Too Wild For Toddler Yoga?

Is your toddler too wild for toddler yoga?

Do you miss the yoga class now you have a toddler?

Or maybe you’d like to try yoga out, but can’t see how you’d find the time in your toddler’s busy schedule?

Would you like to share the joy of yoga with your toddler, but unsure how to engage them?

One of my absolute favourite things is teaching yoga to toddlers and their caregivers. When I speak to people about toddlers doing yoga, some immediately get the benefits yoga could bring to toddlers. Others wonder how on earth you get a toddler to participate in a yoga class. Truth be told, some sessions are easier than others. There are days where it feels a bit like herding cats – and that’s OK! With toddlers, you have to appreciate that it is developmentally appropriate for them to want to run around and push boundaries, and explore new things. My job as a toddler yoga teacher is to try and get them to focus that curiosity and energy into practising yoga in fun ways.

My job as a mum is slightly different – I have a wild child. The boy in the orange is my son. I’m on the far right, giving him a hug. This is a yoga class I took him too, where I didn’t listen to my own advice. I spent the time trying to control his behaviour, and got stressed out. Look at the pictures though – he’s enjoying himself, the teacher is cool with it. I should practice what I preach, right? 

By structuring classes in such a way as to hold toddlers attention (as much as is possible) – we can encourage them to participate in games and activities. These games and activities are actually ways of making yoga fun, because we all want to do something fun, even as grown ups. And if they don’t join in – you can be sure they are having fun, and absorbing it all, like a sponge. My son does the poses from that class at home now. 

The benefits of yoga for toddlers are wide and varied.

The physical – improving strength & flexibility and developing co-ordination & balance to name a few – are carried out in a non-competitive environment. This encourages children to try a pose or, as some often do, observe poses in class, then try them out at home when they feel ready. Toddlers can become more aware of their own bodies, & learn that the more they try things, the easier they become.

Yoga is more than just physical exercise. The non-physical benefits are equally important. Toddlers can learn to self regulate their behaviour, and it can improve mental and emotional wellbeing.

 Toddler wrapped in a yoga matYoga classes can help toddlers build concentration as they follow instructions. They encourage imagination, as we use our bodies to interpret the world around us. Games often have children using their breath, learning to control that in fun ways, that can help teach them to RELAX – which is such an important life skill that is often overlooked.

I plan classes so that they are toddler led – and let them know they are in charge of what they want to do in class. This shows them that we are respectful of their boundaries. This, and other activities in class help model appropriate behaviour to toddlers. You will actively explore themes of kindness, respect, generosity and compassion in our classes – as all these qualities are intertwined with the philosophy of yoga.

But of course – none of this would be possible without the class being FUN!

 

We use our imaginations, stories, songs and games to ensure toddlers actually want to come back to class, and keep sharing yoga time with their Mummies or Daddies – that’s right, it’s not just the toddlers doing the exercise in class – you also get class time to interact and learn some fun things to do at home after class has finished!

Happy toddler in Happy Baby pose, with mother in same pose in background

Yoga can help with toddler’s confidence, as they become aware that they can make their bodies do things, and can interact in a secure, supportive environment, as and when they choose to. Sitting observing is great, if that’s all they choose to do – as is taking themselves off to a quiet corner if they need the space. Every child has different needs, and by respecting those needs, we give them the best environment in which to flourish.

Finally, I’m sure some of you are saying ‘that sounds amazing, but my child is far too active to enjoy yoga’.  Imagine your active toddler finding a calmer outlet for their energies. Imagine them realising that relaxation can be just as fun as constant action.  In class, I will often tell parents that it is OK to let their child run about. The only ‘rules’ are that they are not hurting anyone or really disturbing the class. Often just continuing the class and allowing the teacher to maybe adjust the pace slightly, your child will re-engage without the need to impose control on them. Concentrating on the class can focus their attention on the class too.

Come along, try a few sessions. You will not be judged for your child’s exuberance. It could be the very tool they need for their emotional toolbox!

Exploring yoga through stories

A tale of toddlers, and Gruffalo Yoga…

At the start of the summer, I completed my toddler yoga training with Birthlight. This is a follow on from the baby yoga  for mobile babies– for the next stage of your child’s development.

Child peering through adult's legs
Peek a boo!

As a previous children’s specialist bookseller, I am thrilled that this stage can now include storytelling as part of the class. Some classes  follow a simple narrative throughout the class, like a trip to the beach. Others can use a storybook as inspiration for the moves and games in the class. This inspired me to take a look at one of my favourite children’s storybooks – The Gruffalo – and make it into a yoga story.

In the beginning…

The first session was held in Dunfermline Public Park – where there is a Gruffalo and Mouse woodcarving, by local wood artist Johnny Chainsaw. There are also other woodland creatures, and a mystical wizard in the School Wood beside the park, and there is a seat for the Dunfermline Giant. The park is definitely worth a visit if you like a nice wander in the woods – and excitingly, come November, there will be a brand new playpark too! (I’m very excited about this – we love a playpark!)

Back to the yoga though – the first session sold out, as did the second session. The day was glorious, and Rachel from Shootsweet Photography came to take photos of the first session. She really managed to capture the mood of the class, and you can see her wonderful photos below.

A move indoors, and a new venue…

Next outing for the Gruffalo yoga was in Edinburgh, at the end of the festival. It was meant to be another yoga in the park event, but the week before the classes, the weather forecast for the day started to look bad, then worse… the tail end of an Atlantic storm was due to hit the UK. Cue a frantic scramble for an indoor venue (note to self: always have a back up!)

Luckily, I struck gold with St Stephen’s Stockbridge agreeing to accommodate us. It was a stroke of luck in more ways than one, as they have now also agreed to accommodate us for a monthly toddler story yoga class!

Future Story Yoga Adventures…

So, a new chapter is about to begin. Join me in Edinburgh for our story yoga sessions on the following dates : 

Sunday 30 September – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury (bring your teddy!)

Sunday 28 October – Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Hallowe’en session – feel free to dress up!)

Sunday 18 November – Draw me a Star by Eric Carle

Sunday 16 December – The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Xmas jumpers optional)

Sessions are kept small, to ensure the space doesn’t get too busy – so booking is essential. Tickets are available for the September session now, with the other sessions going on sale shortly.

I will soon be introducing family yoga sessions for older children, but at present, the toddler yoga sessions are suitable for 2-4 year olds and their parents. Siblings are also welcome to come along, I will always work to accommodate them in the session too.

I hope to see you all on the mats – I love sharing these yoga tales with you!

Sarah x

Photograph of young child sitting on mothers knee, holding a ball. Mother is kissing the childyoga teacher helps child to roll up in yoga mat. Child is holding a balltwo children in foreground, looking up, open mouthed, in lion breath pose. adults and children in background watching on.