As both a mom of toddlers and a nationally certified yoga instructor, I’ve experienced firsthand how fun and beneficial yoga can be – not just for parents but for their children, too! I recently ran a series of workshops for parents and their children, including mother-daughter yoga classes, mother-son yoga classes, and family day yoga, and it was one of the most popular series I’ve ever taught. It was so fun helping parents discover new yoga poses they could do with their kids!
The children had so much fun playing with their parents as we moved through various vinyasa and hatha-style yoga poses. Parents loved the chance to be one-on-one with their children, and children loved having their parent so focused on them. It was an exciting bonding experience to witness. The most beautiful part of the parent-child yoga journey was the laughter, joy, personal growth, and learning about each other that happened.
Yoga can be so instructive in terms of understanding what our body needs to be healthy. For a child to see and experience the mindfulness that yoga enables in tandem with a parent truly sets a foundation for that child’s awareness of what it means to be healthy—both physically and mentally.
For example, as we breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth, we can pay attention to the rise and fall of our belly. This simple action helps us to recognize how we are feeling, and where in our bodies we might be feeling tension, pain, or stress. With each breath we can cultivate greater awareness, and in turn can allow ourselves to relax.
Yoga is also good for your body, as it strengthens and tones muscle, increases blood circulation, improves balance, stimulates your immune system, and promotes better sleep.
Below are six yoga poses that can be done universally with any age—including toddlers. I’ve also included a conversation prompt if you’d like to dialogue with your child throughout the exercise. As a reminder, don’t be discouraged if your child is acting silly or can’t master a yoga pose. The point is to have fun and relax, above all else!
This is a beginner’s yoga pose and also is a favorite resting pose. Sit on your shins and bend your knees, creating a v-shape with your thighs, knees pointing out and towards the corners of your mat. Stretch your arms out in front of you, pressing your palms against your mat. Gently rest your forehead on your mat. You will feel a nice, deep stretch through your hips, low back, spine, shoulders, and arms. This is a great pose to do before bed or first thing in the morning.
Conversation prompt: Do you feel your breath moving in and out of your body? What does it feel like to breathe when your forehead is pressing against the mat?
Roll onto your back and draw your knees up to your chin. Wrap your arms around your shins and give yourself a hug. Rock slightly back and forth to massage out your low back. Now, release your hold on your shins and grab onto the outside of your feet. Start to rock side to side again. This is the happy baby pose. It may feel good to straighten one leg out while bending the other. It’s a great stretch for your back, hips, and hamstrings.
Conversation prompt: Do you remember when you were a baby? I do! (Share a memory of your child as a baby).
Kids love this yoga pose! Turn over onto your stomach and lie flat, arms down by your sides. Press your forehead into your mat. Now reach your arms out in front of you, like a superhero flying through the air. Take a deep breath in and lift your head, arms, chest and legs off of your mat. Exhale and gently flatten your body back onto your mat, resting one cheek on the mat, arms back down by your sides. Repeat and hold the pose with breath in and out while you are “flying.” When you release the pose, gently rest the other cheek on the mat. This loosens your neck muscles.
Conversation prompt: If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
Stand on your mat and inhale a big breath while sweeping your arms overhead. Exhale your breath, swan diving forward (pressing your arms out to the side of your body) and fold forward, hinging at your hips, allowing your head and neck to hang towards your mat. Feel free to bend your knees here, especially if you have tight hamstrings. Gently hold onto your opposite elbows with each hand, crossing your arms and letting them hang down towards the floor. Keep your neck loose, and feel free to shake your head out a little, nodding “yes” and “no.” Notice if you have any tension in your jaw and wiggle your tongue, relaxing your mouth. See if you can fold forward a bit further, bend deeper, and start to sway carefully from side to side, like a ragdoll.
Conversation prompt: What is your favorite toy to play with and why?
Stand up straight at the back of your mat, arms by your side. Step you right foot forward, toes pointed towards the front of the room. Turn your left foot out so that it is perpendicular to the front foot, and gently bend into your front knee. Check to see that your right knee is directly over your right ankle. Pull your belly button in, strengthening your abdominal muscles. Stretch your right arm forward and your left arm back, palms face down, creating one straight line with your arms. See if you can make a minor adjustment to your hips and shoulders, squaring them forward to the front of the room. Gaze forward out over your right hand, and lift your chin with confidence. Pull that belly button in! Breathe in and out for three counts. Smile if you feel like it! Repeat on the other side, left foot forward.
Conversation starter: What makes you feel happy? When have you had to be brave?
For this yoga pose, stand at the top of your mat and wiggle your body. Hop up and down, shake everything out! OK, now shift your weight into your right foot. You can place your left foot on the inside of your right thigh, on your right calf muscle, or on the ground next to your right ankle. (The one place you don’t want to put your foot is on your knee.) Press the palms of your hands together in front of your heart. Pull your belly button in, using your abdominal muscles to hold your body steady. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale your breath reach your hands up towards the sky. Balance here for three breaths in and out.
Conversation starter: What does your tree look like? Does it have leaves, if so, what color are they?
As always, if you are pregnant or working with an injury, please consult a physician before doing these poses.
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