By: Anna Beth Rousakis
Picture a typical yoga class. Do you envision a serene space in which to meditate, get in touch with your inner self, and work your body to its edge? If you were to peek into a Tiny Tots class, this is probably not what you would see. Amidst a jumble of toys and the lilting cadence of nursery rhymes, you’d find a group of parents moving through a sequence of yoga postures as their babies crawl, giggle, or cuddle in their arms. There is singing; there are diaper changes; and savasana is done with eyes wide open.
Though Tiny Tots Yoga looks nothing like the classes you may have taken before, it offers its own rich benefits. Time on your mat with your little one enhances parent child bonding by highlighting the symbiotic connection between you and your baby. As you move and breathe together, it becomes clear that your breath patterns can influence your child’s, your expressions may elicit smiles, and your touch may soothe frazzled nerves. Baby and parent yoga also promotes body awareness for both postpartum mothers and their infants. Moms are able to meet their postpartum bodies with love and work to regain strength in a safe way all while incorporating developmentally beneficial movements for their babes. And perhaps most significantly, as you adjust your yoga practice to accommodate the needs of your baby, practicing with your child encourages mental flexibility and challenges you to find peace within the chaos.
I invite you to join me to experience this on Saturday Feb 3 at my Tiny Tots workshop. In the meantime, here are some tips for doing yoga with your baby:
- Create a safe, comfortable space where your child has the freedom to explore and move.
- Set a reasonable goal for the length of your practice. Babies’ attention spans are shorter than adults’, so start with 10 minutes and see what happens. Some days you may be able to get in 10 minutes of practice and others may allow you 30-40 minutes.
- Expand your definition of what yoga is. Yoga is focused attention, skill in action, self-study, non-judgment. Whether you are sitting in sukhasana chanting om or feeding your baby, take the opportunity to concentrate fully on the task at hand, slow your breath, and tune in to the connection between you and your child.
- Choose nourishing movements. The first year of a child’s life is filled with new experiences and exponential growth, and keeping up with the challenges of parenthood may leave you depleted physically and emotionally. On your mat, meet your body where it is. Include a variety of movements - forward folds, hip stretches, mild back bends, twists - but avoid taking anything to the end range of movement. Build strength slowly and with compassion.
- Involve your baby in the experience. Place your baby right in front of you as you practice and interact with her as you salute the sun. Let him crawl on, around, and under your downward-facing dog. Share tummy time by doing baby cobra together. Pick them up and sit them in your Chair Pose. Use props such as shakers or colorful scarves to engage their senses.
- Get silly. In Tiny Tots, cows moo, cobras hiss, and upward-facing dogs howl. Add sound and movement. Wiggle. Hum. Laugh. Almost any kids’ song or nursery rhyme can be turned into a yoga game for kids. Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as your star falls into triangle pose. Prop your little one on your lifted pelvis in Bridge pose, warble a verse or two of London Bridge, and give your kiddo a ride as your bridge falls down. And if your arsenal of kids’ songs is as nascent as your newborn, don’t worry. Make up your own tunes or just add silly sound effects.
- End your practice with gratitude. Acknowledge the miraculous strides your child makes each and every day. Thank yourself for the love and validation you offer your baby. Honor all those who support you in your journey through parenthood.
- Show up just as you are, have fun, and share the authentic you with your baby.
If you’d like to experience yoga with your baby, join me for a one-hour Tiny Tots Yoga workshop on February 3, 2018.
Anna Beth Rousakis teaches yoga to people of all ages. She finds yoga to be a perfect complement to parenting, and relishes opportunities to share yoga with families. Learn more about her at www.apeaceofthewhole.com.