There’s a lot you could be doing with your time. Why take yoga with your child?

children and parents play in toddler yoga, students are sitting on two rows of bolsters facing the camera for a choo choo train activity1. Kids yoga is fun.

Adult yoga classes can seem really serious. Sometimes the studio is very quiet and the lights are low. Everyone files in, sits on their mats, and waits for the instructor’s directions. While adult yoga certainly can be its own kind of fun, Kids yoga is fun in the more classic sense. We play! We get silly. We march, we stomp, we jump around, we sing, we pretend, we make animal noises, we get out toys. Everything has a purpose, but it’s also very much play.

2. Yoga promotes motor development: such as balance, coordination, body awareness.

Instructor and child in red tops and dark bottoms practice airplane pose, balancing on one foot with arms stretched wideToddler and preschooler yoga has a very different repertoire of movements than your typical adult yoga asana class. We meet the child where they are and challenge them to take the next developmental step.

One of my favorite yoga class stories related to this came from a parent of a Tot yogi a few years ago. Her son was in early intervention, and at almost 2 and now developing typically, was being “graduated” out of the program. During his exit interview, the therapist was going through a checklist of expected skills for his age but, it was a list that included skills not expected until later. She said aloud “Balances on 1 foot. Oh no, he can’t do that yet,” and was going to move on, but the parent said “Oh yes he can. We do that every week in yoga class,” and the little guy promptly demonstrated our “knee-to-chest” pose.

In Tot Yoga (crawling-24 mo), there are some poses that adults will recognize from their own practices, but tots are just learning many necessary gross motor skis and we practice them in lots of different ways. We practice crawling, standing, weight shifting, walking, marching, the beginning of jumping, balancing, stepping over, and more. there’s lots of assisting by parents. There are some As we get into Preschooler Yoga (21 mo – 4 yrs) we begin to refine the movements, working on full jumping, jumping on one foot, jumping forward, more cross lateral movements such as foot-over-foot balancing, and more precise speed and force control. Parents will recognize lots of the poses we do from their own classes but there will be lots they’ve never seen too: Do you know beaver? Sheep? Elephant? Dinosaur?

3. Yoga teaches self-awareness and self-regulatory techniques.

preschoolers and parents rest with legs up the wall at hill centerIn addition to all the proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input and spacial awareness from the poses and movements, we incorporate a lot of sensory play that helps toddlers draw attention to their inner experience. Breathwork too is a sensory experience, as well as an accessible way of regulating emotional state.

And at the end of class, we always offer quiet relaxation. Toddlers and preschoolers aren’t always willing to lie still during this relaxation time, but that’s totally OK. It’s an invitation and the parent modeling resting is an important part of this learning, so you can relax and we’ll watch your kiddo.

And by participating in all this with your child, you are acting as a resource for co-regulation. Before a child can self-regulate, they co-regulate. Co-regulation is “an interactive process of regulatory support that can occur within the context of caring relationships across the lifespan. Co-regulation will look different at different ages as child capacity for self-regulation grows, but remains a critical resource across development.” [OPRE/HHS Brief]

All that soothing – snuggling, patting, walking, bouncing, singing, and even nursing – you did with your infant when they were upset was co-regulation. As they outgrow some of those earlier techniques, you need new ones. Many of the songs, breath work, and activities we do in yoga classes become part of families’ home routines and co-regulation repertoire.

4. Self awareness is a prerequisite for social awareness.

families gather around a multicolored parachuteSelf awareness is the first building block of social emotional skills. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional, Learning (CASEL), social-emotional learning (SEL) is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Being able to identify and name our inner experiences is a component identifying and empathizing with those of others.

5. Kids yoga class, baby and toddler yoga especially, promotes social/emotional skills!

dad and son balance on rainbow colored circular balance beamYou may have seen the headlines focusing on swinging on playgrounds and music education, but what these studies were actually looking at was rhythmic movement in a social context. What they learned was that these activities train our brain for cooperation. All that chanting and singing along with moving and marching we do in toddler class is exactly the kind of activity they were talking about. Baby yoga for precrawlers also emphasizes face time, something babies love, love, love and is critical for social development.

6. Yoga promotes language development.

We’ve discussed the value of signing in yoga class at length, And in addition, we are telling stories, playing make believe and naming body parts, poses, animals, emotions . . . . Children are practicing following instructions and learning to pick out the important sounds among many.

(7.) Did I mention fun?

It’s a lot of fun.

See our current class schedule and come check it out for yourself!

Learn more about Early Childhood Yoga:

About the Author:

Jennifer Mueller has been teaching yoga for children and families in Washington DC since 2008. Jen is a Yoga Alliance® Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RTY 200) and Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCTY) as well as a Certified Educator of Infant Massage, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Jen teaches Breathing Space Baby Yoga & Play classes, Tot, Toddler and Little Families Yoga, afterschool classes, and directs day-off and summer camps . . . in addition to a bunch of behind the scenes stuff to keep it all running.

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