10 Yoga Exercises You Can Practice With Your Active Toddler
It is late in the afternoon and you were able to get your toddler down for a nap. You unroll your mat, sit down, take one deep inhale and exhale and then. . . “MOMMY!” You think to yourself, “Maybe that was the dog.” But no, it wasn’t the fur baby – it was definitely your active and energetic toddler, up from his nap and ready to go.
Don’t roll your mat up just yet, little mama! There is still hope. Although practicing yoga at home with your little one is certainly a challenge, we very much need our yoga to keep us sane. So we will welcome the saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
That’s right, let’s invite our babies into our practice!
Below are ideas to allow your little one to join you on your mat and give you a well-rounded practice. Gather inspiration from us and make this a family affair!
Here are 10 yoga exercises you can practice with your active toddler:
Seriously? With my toddler who is currently jumping off the couch trying to fly? Seriously. Just think of making it interesting for him. No, I cannot promise you will get your full pranayama practice, but you can still sit down and take a few deep, mindful breaths. Plus this may help to set the energy for your child as well.
Some tricks that have worked for us include filling up like a balloon. You can lie on your back with little one on your stomach, you can sit criss-cross apple sauce and face each other with your hands on each other’s bellies, or you can have your kiddo sit on your lap.
Whichever position you choose, have both of you focus on the belly, then fill it up like a balloon. Big. Huge. So you can float to the sky! Then deflate the balloon and come back down to earth (maybe with each breath you land at a different destination). Don’t think of this as being a quiet, meditative breath because chances are you will get frustrated and your child may lose interest. Instead make it fun!
2. Boat Pose (Navasana)
Some love it, some hate it. But let’s see if we can have fun working our core and building some heat with our little one in tow!
Find your seat in the middle of the mat with your feet on the ground and your knees bent. Invite your child to give your shins a big, huge bear hug as you start to lean back with your chest lifted and core engaged.
Stay here, or reach your arms out to your little one as you begin to lift your legs into Boat Pose. Invite this pose for a few breaths (encouraging your little one to pretend s/he is flying) then take a break. Take as many flights as you two would like.
3. Down Dog Push-Ups
Great shoulder work here. Find your Downward Facing Dog on your mat and see if your little one would like to lie down with his head between your arms. Or maybe he just wants to crawl through the awesome mommy bridge! Either way, find your Down Dog and take a deep breath.
Make sure your shoulders are externally rotated and your core is engaged. Shift the gaze forward to your beautiful mini-you and begin to bend your elbows, sending them straight back – not out wide – arms stay close to the body. Your forearms will begin to lower closer to the mat, find your edge, pause, and give your little one a big smooch! Then press back up to your Down Dog.
Keep repeating these Down Dog push-ups until you feel like you might squish your kid when your arms give out. If that happens, let him/her know it is a special mommy hug and s/he should feel super loved! 😉
4. Chair Pose
To work on a standing posture, find the center of your mat and bring your feet close together. Bribe your kiddo to stay in front of you as you bend both knees, drop your hips and slowly come into your Chair Pose. Squeeze your inner thighs together and have your little one put his/her back to you.
Engage everything (seriously). Pick up your child and have him/her stand on your thighs, one foot on each leg.
Keep your lower back protected by keeping your core engaged as you play flying superhero or fairy with your little one for a few breaths.
5. Tree Pose
Let’s begin to bring balance in your yoga practice with Tree Pose. Pick up your little yogi and rest him/her on your hip, back, shoulders or even a big hug. Maybe try something different each time.
Create a solid foundation in the right leg as you begin to find your balance. Slowly come on to the ball of the left foot and open the knee to invite your left hip to open. Stay with your toes on the ground or bring your foot onto your inner calf or inner thigh (but never on your knee).
Take a few breaths, play patty-cake, peek-a-boo or move your “branches” with your little one. Invite those wiggles and wobbles and maybe pretend to be in a big storm! Don’t forget the other side. Maybe on this side, you’re the tree and s/he is the bird sitting on a branch chirping a fun song!
