1) Visualization,

a. You can use a longer story or a fairy tale. The story and imagery, told in a soft tone, will keep them focused on the body through the imagination.

b. Or you can use longer guided imagery. For instance, have them imaging a treasure chest at the heart level. Ask them to decorate that chest with their imagination. Then they open it a crack, see the golden light peeping out. Feel the golden light. It touches the toes, body, etc. Open it more; see inside, what is there? What gifts do you have? Perhaps it’s helping your mother, or you are good at art and math, or you can make people laugh. Smile at those treasures. Make a wish for yourself, your family, your school, and the world. Imagine it coming true. Create your own visualization.

c. Cracked Pot. Ask children to see themselves cracked, something that they don’t like about themselves or. think has no value. Ask them to smile at themselves. I accept all of myself. I have value. All my gifts are special. I do not judge.

2) Allow for silence

3) Ringing a bell, bring awareness back to room. Return awareness to the outside world, let them stretch, rock, roll over to their right side and rest before using their arms to get up.

4) Ask them to share with the class

5) Ask the children what they saw and felt. Ask children to journal, draw about feelings. Children can make up new stories, or relate their lives to the story.  Children can create their own visualizations.

Search your library for your own favorites!

Satyanada recommends stories such as those from the Puranas. There are also wonderful stories from the Panchatantra and Aesop.

Peace Tales by Margaret Read McDonald
One Hand Clapping Zen Stories for All Ages by Rafe Martin
Stories to Nourish the Hearts of Our Children in a time of Crisis by Laura Simms
The Children’s Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett
The Soul’s Almanac A Year of Interfaith Stories, Prayers and Wisdom by Aaron Zerah Doorways to the Soul by Elisa Pearmain
Wisdom Stories from Around the World by Heather Forest
Parabola Magazine

The Great Fairytale Tradition by Jack Zipes
Fearless Girls Wise Women and Beloved Sisters by Kathleen Ragan
Favorite Folktales from Around the World by Jane Yolen

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