You may have seen photos of some people doing yoga with their toddlers. This scenario is nothing new or uncommon, especially if you have been doing yoga for quite some time and are following other yoga practitioners on social media. You are bound to see yogi parents doing the headstand or doing the downward-facing dog with their little one beside them trying to imitate their pose.
Doing yoga with your toddler may be challenging at first, but the secret is to not let it hinder you from doing your poses and teaching your little one how to do them, too. Allow your kids to do their thing while you stretch and breathe and meditate, and soon they will follow your lead. You can have fun together as they try to figure out how to do the same poses and as you show them how it is done.
There are benefits to doing yoga with your toddler and there are challenges, too. The important thing is to know what these challenges are so you know how to approach them and to keep your eyes on the prize, so you stay motivated to do yoga despite the cute distraction. Read on and find out more about yoga with toddlers and how to keep things fun for both of you.
Why Do Yoga with a Toddler?
For a lot of parents, doing yoga with a toddler is something they had to do at some point because the little kids reach an age where they love following mommy or daddy around and imitating them.
Some do it because it has gotten increasingly difficult to wait until their tots are asleep before they could insert some me-time and exercise. In other words, it becomes a matter of multi-tasking in most cases, wherein they do yoga as they babysit.
However, for some parents, doing yoga with their toddlers is intentional. They want to introduce the value of fitness and mindfulness to their children as early as possible.
Whatever leads parents to decide to do yoga with their toddler, the journey is equally challenging and the benefits they reap equally rewarding.
Can You Do Yoga with a Toddler? Is It Safe?
Yes, you can do yoga with babies and toddlers and it is safe provided that you know which poses are suitable for them. But you should also know beforehand that while doing yoga with your toddler is very much possible, it wouldn’t be easy.
You can expect your first yoga sessions with your toddler to be a test of your patience and to be difficult.
For one, yoga is an activity that requires you to focus on your breathing and to savor every movement of your muscles. Toddlers, however, don’t have the attention span needed to do this. A two-year-old, for example, only has an average attention span of four to six minutes, so it would be tough to have them concentrate on a series of poses for longer than this. Before you’d know it, they’d be off looking for the next toy to play with, or the next object to put into their mouth.
And because toddlers are naturally restless creatures, that also means you won’t be able to do your yoga as smoothly as you’d want while babysitting them. One moment you’d be doing the tree pose and the next, you’d be running to your little Tom Cruise, jumping up and down the couch.
While exposing your kids to yoga practice helps lay the foundation for a fit and healthy lifestyle, there are safety precautions to follow.
Keep safety in mind. As with any form of exercise, yoga requires that you have a basic understanding of proper alignment and safety before you teach your kids. As such, it is best to consult with professional yoga instructors or check out books on the matter like Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers to make sure you are doing it right.
Moreover, you should be aware of potential injuries and possible muscle and joint strains. Because kids are naturally more flexible compared to grownups, you might not realize it when they are overextending. So teach your children to stretch slowly and to breathe deeply, and don’t force a pose on them. When they are a bit older, you can teach them to listen to their bodies and to stop if a pose is uncomfortable.
Additionally, yoga should be practiced on a safe, level surface at all times, with bare feet to avoid slips, and with clean mats. Your toddler should also wear comfortable clothing, so their movements are not restricted.
Remember to also keep your room temperature at a lower and comfortable temperature to avoid over-heating and at the same time facilitate the natural heating of bodies that are in motion.
Consider your toddler’s overall health. Children’s yoga instructor and Passion Fit founder Reena Vokoun cautions that in rare cases, yoga can be dangerous for some kids. As such, she advises parents to be constantly vigilant when working out with their children and to be sure to check with their pediatrician regarding any health concerns or injuries. However, she says that yoga for toddlers is a wonderful idea overall and can provide lifelong benefits as they grow up.
