Article 27 out of 201
“Children are natural yogis they are so flexible and can do the downward dog very easily” says toddler yoga instructor Beth Hopkins who believes nurseries have nothing to lose by getting a staff member trained up in the art.
“Last night, my son and I went on an adventure into the forest and met a snake. We lied flat ‘a lovely long stretch’, the snake slithered, so we rolled our bodies along” she says, describing her imaginary jungle adventure with her own three-year-old one night. But by day, she is busy showing other young children how yoga done in this way can be fun for kids, not just adults.
Ms Hopkins is employed by Swansea Council and holds baby yoga classes with parents and their infants aged up to 11 months and a toddler yoga class for those aged from 10-11 months.
Describing how she started in her role she says: “I was in a parent and toddler group and parents wanted to know how to bring stories to life not just with books."
’I think a bear walks like this’
After completing a two-day intensive toddler yoga training course, that taught her many things - including how to protect a child and herself from accidental harm - the instructor “went through all the moves we could possibly use …downward dog, the cobra...” which children could then mimic and she examined different stories and planned yoga sessions about them. She says: “It’s not about knowing all the yoga moves and sticking to them. It’s about firing up their imagination.
“For the book 'We’re going on a bear hunt', we may start with gently walking, mimicking actions that children think are in the story. The moves I may have written down, but then a child tells me ‘I think the bear walks like this’ and he walks on tip toes and the move is completely different."
A time of 'make believe' before iPads
She says there is a timeless quality to the sessions. “We may be getting back two generations ago, before screens and iPads, when books were more expensive and there was more ‘make believe’ play.
Yoga poses are led by the story, being led by the child. “What an adult thinks a mouse looks like is not what a child thinks”.
In a session about the story book ‘Dear Zoo’, one child stretched his arms wide and flapped his arms to show an elephant and its big flapping ears. When talking about a camel in the zoo, she demonstrated the 'downward dog' pose to represent a camel’s hump.
To keep toddlers engaged, the children only holds a pose for a matter of seconds. And when she sees children “wobbling on one leg” she’ll make them feel good by pretending to fall and say “I can’t balance, shall we have another go?”
With each session’s individual moves designed to be a series of ‘gentle stretches’, she emphasises the need for trained instructors to keep children safe from harm and to prevent anyone accidentally pulling a muscle.
One session involved children safely “zooming around the space for the book ‘Room on a Broom’ and she says of the fun had, that it: “doesn’t need a bag of resources, just some training, children and time”.
Going to bed quicker
Adults who did spend time doing the moves with a child reported back to the instructor to say the child was “calmer and went to sleep quicker because they were more relaxed”.
She says: “An adult gets ‘happy hormones’ after a workout and the child also feels better.”
Other benefits come from the toddlers immersing themselves in the "rich language of the story" with a toddler’s relationship with books being nurtured in an exciting way.
For speech, language and development, the toddler yoga gives children time to bond with an adult and improves their listening skills.
With adult and child taking turns to build a story, children’s overall confidence grows too, making them more engaged with group activities and “more comfortable with their own bodies”.
“Toddler yoga is such as fun activity, you don’t need any toys.”
When asked about her own toddler yoga experience with her son, the 32-year-old simply says: “He’s like a different child at bedtime”.
Early years professionals can sign up to a training course for a Certificate in Teaching Toddler Yoga provided by To Baby and Beyond- the course provider used by Beth Hopkins. For details visit: www.tobabyandbeyond.com