For anyone practicing yoga with a baby, it can be a challenge to combine the practice properly with tending to your baby at the same time. It is best to try and integrate and teach your child yoga from an early age, as they will adjust to it being a ‘normal’ practice in life.
I have a 10 month old baby. I have been practicing yoga on and off around her for all of her life, but only in the past 5 months have I been making it a routine and incoorporating it properly into her life. ‘Yoga time’ I say, as I unfold the mat at around the same two different times in the day.
She likes to crawl on top of me and under me as I move through the asanas. I then give her own personal yoga time where we sing ‘the hokie pokie’ and I help her do poses such as ‘happy baby’. Of course being a 10 month old, there are times when she isn’t in the mood to join in and would rather do her own thing.
Babies and children benefit tremendously from yoga, not just the physical benefits from the asanas such as good circulation, range of motion and neuromuscular development, but also emotionally such as learning to have trust in their bodies and their parents, learning about relationships and being able to enjoy that loving contact with you where they know they have your full attention.
They gain strong and balanced bodies, and develop a clear mind along with expanding their creativity. They are able to gain more access to their spiritual selves (children are deeply spiritual but sometimes lose touch with that side due to the society we live in). This time can also be a very special bonding time between you and your child.
There are now many mum and baby yoga classes as well as kid's yoga classes.
Tips to getting your infant/child interested enough to practice yoga with you:
When your child sees you doing something regularly and actually enjoying it, they are more inclined to want to do the same thing e.g. if you are a parent who spends a lot of time on your mobile phone, the child always wants to play with the mobile phone. You are their biggest role model.
Create a personal space just where the child is able to practice yoga and meditation. They will learn to know what this space is for, and it is exciting that they have their own special place. There are even baby and children yoga mats available online which you can personalise with their names. This isn’t necessary but makes the experience more fun for them.
Make sure the yoga routine starts and ends the same way, so they learn about the traditional side to yoga, such as ending the practice with ‘namaste’ and hands in prayer pose, or finished with an ‘om.’ I sit my daughter on my lap to chant ‘om’ and she enjoys the vibration of it and goes quiet.
It is nice to finish with savasana (relaxation) with baby, this could mean just cuddling, rocking or feeding the baby, preferably lying on your side with or on your back with your baby lying on your tummy.
I don’t believe you should ever force your babies body in any way into a certain yoga pose, let them learn to do it themselves with your guidance using gentle touch, singing, a calm voice, and deep breathing. Let it be a fun and lighthearted activity where you can both relax together and enjoy this time.
In savasana, it is nice to take a moment to realise how blessed you are to have this baby, and let go any worrisome thoughts you may have had about how many hours sleep you have had etc. Let go and feel gratitude and love for your wonderful baby.
Yoga poses to try with your baby: Downward dog kisses (adho mukha svanasana)
Bridge pose bounces (setu bandha sarvangasana)
Happy baby (ananda balasana)
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Older children might like to try some poses like these ones:
Triangle pose (trikonasana)
Cobra snake pose (bhujangasana)
For children, they seem to be very flexible and can practice lots of different yoga poses.