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By Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman
Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and what better way to celebrate than to take some quiet time this weekend to do a few yoga poses with your little one?
Shari Vilchez-Blatt, founder of Karma Kids Yoga in New York City (who taught an awesome kiddie yoga class at Yoga Journal Live! in NYC last month), has expanded her studio to accommodate everyone from expectant moms all the way through the teen years … and you can do many of her favorite poses at home with your child, too.
“We invite the babies in as young as 6 weeks (and if they want to come at two weeks, that’s OK, too),” she says. “Moms want to move—they’re sore, achy and tired. A gentle workout is a nice, welcoming activity for mom to do for herself as well as for the baby. It’s also an amazing way to make other mommy friends.”
Vilchez-Blatt says moms (and dads) are thrilled when their babies crawl or roll over for the first time, right in her studio … but parent-child yoga is great for big kids, too.
“We do silly, colorful things, like how we can blend into the studio based on what we’re wearing,” says Vilchez-Blatt, who does a little yoga or meditation with her 8-and-a-half-year-old daughter Layla Moon just about every day. “We do magic, puppets, songs, games … through activity we build focus, attention, concentration and self-esteem. A lot of kids are motivated by challenging poses … we start Crow pose at 4 years old because we know they can do it. They’re so thrilled, their confidence shoots through the roof and they can’t wait to show everybody.”
One of the best reasons to practice yoga with your child, Vilchez-Blatt says, is it’s something you can do with your “baby” forever.
“You’re not going to put on a tutu and be in the recital or be on the soccer team. Just putting out a mat next to your child gives her space … sooner or later work it into partner poses and that’s really doing it together.”
Here are 6 partner poses that Vilchez-Blatt loves doing with the kids in her studio:
Baby Cobra: Both mom and baby are on their bellies, facing each other or next to each other. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Place your hands under your shoulders and hold them just above the floor so they are not touching. Hiss. Watch how your infant holds this same pose as they listen to your hissing sound. Hold for 3 hissing breaths. Lower your head down and pretend to sleep (look out for hair pulling!). Wake up and do it again! Enjoy the smiles they give you.
Baby Butterfly: Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together making your heels and toes “kiss.” Baby sits in between your legs in the same pose (if they are not sitting up on their own yet, they can lean back and use your belly as a back rest). Sit up tall, making your spine straight. Rub the soles of baby’s feet together, then open up their “leg wings” into a “V” shape. Close the feet up again and rub them together. Open the wings again! Repeat a few times and be sure to make fun sounds when opening their legs. Then, one foot at a time, bring their toes to their nose (or mouth!). Repeat a few times. End on one last big open-winged butterfly! Enjoy their giggles.
Boat Pose: Sit on your bottom with your knees up and legs open to hip distance, facing your partner, toe to toe. Reach across to grab hold of your partner’s hands on the outsides of your legs. Extend one leg up and outward, pressing into each other’s feet, then bring the other leg up so that you are both balancing on your bottoms (both can expect their knees be bent in toward their ears). Sit up tall, showing your partner your neck. Sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
For toddlers and school-age kids
Partner L-Dog: Starting back to back, both parent and child come into Downward-Facing Dog with heels touching. The child steps up and rests their feet on the low back of their grownup in Down Dog, making an “L” shape with their body. See your partner under your legs and make a silly face. Have a serious conversation. If you’re feeling strong, try to high-five with one hand. Come down when you need to. This pose is great for all ages. If you have a toddler, the parent will come onto all fours instead of Downward Dog. If the child is significantly smaller than the adult, the grown-up will have wide legs in their down dog.
Sun Bathing Rock: The grownup comes into Rock Pose (Child’s Pose). The child sits gently on the “Rock,” so that he or she is lined up “pant seam to pant seam” or sacrum to sacrum, then lies back over his or her parent’s back. The child stretches his or her arms and chest open, relaxing the legs. If the child’s legs do not reach the ground, the adult can reach their arms around their back, making a “seat belt” so the child does not feel like they will roll or slide off. To come out of the pose, the adult can begin to sit up slowly, easing the child gently to their feet.
For school-age kids
Bunk Beds: Start with the grown-up coming into Table Pose with hands on the ground, fingertips facing their bottom and belly lifted to the sky. They are the “bottom bunk.” The child comes to stand in between their grown-up’s legs, facing out. The child then places their hands on the shoulders of the “bottom bunk” and their feet on their knees or thighs. To complete the pose, the top person presses into hands and feet and lifts their belly to the sky to make the “top bunk.”