If you are looking for a sport or exercise program to do with your toddler, then you should consider yoga. The health benefits of yoga for children is undeniable. And on top of that, it’s tons of fun.
Is yoga good for toddlers? Yes! Yoga is excellent for children of any age, including toddlers. It improves their overall mental and physical health and well-being. And it’s an excellent way to introduce your child to a healthy lifestyle.
Today we’re going to discuss the benefits and dangers of doing yoga with your toddler. And we’ll go step by step through several poses that you can start teaching your little one right away.
At What Age Can Children Start Doing Yoga?
You can begin introducing yoga to your child at virtually any age. I teach Mommy and Me classes for children starting at 18 months. We play lots of fun games, and we don’t worry too much about the precise form or structure. The idea is to get children used to the yoga practice and moving their bodies. It’s also a wonderful bonding experience for parent and child.
Believe it or not, some places start practicing yoga with babies at the age of six weeks. Baby yoga improves bonding, and it helps infants to develop body awareness. Yoga for babies supports the developmental process that leads to walking, including pushing up from tummies, crawling on their bellies, getting into the hands and knees position, sitting, then crawling, and eventually standing.
My favorite classes are the ones for the toddlers. Toddler classes are modified for their fast-moving bodies and minds. At this young age, they are starting to understand mimicking physical poses and breathing techniques. The classes are loads of fun, and the children love it.
School-age kids practicing yoga learn more detail in the poses, and they can master more advanced postures.
Why Is Yoga Good for Children?
There has been considerable research done on yoga for children. Yoga has been proven to show that it improves both physical and mental health for kids. For one thing, it helps children cope better with stress and anxiety. Studies show that when children do yoga, it helps them to improve resilience, mood, and self-regulation skills dealing with emotions and stress.
On a physical level, yoga improves endurance, flexibility, balance, strength, and aerobic capacity in children. But it does much more than that. According to Harvard Medical School, yoga also can improve memory, focus, academic performance, self-esteem, and classroom behavior.
Jessica Mei Gershen is a certified yoga instructor who works with children at the Brooklyn Yoga Project. She says, “Through yoga, kids start to realize that they are strong and then are able to take that strength, confidence, acceptance, and compassion out into the world.”
And that’s not all.
The latest research also suggests that yoga can improve the core symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That including hyperactivity, attentiveness, and impulsivity. And it can boost the performance in school for kids with ADHD.
Children with ADHD have low levels of the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is linked to movement, attention, and learning. Researchers believe that yoga helps to increase dopamine levels.
If the yoga practice works on proper breathing techniques, it can also help children with asthma. Doctors say that yogic breathing improves lung capacity. It can double the amount of oxygen that the child intakes.
For toddlers, yoga helps to develop fine and gross motor skills and coordination. It also teaches them how to follow directions. And it teaches them excellent habits for health and fitness, starting at an early age.
We have found with students that if they have positive experiences with exercise at an early age, they are much more likely to continue with good fitness habits into adulthood.
The Benefits of Yoga for Kids
- Improves physical and mental health
- Improves balance
- Increases strength
- Improves endurance
- Increases aerobic capacity
- Improves focus and concentration
- Improves memory
- Increases self-esteem
- Fewer behavioral problems
- Improves self-regulation
- Improves academic performance
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves motor skills and coordination
- Teaches kids to follow instructions
- Starts them out with a positive and healthy concept of exercise
- Overall well-being
The Benefits of Doing Yoga with Your Kids
If you are looking for a healthy new way to connect with your children, you should consider doing yoga with them. Yoga can help you shut out the noise of a hectic day. It’s a way that you can make time for fun and relaxation together.
You don’t have to be a well-versed yogi, either. Even if you’re a newbie yourself, yoga is a good bonding experience for both you and your child.
Doing yoga with your child deepens your connection. It’s a way to connect movement and breathing and relaxation for both of you. Yoga helps you connect to your inner self, and it helps you to bond with others, including your children.