For kids who have pre-existing conditions like asthma, hernia, other health problems, and certain breathing difficulties, you might want to get the go-signal from their doctor first. And if such is the case, you may want to work with a professional or a certified yoga instructor who has experience teaching toddlers and kids.
How to Introduce Your Toddler to Yoga
Ayala Homossany of Yoga Matters believes that children do yoga the moment they start to move. She says that instead of introducing yoga to them, we should just help them maintain the practice because it is already there, just forgotten or merely hidden.
According to Homossany, who is an author and who also teaches mommy-and-toddler yoga classes in London, you can try these methods:
Keeping your own yoga practice visible.
The best way to introduce something to very young children is by example. Show them what to do without telling them anything. You can simply open your mat in your living room and do the poses while they are playing nearby. Doing this offers the tots the opportunity to join you whenever they are ready and whenever they want.
Silently offering them space next to you.
When you do your practice, make sure there is enough space next to you. This would serve as a silent invitation for them to join in. You can even roll out an extra mat. At first, toddlers would want to climb on top of your tummy, ride you on your back, crawl under you, or cling to your leg as you do all these strange positions. But after a while, they would assume the spot beside you and try to imitate you.
Making yoga fun and creative.
You can make yoga fun for your toddler and yourself. When they decide to take the spot beside you, you can just let them be and allow them to do their thing. But when you do your poses, you can tell them how you are a tree, a dog, an airplane, a car, a fish, or just about anything.
Your toddlers would soon make up their own poses and pretend to be something else. The only limit is their imagination, so allow them to explore what they could form with their body.
You can also do partner yoga poses and come up with your own name for these. Then you can make up stories about the different yoga poses and create breathing games together. This makes yoga with your little one an exercise on creativity and it even helps them develop their language skills, too.
Watching a Kids Yoga Video.
Giselle Shardlow, an internationally-known teacher, author, certified yoga instructor, and founder of Kids Yoga Stories also suggests watching a kids yoga video with your toddlers and letting them join in. This way, your tots will get to see older children as they practice yoga in a more structured setting.
You can check out kids yoga DVDs like Once Upon a Mat.
Benefits of Yoga for Toddlers
Yoga is beneficial to kids in many ways. Introducing yoga to your children helps establish healthy habits and practices at a very early age. And because children encounter physical, emotional, and social challenges or conflicts, an intentional and dedicated yoga practice that includes physical postures, breathing techniques, and behavioral guidelines can be valuable for them.
According to Christina Enneking, California-based yoga studio Heart Happy Yoga, the practice introduces cornerstone values to young children like self-discipline, non-harming, moderation, truthfulness, cleanliness, and gratitude.
She says that there are five key areas where young people benefit from practicing yoga long-term, and each of these key areas improves a child’s overall well-being as they grow.
Enhances Physical Flexibility
Enneking explains that yoga promotes physical strength as kids learn to use their muscles in new ways. Each pose can challenge different muscle groups and helps children become aware of their body and how it functions efficiently.
Develops Focus and Concentration
Yoga can encourage children to clear their mind and to focus on doing the poses. This single focus is something they get to incorporate and apply in other aspects of their life. For instance, they can easily focus and concentrate on their schoolwork and get better grades as a result.
Refines Balance and Coordination
One key element of yoga is balance. There are balancing poses to promote physical and mental poise and as they learn these poses, they will achieve stability and mental clarity. And even if your kids have a hard time standing on one foot and keeping steady, they will learn how to attain mental and physical balance as long as they can stay calm when they fall and just try again. Kids will get a sense of accomplishment as they learn to improve their physical balance.
Closely tied to balance is coordination. Yoga poses to promote overall dexterity and helps children develop gross and fine motor coordination.
Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence
Yoga instills confidence and brings learning to kids on an experiential level. Enneking says that the practice teaches children to be patient, to persevere, and to work toward their goals. When your kid masters a yoga pose, it gives him or her self-esteem and confidence. She often describes yoga for kids as “prehabilitation,” which is a proactive action to ward off sickness or instability. She also notes that yoga provides the tools for children to practice mindfulness, focus, compassion, generosity, strength, and flexibility.
