I did yoga faithfully throughout college and during my pregnancy, and I can’t say enough about its physical and emotional benefits for women and expecting mothers. However, ever since I became a work-at-home mom when my daughter turned two, I found it more and more difficult to work yoga into my daily routine. I assumed it would be impossible to do while my daughter was awake, so up to this point I had reserved yoga sessions for naptimes. Since business calls had prevented my usual naptime yoga routine on this particular day, I figured I’d give it a shot, despite the fact my daughter was tired.

And then something amazing happened. As I sat on my yoga mat listening to my breath, I felt a little body sit down next to me. I turned my head to see my two year old sitting in an almost-perfect lotus pose. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. My
daughter not only followed along with me throughout my entire yoga routine, but she also did most of the poses, as well as the breathing exercises. At the end of the session she laid down with me in shavasana pose for a whole thirty seconds. Then she stood up, walked into her room, and started playing with her toys quietly and contentedly.

This day was the beginning of a great new trend for both my daughter and me. I realized my own fitness routine, which included yoga as well as other types of exercise, didn’t have to exclude my children. As a matter of fact, I recognized the same benefits of yoga in my daughter as I did in myself. I decided to do some research on yoga for toddlers, thinking I had made a new discovery.

It turned out the benefits of yoga for toddlers had already been well recognized, and for good reason. I was able to find several resources to aid me in practicing yoga with my daughter, and over the last two years, we have both benefited immensely from our “mommy and me” yoga sessions.

Yoga for kids is becoming increasingly common, popping up in physical education programs and daycares and being added to the repertoire of yoga studios. While the physical benefits—improving flexibility, strength and coordination—are certainly part of its charm, yoga is increasingly used as a relaxation technique to help anxious kids combat the stresses of everyday life. A
study at Harvard Medical School showed yoga was a beneficial tool supporting adolescent mental health.

Toronto-based child and adolescent psychiatrist M. Lee Freedman says she has seen an increase in stress- related conditions in children over the past 10 years.

“Kids need better coping skills today because they have more to deal with than in the past,” says Freedman, who blames this phenomenon on social issues like more stress on families, information overload, reduced downtime caused by the over-scheduling of activities and greater pressure to succeed academically. “There has been a devaluing of quiet time and an overvaluing of productive time to the point where people are doing way more and living less in the moment.”

While both adults and kids internalize stress, Freedman says it often manifests in kids physically, resulting in health issues such as insomnia, stomach aches, headaches and mood swings.

Here are a few of the most obvious benefits I’ve noticed through our yoga practice:

1. Healthy Energy

Like all toddlers, my daughter had no shortage of energy, and although yoga practice didn’t necessarily reduce her energy, it helped to channel it in a healthy direction. As noted by Helen Garabedian in her excellent book, Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers, yoga is also a great way for toddlers to relieve stress and tension. When I noticed my daughter was starting to become frantic or anxious during the day, we would stop for a mini-yoga session to help relieve stress and refocus her energy in a positive direction.

2. Physical Challenge

My daughter has always been very physically active, and yoga provided a new challenge that didn’t require any extra equipment. Poses like the lotus pose and downward dog helped her maintain that amazing toddler flexibility, while other more challenging poses, like tree pose and donkey pose, helped develop her balance and coordination.

3. Imagination

Doing yoga with toddlers may not be the Zen-like experience you find in adult classes, but it sure is fun. Once I was able to accept the fact our mommy-and-me yoga sessions were not going to be as quiet and calm as I was used to, I started to see yoga as a way to improve my daughter’s emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as an opportunity to develop her imagination. Yoga poses like lion’s breath, cat-and-cow, and downward dog are perfect for the imaginative toddler.

It is not surprising now that my daughter is older, she really has become my little workout buddy. We kept up our yoga routine and now she’s become a fitness enthusiast.

I’m convinced our mommy-and-me yoga sessions had a positive impact on her desire for an active lifestyle. My daughter is also the inspiration behind My OM Little Yoga Mat, she wanted her own yoga mat that was the perfect size for her.