If the world could harness the energy of toddlers, there would never be wars over fuel, so the idea of a toddler in a yoga class might seem ludicrous. Where would all that energy go during focused breathing and challenging poses? Happily, it seems to go right where it should – into the yoga practice.
We give kids all manner of activities to try to channel or focus their energy. We know they need to play and be active, but sometimes it can be difficult finding a safe, productive way of capturing their interest and containing all that energy. Introducing them early to the controlled breathing and poses of yoga is a great idea to help them stay active but calm, engaged but contained. You can’t say that about too many toddler activities! Take a look at a typical mommy/daddy-and-me yoga class.
Parents and toddlers typically share space and a mat, keeping the child connected to the parent, helping him or her to associate the good feelings of yoga with the parent. Physical contact is essential, and can be stress-relieving for both the parent and toddler. As Dad teaches his child to breathe deeply, he has to do it, too. Once the toddler knows how to control breath, a parent can help her do it in any situation, not just in the yoga studio.
In a structured class, parents learn to observe their children more closely. They see tension and anxiety in their children on a daily basis, usually precipitating a melt-down, but as they learn to help the kids relax, the poses and breathing exercises done in class become second-nature at home. Watching the child try a new pose in class is a beautiful thing when the pose becomes a goal at home. The kids will often try it over and over until they can do it without help. What a confidence booster!
Some classes incorporate songs, rhymes, and other types of play into the toddler yoga sessions. While it’s not anything like an adult yoga class, that’s ok. These aren’t adults we’re talking about. Yoga’s beauty is that it can be modified to accommodate the needs of the practitioner. If the kids need music or play to facilitate their yoga practice, then make it so. Your own yoga time should be what you need it to be, and a toddler’s yoga practice should be nothing less. Use the songs and games at home to extend the practice and to teach the little ones that yoga isn’t just something done at a studio; it’s a way of living.