But even beyond the beautiful bonding experience, yoga also offers many incredible health benefits for you as an adult.
Some of those benefits include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased patience
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved posture
- Decreased chronic pain
- Aids in weight loss
- Increases metabolism
- Protection from injury
- Increased strength
- Increased mobility
- Boosts your immune system
- Improves balance
- Improves focus and concentration
- Improves overall health and well-being
Are There Any Dangers for Toddlers Doing Yoga?
There are very few risks involved with yoga for toddlers. Yoga is generally very safe for kids.
The truth is that any form of physical activity can result in injury. However, the risk of injury with yoga is lower than it is for other sports or higher-impact physical activities.
With yoga, injuries are rare, but they do sometimes occur. The most common injury for kids in yoga is muscle strains. These can be avoided by teaching kids not to push themselves to the point of pain.
If a pose hurts your child, then you should skip it. Yoga will stretch the muscles in both kids and adults, but it shouldn’t be painful.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that yoga is excellent for children when done in moderation.
We recommend a couple of safety precautions for toddlers and yoga. First, if you sign your child up for a yoga class, make sure that the class is small so that the instructor can better address individual needs. You should also be sure to sign your child up for the appropriate ability and age group.
How to Do Yoga for Toddlers
You can sign your toddler up for an age-appropriate class. Or you can practice it right there at home. Read below, and I will give you a dozen different poses that you can practice with your child. You can also follow along with fun videos like this one and this one.
The key is to keep it fun and go with the flow. Little ones can often have a mind of their own, so things may not always go as planned. Sometimes you have to follow their lead. It’s also helpful to show them the pose that you want them to do. Toddlers learn by mimicking.
Don’t worry if their position isn’t exactly correct. Over time the toddler will get better at each pose.
It’s also essential that you keep the classes short. For toddlers, we recommend 20 to 30 minutes tops. If you can get your toddler to focus on yoga for ten solid minutes, consider that a win. The more they learn, the more they’ll be excited to practice their postures and breathing.
I start meditation exercises with toddlers, but I keep it very short. In a minute, I will introduce you to some fun meditations that I do with little yogis. I do these exercises for one to five minutes.
Simple Breathing Exercises for Kids
Breathing is a big part of yoga. So while you practice poses with your child, remind them about inhaling and exhaling. Here are two simple games that I play with my classes to get them used to connect with their breath.
Simple Yoga Breaths
Start in any yoga pose or sit with your legs crossed. Have your child take a deep inhale. Hold it for the count of three. And then have them blow out hard like they’re trying to blow out birthday candles. Try to go nice and slow and have them repeat the exercise three to five times.
Flying Bird Breath
With this exercise, I have the children stand up tall with their arms by their sides in mountain pose. Then I tell them that they are strong, beautiful birds.
Keeping the arms straight, raise them overhead, bringing the palms together above the head. I tell the kids that they are preparing to fly. They will inhale as they bring the arms up. Then exhale as they fly their wings back down to their sides.
Once they get the hang of the position and breath, I have them close their eyes and repeat it as they pretend that they are flying in the sky.
12 Yoga Poses You Can Do with Your Kids
Some of these yoga poses are more challenging than others. But you can practice each of them with your kids. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t get it exactly right. Just keep it fun and demonstrate the proper alignment for them to see. Children learn by mimicking the movement, so even if they don’t get it perfect, try to keep your form sound.
1. Boat Pose
The boat pose is excellent for strengthening the core and leg muscles. It’s also ideal for balance and focus.
Start by sitting with your legs extended in front of you and your hands on the ground behind your hips. Bend both knees keeping the feet flat on the floor. Then leaning back slightly and keeping your hands on the floor, lift both legs.
Once your child can handle that, you can have them lift one hand off the floor to balance. And then see if they can lift both hands off the ground with their legs up so that they are balanced on their bottom.
This video will show you how to do the boat pose.
2. Bow Pose
The bow pose is excellent for strengthening the back, and it opens and stretches the shoulders and chest.
