You might pass a billboard with an upside-down can of Coca-Cola on it with the word yoga underneath, or see an advertisement for pretzels claiming that it is the only snack that does yoga, or you might see people walking down the street in your neighborhood with brightly colored sticky mats.
You know where they are going and sometimes you say to yourself, “Maybe I should try yoga someday”. But, it’s something new and you don’t know where to go or how to start. Maybe you did yoga during a pregnancy or took a class in college, but things have changed since you had children and you don’t know how to find the time or if your new mommy or daddy body is up for the challenge.
The good news is that yoga is for everybody and you can find a class that works with your lifestyle, schedule, and all levels of fitness. Many studios and community centers also offer Pre-and Post-Natal Yoga, Baby and Me, Family Yoga, and classes that you can bring your children to so that the challenges and expense of finding childcare are not an obstacle to your practice.
Some teachers specialize in yoga for children and many schools from pre-school through high school are adding yoga to their physical fitness curriculum.
Just as every person is unique, so is each persons experience of yoga. While a personal practice can improve physical fitness and flexibility, relieve tension and stress, lower blood pressure, support weight loss, stabilize mood and decrease back pain, practicing with your children or as a family comes with additional benefits.
For many adults, sharing yoga with their children reveals that yoga doesn’t have to be so serious! Classes shared with children include stories, songs, imagination, laughter, and moving together in a celebration of the body and life. If you have a personal practice as a parent, family classes are a beautiful way of sharing this part of your life with your children in a way that they can experience and understand.
Family yoga practices provide a shared experience of physical joy while allowing each participant the room to be themselves. Sometimes your toddler might stay right by your side and practice with you and sometimes they may walk off and sit by themselves or engage in play with another child in the room.
Finally, Family Yoga and shared Baby and Me classes are a gathering place for like-minded parents and it is a wonderful way to create community networks.
Children love yoga because the poses and breathing are natural to them. It is not always easy being little and yoga provides some tools that children can use to center themselves in the sea of physical changes, developmental transitions, and social adaptation that young people experience on a daily basis. As the mother of a moody and incredibly energetic 2-year-old, I was in nothing short of awe the first time we participated together in a yoga class for toddlers.
As soon as the class started, my son transformed from a body of unbridled energy to an efficient and careful participant following all the directions and enjoying the playful, yet predictable atmosphere of the class. At the end of the class, the instructor had us all lie with our legs up the wall and with my son cradled next to me, our feet touching, he sighed and I could feel him allow his body to sink into the floor and the support of my arm. For just a few moments, we breathed together there on the floor and shared peace. It was just a minute, but it was magic!
There are many wonderful resources for exploring yoga and meditation that you can share with your infants, toddlers, and young children. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
- Baby Buddha’s: A Guide for Teaching Meditation to Children by Lisa Desmond. This is a beautiful book including specific ideas for introducing meditation to young children from 18-months through 3-years of age. The instructions and activities are easy to follow and Desmond’s methods are time tested techniques. This book is available through Amazon.
- Helen Garabedian has published two books illuminating her Itsy Bitsy Yoga program. The first book on Itsy Bitsy Yoga is for infants to toddlers and the second book, is specifically for toddlers and preschoolers. She claims that the benefits of yoga for toddlers includes fewer tantrums, better sleep, improved digestion, increased listening skills, better self-expression among other things. Her books provide suggestions on complete sets of yoga poses and breathing exercises, songs and massage. The books are clear, but the suggested exercises are playful and practical. This book is available through Amazon.
- Jyothi Larson’s Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby: The Yoga Workout for New Moms and Laura Staton and Sarah Perron’s Baby Om: Yoga For Mothers and Babies are both excellent resources for yoga exercises for mothers to share with infants up to one-year of age. Baby Om provides workout sets organized by post-partum weeks and provides excellent guidance for using yoga to heal from surgical birth. This book is available through Amazon.
The only value of yoga is in the sharing of it. Creating a shared memory of movement, song and laughter is a beautiful gift you can give your family. Giving your children the gift of peace in their bodies, minds and hearts is a treasure that they can carry with them well into adulthood. Remember, if you cant smile while you are doing it, its not yoga. Enjoy!
Yoga information provided and written by Sharon Rudyk of Yoga Matrika.
Additional Yoga for Family Resources in our Store
- Yoga for the Special Child: A Therapeutic Approach for Infants and Children With Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Learning Disabilities by Sonia Sumar
- Baby Om: Yoga for Mothers and Babies by Laura Staton, Sarah Perron
- Itsy Bitsy Yoga’s Play n’ Flourish DVD: Yoga for Your Baby from Birth to 10 Months with Helen Garabedian