I can’t justify to a baby, toddler or child that “Yoga is good for you.” I can’t tell them that their sense of body, breath and mind awareness will improve with practice. The child only know if they are engaged by the practice. Yoga must be enjoyable, even if it is creating a nest of pillows and blankets and taking a nap.
New experiences make new connections in the brain and with each other. The learning and joy of yoga can come from parent-led movements and massage. In my toddler class, I encourage self-exploratory poses like happy baby and knee-to-chest poses. These poses are beneficial in promoting body awareness. Given permission, children can also enjoy massage from a parent and vice-versa. It is good to teach reciprocation.
The parent and child bonding can also come from interacting with a parent in a new way. The parent might sing or chant so the child can feel the vibrations directly through the chest. This might also instigate some giggles and laughter (one of my favorite parts of the yoga experience). The connection also might come from carrying or holding the child through parental movements like squats, or poses like bridge or boat.
Learn ways to calm and center together with yoga. This is a good skill for both child and parent as stress can quickly take over quality family time. Special time spent doing yoga with your child not only allows you both a healthy physical exercise but also quiet time to reflect on feelings and deepen your connection with each other. Lying together on the floor focusing on matching the other’s breath is unbelievably calming and simple. Sometimes our children just want to be heard but might not be sure how to say what they need. Learn to communicate better with the time and space free from work or distractions where you can focus in on the needs of your little one. Doing a regular check-in to see how they are handling the trials and tribulations as well as the joys of everyday life is good for everyone.
Bring your babies, toddlers and children to yoga (incorporate them into your daily yoga practice) because no matter what else happens, you’ll both have fun.