Yoga and Toddlers

yoga-toddler-beach-downward-dog-pose

“I want do yohhhdahhh!
Mommy do yohhhdahhh too!”

This has become a daily refrain in my house since I introduced my almost two-year-old son to yoga a few months ago.

He loves it – the yoga mat, the animal poses (accompanied by all the fun noises of course), the “breathing ball” aka Hoberman sphere we use to visualize big belly breathing.

His joy is a constant reminder to me of the benefits that I have received over years of practice, though I don’t always approach my mat with such enthusiastic glee.

Does yoga with a toddler look like a Yoga Journal cover? No way!

We are lucky to move through an entire sun salutation – usually he picks a few of the poses I am doing, creating his own sequence. He giggles hilariously as he peeks at me through his downward dog legs – mommy is such a hoot! We sing songs as we move and play with rhythm and sound effects.

Most importantly, yoga is a time for us to be together, fully present and free of all the other distractions that crowd our day.

Yoga at this age (toddler-preschool) is about nurturing and supporting a child’s natural progression through developmental milestones and engaging their innate curiosity and playfulness while affirming security, safety and belonging. We can begin to experiment with breath, stillness and self-regulation while the physical poses assist in building gross and fine motor skills, coordination, balance and strength.

Through specific poses, we can also address any potential developmental delays.

Yoga and school-aged children:

As children enter school, yoga becomes important to combat both the physical and emotional stressors of their new environment. Sitting for hours at desks and carrying heavy book bags, children quickly lose their effortless posture and ability to squat fully as they develop tight hips and hamstrings.

Often, academic achievements become priority and children don’t have enough opportunities throughout the day to move their bodies leading to hyperactive or inappropriate classroom behavior.

In 2013, less than half (48%) of high school students attended physical education classes in an average week. (CDC, 2013)

Children, pre-teens and teens are increasingly subjected to a tremendous amount of stress, activity, overstimulation, expectation and pressure. They are often exposed to much of life’s unpleasantness with very little power to change their situation or environment. Many of the messages they receive can result in unhealthy competition, negative self-talk, poor self-esteem and perfectionism.

Studies have shown yoga practice will…

  • Enhance Learning
  • Improve Behavior and Self-Regulation
  • Heighten Mental, Social and Emotional Health
  • Improve Sensory Processing
  • Relieve Stress
  • Encourage Health
  • Increase Feelings of Well-Being
  • Create Community
  • Promote Self-Awareness
  • Develop Fine Motor Skills

My son will likely start pre-school next year and I hope he will have access to a yoga program that will expand on the foundation we have built together. In the meantime, we will continue to practice at home and allow the calm, energy, breath and connection we find together on our mats ripple through the rest of our day.