Downward Dog Pose baby

Source: Pinterest

Welcome to our our Children & Yoga series!

Children are natural yogis.

In the first post of the series, Rachel, a Yoga District teacher and certified ChildLight Yoga Baby & Toddler teacher, shares insights about the benefits of teaching yoga to babies and toddlers. Feel free to attend one of her classes!

Rachel’s Class Schedule:

  • Fridays 11:15 PM, Baby & Me Yoga @ Bloomingdale
  • Sunday 3:30 PM,  Toddler & Me Yoga @ Columbia Heights

If you’ve spent any time around babies and toddlers you’ve probably noticed something pretty cool—they spontaneously do yoga poses all the time! Child’s pose, downward dog, and happy baby (duh), but also bound angle, bridge, cobra, hero’s pose, and so many others.

It’s like they arrive on earth as natural yogis. This is one of the reasons I love doing yoga with babies, toddlers, and caregivers.

Adult Yoga versus Child Yoga

Despite completing a 200-hour adult yoga teacher training, I was nervous when I decided to pursue teaching children! But then my teacher told me the secret—that there is no official “child yoga” tradition (we’re not talking ashtanga for kids, here).

As a children’s yoga teacher, I delve deep into all my creative resources (and my experiences with my own child) to make classes fun, accessible, and developmentally supportive for all ages in the room.

There are amazing experts on the topic, great resources, trainings, early childhood teachers, plus certification programs for teaching yoga to babies, children and families. A modern “child yoga” tradition has emerged.  It offers best practices and strategies for helping caregivers support children’s physical, social, emotional, and spiritual development.

I fell in love with TAKING baby yoga classes with my own little one, starting around six weeks. It is the reason I got interested in teaching yoga to children.  She just turned two, and we still do yoga together EVERY DAY. In fact, two of her early words were “yoga mat” and “tree pose”!

 Experiencing a Baby & Me Yoga Class

It’s not postpartum or mom-only! Every week we have any combination of moms, dads, grandparents, and nannies. We start sitting in a circle with the little ones aged 6 weeks to pre-crawling.

The atmosphere is RELAXED, it is okay to arrive a few minutes late (we all know who is the boss of your schedule now) and attend to your and your babies’ needs during class. This class is about caring for the baby and YOU.

Over the course of about 45 minutes, we blend movements for baby and simple stretches for grownups. Everyone gets a chance to interact (babies and adults), learn some new songs (a yoga version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star), and a lot of new ideas for ways to play, move, and bond with the baby. There’s even time for relaxation at the end, and yes, the babies often zonk out during savasana.

Experiencing a Toddler & Me Yoga Class

Toddler & Me Yoga is a whole different ball game, as you can imagine! People say trying to manage a room full of toddlers is like herding cats… but this is where crawlers to early walkers can show off their natural yoga skills.

After just one or two classes, they adapt and learn the songs and routines (toddlers thrive on repetition). When we ring the chime, the room is absolutely silent as we listen for when the sound stops.

They jump right in to the movement, eager to imitate dogs, snakes, fish, dinosaurs, and butterflies. They find moments of calm when we take deep breaths to “smell the flowers,” and climb all over the grownups as they try to keep up.

How do we get through savasana with this group? Parents take a rest and I take out the magic toddler wand … bubbles!

Power of Yoga in Early Childhood

Yoga has power in the early childhood setting.  As a public health researcher, I study the influences of early childhood educators on the well-being of children.  I’ve learned how deeply meaningful their work is and how much joy it brings to kids. It also can be incredibly physically and emotionally stressful.

Bringing yoga into an infant, toddler, or preschool classroom not only benefits the kids, but the adults who care for them. The adults can learn simple self-care techniques and gentle movements to find a little more peace and calm in life.

Suggested Resources:

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for babies

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for toddlers and preschoolers

ChildLight Yoga

Little Flower Yoga

Radiant Child Yoga