Strengthens Mind-Body Connection
Yoga practice helps your kids achieve a sound mind and body. It exercises the physical body and calms the mind and the spirit. The modern world moves very fast for kids and it won’t be long before they would start feeling all sorts of pressure to keep up with everything and everyone around them. The good thing is that yoga functions like a release valve, alleviating the pressure and serving as a foundation for the children to nurture and develop a resourceful and resilient mind, body, and spirit.
Play and Focus
Shana Meyerson, the founder of California-based Mini Yogis yoga studio, adds that children’s yoga practice is an opportunity for them to experience play and focus without having to worry about being wrong. She believes that yoga presents an option for those who avoid physical activity or group-related activities for fear of rejection or failure, while also helping the athletic ones to excel in other sports and physical activities.
Benefits of Yoga for Parents
Doing yoga with your children can help deepen your connection and bond with them. For every breath you take, you are connecting it with movement, with your inner self, and with your child.
Fun Exercises and Easy Poses
Kids Yoga Stories suggests keeping yoga fun by acting out your toddler’s favorite books and incorporating poses as you both pretend to be the characters and as you tell the story.
And when it comes to bringing awareness to their breathing, you can do creative breathing exercises. For instance, you can teach your tot to properly inhale by smelling their favorite food or smelling a fresh flower. Then you can encourage them to exhale by blowing out a candle, blowing a cotton ball across the floor, or blowing a balloon.
Now here are some suggested simple and basic yoga exercises that you can do with your toddler:
Boat Pose (Navasana)
Sit in the middle of your mat with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Invite your tot to give your shins a big bear hug and start leaning back with your chest lifted and your core engaged. You can reach your arms out to your toddler as you start to lift your legs into the Boat Pose.
Stay in this pose for a few breaths and as you encourage your baby to pretend that he or she is flying. Take a break and lift again. You can take as many flights as the two of you would like.
This is a fun way to work your core and build some heat with our toddler in tow.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Assume a standing posture on the center of your mat. Bring your feet close together and ask your tot to stand in front of you. Bend both of your knees, drop your hips, then slowly do your Chair Pose by squeezing your inner thighs together. Ask your little kiddo to put his or her back to you.
Engage everything, especially your core, and pick up your toddler. Let him or her stand with one foot on each thigh. Engaging your core keeps your lower back protected for a few breaths as your kiddo pretends to be a flying fairy or superhero.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Bring balance in your yoga with the Tree Pose. Start by picking up your tiny yogi then rest him or her on your hip. You can also try resting your baby on your back or your shoulders and let him or her hug you and hold on tight.
Center yourself and find your balance with just your right leg. Then slowly come on to your left foot’s ball and open your knee to allow your left hip to open. Stand with your toes touching the ground or raise your foot and rest it on your inner thigh or calf, but not on your knee.
Stay in this well-balanced position for a few breaths, with your little monkey clinging on to mommy tree. You can also move your hands, or your pretend-branches, or play peek-a-boo or patty-cake. If you wiggle and wobble, you can pretend that it is raining or that the wind is swaying the tree.
Now don’t forget to switch feet and let your mini monkey click to the other side or the tree. Or perhaps he or she would like to be a bird this time.
Down Dog Push-Ups
Assume your Downward Facing Dog pose on your mat and ask your toddler to crawl under and rest his or her head between your arms, face up. You can pretend to be a bridge while doing so. Take a deep breath and make sure that your shoulders are externally rotated, your core engaged. Afterward, shift your gaze forward to your little one’s face and start bending your elbows, then send them straight back, your arms staying close to the body.
Start lowering your forearms closer to the mat, find your edge, then pause and kiss your baby. Press back up and assume your Down Dog. Repeat these Down Dog push-ups for as long as you want.
