Yoga practice brings benefits to everyone, no matter your age or ability.
Yoga for kids is a lot different than yoga for adults. In kid's yoga, there is laughter, talking, singing, running, and teamwork. Kids are encouraged to be themselves - whatever their interests may be. We teach through songs, games, stories, and conversation. Children love to play pretend, use their imagination, create and explore. Yoga encourages children's naturally abilities and interests while at the same time helping them to develop strength, flexibility, and an overall sense of well being. Yoga also provides a toolkit of strategies to use that will assist with their active lives, sometimes overactive minds, and everyday underlying stress of being a kid today.
Benefits of Yoga for Babies & Toddlers
As a child’s brain develops, the first 3 years are the critical period for language development. The more language a child is exposed to during those first three years, the better. Language is developed through hearing spoken words. Yoga for babies & toddlers expose kids to language through song, words with actions, and attention to body awareness.
Body awareness helps with children self-regulation, self-monitoring, and learning to navigate physically in the world around them. Learning to name, recognize and move specific parts of the body connects the child to their physicality. Understanding how the body works and moves is a lifelong discovery made easier through the practice of yoga. In baby & toddler yoga, kids and caregivers will move and sing about and identify parts of the body.
Gross motor skills
Toddlers will stomp, jump, spin, bear weight on the arms, cross the midline, balance on one foot, transfer weight between the feet, pass an object from hand to hand, clap, pat the floor, and experience moving their bodies many ways. Over the course of weeks and months in a yoga class, toddlers (and their adults) will experience a new level of confidence as their large muscle groups gain strength and proficiency of poses increase.
Sitting in a stroller or car seat doesn’t do much to strengthen the muscles. However, crawling, holding down dog, and trying to jump- these all lead to stronger muscles for life. Practicing yoga encourages weight bearing on the hands, which builds up the muscles of the arms and shoulders, that gives young children the strength to support themselves as well as for fine muscle control. Many postures encourage and develop strength in the core. All of this strength helps with sitting taller, which allows for proper lung function, digestion and elimination.
Balance is often called the sixth sense, and tends to be overlooked when talking about strength and coordination. Learning to balance on one foot helps you balance on two feet, improves overall coordination, requires core strength, and confidence. When a child starts to shift weight back and forth, she is learning to balance. Soon that shift- almost a dance (with feet still firmly planted on the floor) becomes a full rock, lifting one foot as she transfers weight back and forth in star pose. Before long she will be picking up one foot, towards tree balances or knee lifts- feeling confident and with a sense of accomplishment.
Connection to the people around us, it’s how we navigate the world. Infants’ first connections are to faces, looking into the eyes of parents, eventually reacting with smiles and coos. This initial bonding is important for babies to feel safe, secure, and loved. Learning to play with others is an important life-skill; it’s one that has to be experienced. The more opportunities a young child is given to interact the better to develop social skills. Infants and toddlers do not “play together” - but they do smile, laugh, and notice that there are other babies in the room. Eventually they will enjoy playing side-by-side (parallel play) with other children, and sometimes even engaging. Starting with small moves- passing a ball, handing a scarf, offering a scarf,-yoga provides a safe space for infants and toddlers and their caregivers to interact together and with others of a similar age group. It is beneficial for parents, who might not have a lot of experience with babies and children, to observe how the interaction takes place. The yoga instructor can provide important cues and reassurances that the actions and behaviors of the infants and toddlers are completely normal and age appropriate. Seeing it first hand with other kids of the same age is even more instructive and comforting to experience- that it’s not just my child who does that.
Yoga is fun at all ages. Young children learn best through play, and yoga for infants and toddlers is all play. Providing information for parents and caregivers about how each pose benefits the child, does no take away from the pure joy of flying like a butterfly or jumping (whether assisted or alone).
Fine motor skills
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young infants typically only have the ability to rake objects with all five fingers. Older babies can use a true pincer grasp (picking things up between thumb and forefinger), and toddlers can manipulate items such as toys easily. All of these skills can be improved with stimulation and practice. In an infant or toddler yoga class- grasping mom’s fingers, balls, blocks, scarves, or the edge of a parachute- all of these can encourage and develop the fine motor skills.
Bonding with caregiver
Yoga class gives a caregiver an opportunity to respond to an infant’s needs in the moment by encouraging feeding, cuddling, and diaper changes as needed. A Trusting relationship and lifelong attachment develops by attending to the baby’s immediate need. This sets the state for the growing child to enter healthy relationships with other people throughout life and to appropriately experience and express a full range of emotions. This first relationship leaves baby feeling secure by knowing she can trust this person to take care of her most basic needs. Having a fun, shared experience- is something baby and caregiver can take away from class, continuing to share the songs and poses learned in class.
Benefits of Yoga for Children & Teens
Improved strength and flexibility
Boosted confidence and self esteem
Expanded creative expression and imagination
Improved concentration, focus, and attention
Improved body image
Increased respect for self and others
Improved balance, coordination, and general body awareness
Environmental awareness and earth care
Improved attitudes: more patience, less reactive, more positive outlook