Start by laying on your tummy. Then bend both knees, reach your arms back, and grab your feet. Take a deep inhale and then exhale as you pull your feet up toward the sky, lifting your chest off the ground.
Hold this position for a couple of seconds before you lower back to the starting position. Make sure that you tell your child to breathe through the posture.
3. Bridge Pose
The bridge pose is another fun one for children. This pose will strengthen the glutes and back.
Begin by laying on your back. Then bend your knees and press the feet flat into the floor. Inhale and then lift your bottom and back toward the sky as you exhale, making your body into a bridge or a ramp. Have your child try to raise their bottom as high as they can.
Hold this posture for a count of three and then slowly lower back to the starting position.
You can see the bridge pose here.
4. Cat-Cow Pose
The cat-cow pose strengthens the back and stomach.
Start by getting onto your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Then have your child tuck their chin and look at their bellybutton as they round the back like a cat. This is a great time to have them practice their animal sounds.
From there, lift the head and look up toward the ceiling as you drop the belly and arch the back. This is the cow position. Mooo!
This video will show you how to do it.
5. Child’s Pose
The child’s pose is excellent for relaxation and stretching the back.
Have your child get onto their knees, sitting back on the heels. Take a deep inhale and then exhale as you lower the forehead to the floor in front of the knees. You can do this pose with the arms extended and hands back by the feet.
You can also extend the arms on the floor above the head. Try to have your child hold the pose long enough to take a big breath in and out before sitting back up.
This video will show you how to do it.
6. Butterfly Pose
The butterfly pose is excellent for stretching out the hips.
Start by sitting on the floor with the knees bent and the soles of the feet together. Have your child hold onto their toes and gently lift the knees up and down like a butterfly. You can also have them raise and lower their arms like they are flying.
I like to ask the kids where they want to fly to today as we do this pose. Then I have them bend down and touch their noses to their toes to get a deeper stretch into the hips.
This video will take you through the pose.
7. Cobra Pose
The cobra pose improves spine mobility and strengthens the lower back.
Start by having your child lay on their tummy with their hands on the floor near the shoulders. Take an inhale to the count of three and then slowly straighten the elbows lifting the chest and head off the floor as you exhale and hiss like a snake.
See if your child can hold the pose while they count to 10.
This fun video will show you how to do it.
8. Dancer’s Pose
The dancer’s pose is more challenging because it requires some balance. This posture is good for stretching the entire front of the body, including the stomach, chest, shoulders, and hip flexors. It also strengthens the legs and glutes.
Start by standing on one leg. Bend the opposing knee and bring the foot up toward your hips. Then reach back and hold the foot in one hand. For little ones, this may be all they can do, especially because the balance is tricky.
You can help them by holding one of their hands as they hold their foot with the other. If your child can do that, then have them try leaning forward, hinging at the hips. Make sure that you practice doing the pose on each leg.
The dancer’s pose is demonstrated in this video.
9. Dolphin Pose
The dolphin pose is excellent for strengthening the chest and shoulders and stretching the hamstrings.
You begin this pose by sitting on your knees and interlocking your fingers together. I have the kids place their elbows and forearms on the floor, keeping their fingers interlaced. Then I tell them to lift their fins out of the water so that they straighten their knees and lift their bottoms toward the ceiling.
This pose is similar to a downward-facing dog. I tell the kids to swim like a dolphin by rocking their bodies forward and back while they make a dolphin laughing sound.
Do this for a few seconds and then lower the knees and go into extended child’s pose to rest. You can repeat this fun pose several times.
Here’s a video that will show you the posture.
10. Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Kids love this pose, especially toddlers. It’s fun because they get to go upside-down and bark like dogs. But it’s not just fun. It’s also good for you. The downward-facing dog stretches the chest, shoulders, and hamstrings. And it lengthens the spine and improves mobility. On top of that, it’s also very calming.
To do the down dog, start by getting onto your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Tuck the toes and straighten the legs as you lift the bottom toward the ceiling until your body is in a V shape.