For your little one, this is a special mommy bridge kiss. For you, a great shoulder workout.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
The Bow Pose is going to be a fun exercise with your mini yogi, while also strengthening your back. Start by lying on your belly, bending both your knees, and grabbing the outer side of your feet with your hands. You can also hold on to your feet using a strap.
Invite your tot to gently get on the mommy boat, his or her tummy on your back with the hands resting on your shoulders or wrapped around your neck. Bring your knees together, start breathing into your belly, and naturally start to rock.
You can take your boat on a cruise along the ocean for several breaths.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose in yoga is a restorative posture and allows your body to take a breather. Start by sitting on your heels, your shins on the ground. Open your knees as wide as your yoga mat then reach your fingertips forward and rest your forehead on the mat, or a foam block. Invite your toddler to jump on your back, and once he or she is up there, you can pretend to be a turtle, with him or her as your shell.
While your little turtle shell is hugging and covering your back, he or she is also giving you some assistance for your hips. His or her weight presses your body down, this will help your hips open slightly more.
Continue doing this turtle in the shell exercise for a few breaths by pulling your arms into your beautiful turtle shell, then opening back up.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
With the Corpse Pose, you can just allow your little tot to enjoy laying on your chest as you breathe. Your heartbeat can calm your baby down. While doing this pose, you can pick your favorite lullaby or song and sing it gently together.
Do yoga outdoors. Try to incorporate yoga when you are outdoors. For example, if you are out for a walk at the park, you can pretend to be one of the trees, standing on one leg. You can also hop like bunnies, stretch like dogs, or squat like possums.
Meditate together. You can also try to take five minutes to meditate together in the morning. You can sit cross-legged, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. And while doing that, invite your tot to sit on your lap for some quiet time. As you hold him or her close, your little one will start to notice the sound of your breathing and the movement of your chest.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
When doing even the easiest and simplest yoga poses with your toddler, you need to keep a few things in mind.
Do not rush your toddler and start slow. There are several ways for you to introduce the practice to your tot without getting them directly involved right away. Let them take their spot next to your yoga mat and join you when they are ready. And you will know when that time comes. You can also invite them to sit on your back or hug you while you do some easy exercise.
However, if they decide to go and do something else in the middle of the exercises, do not force them to stay. Remember, you have their short attention spans to thank for that.
Tips and Tricks
Don’t do any poses where weight or pressure is placed on your toddler’s neck or head.
When doing the Downward Facing Dog Pose, for example, you need to always make sure that your toddler’s arms are holding their body’s weight, and that it’s not their head resting on the ground.
And since they would normally have a tough time with their balance, you need to be mindful when you are both doing any kind of upside-down pose. If your baby is imitating you doing the Tree Pose, you can have them stand next to a table or wall.
Let your toddler go at their own pace. Never force them into a deeper stretch or move their body into a certain position. Doing this can lead to injuries. Instead, use simple words to instruct them what to do, or demonstrate the pose yourself for them to copy.
Make sure your tot doesn’t hold their breath during the poses. Sometimes when little kids are concentrating on their balance or anything they may forget to breathe as frequently as they should. So teach your toddler to inhale and exhale to the movements and the poses.
Try not to over-correct your toddler. Toddlers are still discovering their bodies and the different movements and positions they can do with different body parts. So, if their poses are not perfect, learn to just leave it be.
It is totally fine. The only important thing at this point is that there is no risk of an injury. The best thing for you to do is to let your kids express themselves in any way they enjoy doing the poses.
Praise and verbal prompts are the keys. Encourage them to join you by always putting excitement into your voice. And when they figure a pose out or get to join you in a game of pretend poses, don’t forget to cheer for them.
And once you and your tot are familiar with the poses, start shortening your instructions down to prompts. Like “Give me a tree,” or “Do your doggie pose.”
Exposing your kids to the practice of yoga at a very early age helps lay the foundation for a fit and healthy lifestyle that they can carry with them into adulthood. Doing yoga with your toddler is a daunting task, but it can also be a very fun experience that allows you to form a strong bond.
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