6. Marichi’s Pose (Marichyasana III)
Incorporating twists into your practice with your toddler is definitely accessible. My favorite twist involving my child is Marichi’s Pose. To find this pose, have a seat on your mat and extend your left leg forward and keep your right knee bent with the foot on the ground. Gently cross the right foot over the left leg, wherever feels comfortable.
Inhale and create space, exhale and gently twist to the right and place the left elbow on the outside of the right knee with the right hand facing skyward (very important). The left hand rests on the mat behind the tailbone or on a block.
For my favorite part, remember “Little Bunny Foo Foo?” Let’s invite him into our practice, shall we? Bring your awareness to that “very important” right palm as you begin to sing the song. Whenever your little one runs by . . . you guessed it! “BOP” him/her on the head. I am not sure who will have more fun in this pose, but don’t forget to keep your spine long and your chest lifted.
7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose can be an amazing restorative posture, even with a toddler in tow. Think about it – you’re almost curled up into a ball and protected, easily shielding yourself from flying objects. But let’s not go for that this time. Let’s go for a yummy hip opener and save the dodgeball for later.
Begin seated on your heels with your shins on the ground. Allow the knees to open as wide as your yoga mat and reach your fingertips forward, resting your forehead on a block or the mat. If your little one hasn’t jumped on you already, give him/her time. And once s/he is up there, let him/her know you’re a turtle and s/he is your shell.
As s/he covers your back, s/he is also giving you a nice assist for your hips. That extra weight helps your hips open slightly more by pressing them closer to the ground.
Continue the turtle in the shell story by pulling your arms into your “shell” and then opening back up. And if you’re a very convincing turtle, you may get a few more breaths in Child’s Pose.
8. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Always carve out time for back strengthening in your practice. Bow Pose is a fun one with your little yogi. Begin on your belly, bend both knees and grab the outside of your feet with your hands or a strap.
Invite your little one to have a seat in the “boat” with his/her hands resting on your shoulders. Bring your knees together and begin to breathe into your belly. From here, you will naturally start to rock.
Now you’re not only in a yoga pose, you’re also transforming into a pirate ship! Adventure across the Seven Seas with your child and maybe you’ll meet Jake and The Neverland Pirates!
9. Standing Forward Bend or Rag Doll Pose
To give your back some relief from all of the Seven Seas adventures, come back to standing at the top of your mat. Inhale and bring your arms up overhead, then exhale all the air out and find your fold forward. Maybe you play peek-a-boo with your child or my favorite, hold him/her while you’re in your fold. This gives you added weight to help open your back body.
My little one now weighs a ton, or at least it feels like it! Sometimes this is too much, so just listen to your body. The longer you can remain here, the more you open your back body. Feel free to bend the knees, sway side to side (another fun game could come from this) or invite your little one to pretend to be a bat like you, hanging upside-down.
10. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Since I became a mom, I have found the phrase, “I’m just here for savasana” to be so true! So let’s see if we can find something similar with our toddler sharing our mat. I have found that my little one still enjoys laying on my chest – the breathing and my heartbeat will still calm him down at times. But of course, every day is different so find what works.
Once you two have found your comfortable Corpse Pose, pick a favorite song and gently sing it to yourselves. We enjoy counting, which actually puts me in a somewhat meditative state! Just remember – you are with a toddler and their attention span resembles Dory’s, so be grateful for what you get!
Again, these are suggestions and ideas for you to try and see what works and what doesn’t. If your little one is too young to hold on or balance on you, I would try using a carrier like an Ergo. They will still love being close to you and doing silly things. I would also recommend keeping your props close by, i.e. blocks, blankets, bolsters and a wall to help ensure your practice is a success.
We all know how much our yoga practice has helped us in our lives and it is never too early to share that with our children. The simple connection with our breath, our laughs and our bodies leaves a lasting impression both for mommy and baby. It is very easy to feel frustrated or even annoyed when we cannot practice on our own, because for many of us that is our only time to ourselves!
But just remember, they are only this age once.
We hope this article has helped you or has given you some ideas. Please let us know if it did! Leave comments, stories and photos below. We would absolutely love to see your beautiful practice together!