Once you get your child into this pose, have them look at their knees so that their necks stay neutral. Doing so will also allow the spine to elongate and decompress. You can do a three-legged dog by lifting one leg behind you. This position is great for balance.
I have the kids hold the position for a few seconds, and then I have them lower down to extended child’s pose. You will repeat this pose several times. For my classes, this is a go-to posture whenever the kids seem to be growing restless.
This video will show you the posture.
11. Plank Pose
Planks are great for strengthening the stomach, back, and chest.
To do a plank, start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Be sure that your shoulders line up directly above the wrists. Spread the fingers on the ground and then tuck your toes under and straighten the legs.
I tell the kids that we’re making our bodies into a straight board or a plank of wood. The idea is to get their bodies into a straight line from the head to the heels. You may have to remind them to lower or raise their hips.
Hold this pose for a count of three to five and then lower the knees back to the floor. Repeat this pose several times.
Here’s a video of a child demonstrating the plank.
12. Tree Pose
Tree pose is another fun yoga posture that works on balance and focus.
Have your child stand up tall and bring their hands together over the heart center. Then lift one foot off the floor and place it on the inside of the calf or thigh. Don’t put the foot on the inside of the knee.
You may have to give them some assistance on this one because balancing on one leg is tricky for little ones. When I do the tree pose with my classes, I have them count to see how long they can stand on one foot.
Make sure that you change legs and do this pose on each foot.
Here’s a video to show you how to do it.
Meditations for Kids
Meditation in yoga is excellent for the mind and spirit. It’s just as good for children as it is for you.
Children generally don’t have the attention spans or discipline to do the same sort of meditation that you would do, but you can still begin to teach them how to calm their spirits and turn inward.
When I do these exercises with the kids in my classes, I only do them for a few minutes. That’s usually all that they can handle. But this is a good practice to get them into, even at a young age.
I usually do these at the end of a yoga session, after they’ve had a chance to get some of their energy out so that they can be calm and focused, even if for a couple of minutes.
For this meditation exercise, I have the kids either sit with their legs crossed or lay on their backs. Then we close our eyes and take a deep breath in to the count of three. As we exhale, I have them say, “Shhhh.”
This quiets the room and the mind. After that, keeping the eyes shut, I ask them what sounds they can hear in the room. This is an excellent exercise to do when it’s quiet. The children have to listen carefully to hear distant birds or cars or the sound of the air conditioner or fan.
This exercise helps with relaxation and focus. It’s also a very mindful moment. They are present in the moment, concentrating on using just one of their senses. And it’s very calming, especially if you have them whisper their answers.
Children won’t be able to meditate for too long. If you can get them to be still and focused for one to three minutes, consider that a win.
Another meditation exercise that I do with children is called loving-kindness. I like to do this exercise with the kids lying on their backs with their eyes closed.
Just like the last exercise, we begin by taking a slow inhale to the count of three. And then say “Shhhh” as they slowly exhale to quiet the room and mind.
Tell your child to think about someone they love. Give them a few seconds to think of someone or something.
I have them keep their eyes shut, and I ask them if they can see their person’s face. I might ask them what color shirt the person is wearing or what the person is doing. I tell the kids to imagine putting that person into their hearts and giving them a big hug. Then allow the room to be quiet for a minute while they think about their person.
Again, young kids won’t be able to meditate for too long, but this is an excellent way to get them to calm their spirits and think positive, loving thoughts.
One Last Thing
As we’ve gone over, there are a lot of super fun yoga poses and techniques that you can do with your toddler. Once you have taught your child some of the postures, you can turn them into fun games.
One game that I like to play with the kids is called Mirror, Mirror. In this game, you take turns to be the leader. You will start by showing them a pose. They then mirror it back to you. Then you let the child be the leader. Let them choose a pose, and you mirror them. Go back and forth, taking turns being the leader.
As I mentioned earlier, the key to doing yoga with toddlers is keeping it fun and going with the flow. The best part is that all that fun translates to a healthier and happier little one. It’s good for you too!