The practice of yoga has become a popular way for adults and teens to keep their body, mind, and spirit in balance. Yoga is often used by adults to strengthen their joints, increase flexibility, and improve posture. In recent years, even doctors have recommended yoga to adults as a way to reduce blood pressure and relax. Did you know that infant and toddler yoga can benefit your baby as well?
Practicing yoga with your infant or toddler does not have to be complicated or long. There is no minimum or maximum time required to complete your practice. If your baby is not enjoying a position or is done before you have completed everything you wanted, then stop and come back to it later or another day. Infant and toddler yoga is not about a movement or position that you help your child perform; remember that baby yoga is intended to be a joint activity that you practice together.
Benefits of Infant & Toddler Yoga
Regular mindfulness practices can help adults and children alike manage their emotions, reduce stress, and cope with anxiety. Meditation helps to cultivate focused attention and the capacity to let go of external stimuli. For an infant or toddler, this might seem silly or unnecessary, but studies have shown that mindfulness practices earlier in life lead to a higher level of positive self-image, self-confidence as well as fewer symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety throughout our lives.
Baby yoga is a wonderful way to support infants’ social, emotional, and physical development with some simple songs and movement. Infant and toddler yoga practices can help children sleep longer, reduce fussiness, promote neuromuscular development, improve digestion and increase body awareness.
Newborn Baby Yoga Poses:
- The caregiver should sit on the floor with their legs out straight. Place the baby back down on your thighs so you can look at each other. Gently take baby’s opposite arm and leg, bring them toward each other above their belly. Now try the opposite sides and do this 3 to 5 times. This brings awareness to the baby’s furthest points from the center. While doing this the caregiver can lean or fold forward and stretch their hamstrings and back to help calm nerves as a new parent.
- Sit up with your back against the wall and bring your knees up while keeping your feet on the floor. Position your baby’s belly on your thighs, with your knees supporting their head. Gently pat their sacrum (bone at the base of the spine) and rock your knees side to side. Try doing this for 30 to 60 seconds. This baby yoga position will help calm him, release gas, and give your baby a new perspective.
- The caregiver should sit on the floor with their legs out, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Hold your baby close on your chest or in a front wrap. Breathe in deeply letting baby feel the rise and fall of your chest. Now lean your shoulders back a bit and take three deep breaths from deep in your core. If you want to lift your legs up six inches for extra core strengthening you can try that as well.
Infant Yoga Poses:
Once your child can support his head and is sitting up more, try adding in these poses to your baby yoga routine.
- Stand in a squat position. Hold your baby facing outwards against your chest. While holding your baby securely, allow yourself to drop into a full squat and then slowly lift back up. This incorporates the goddess pose which not only strengthens your legs, but your core as well.
- Lie flat on your back next to your baby. Bending your knees, step your feet back towards your bottom, alternating one at a time. Now, help baby march his feet up one at a time towards his bum. Try this 3 times; it can help tone the baby’s core as well as aid digestion.
- The caregiver should lie on their back with their knees tucked up on their chest. Place your baby’s chest on your shins. Hold your baby as you rock up and do a mini crunch toward your baby, enough to reach and give him a kiss! You are working on your core and pelvic floor muscles as baby is working on his core muscles balancing on your shins.
Toddler Yoga Poses:
- Start by having the caregiver sit down and the toddler stand in front of you. Slowly, help the child lift one knee up towards their chest, then the other. This is a great way to practice balance!
- The caregiver should sit on the floor with their legs out straight. Place the mobile child tummy down on your thighs, up close to your belly. Using your hands on the trunk of their body, slowly roll your little one down your legs to your toes and then back up. When they are down by your ankles, the caregiver can get a good stretch in too!
- Sit facing your child, hold a flower or dried sachet pouch. Imitate deeply inhaling through your nose and out through your mouth. Allow your toddler to try to smell the object while you continue to over exaggerate your breathing. This is a great way to introduce your toddler to breathing exercises.
For more fun positions, check out Itsy Bitsy Yoga by Helen Garabedian. If you are interested in learning more about teaching children mindfulness, sign up to be alerted when our newest online class goes live later this month: Mindfulness: Raising Self-Aware Children.
About The Author
Nia Davidson has over 10 years of experience working with children in Boston and Virginia, as well as abroad. She studied human development and family studies at the University of Vermont. She is also trained as a birth and postpartum doula, infant/toddler yoga instructor, and works as a Newborn Care Expert with BBN&N. Growing up mostly abroad in Germany and Qatar, she has a unique understanding of different cultures and traditions. She understands that bringing a newborn home can be filled with wonder and excitement but also can be a time of stress. Nia’s calm demeanor, loving nature, and multicultural experiences abroad make her uniquely capable of supporting families through the newborn stages. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and practicing yoga.