Yoga helps adults gain a better mastery of how their bodies move, and babies are no different. After being crunched up in a safe, secure womb for nine months, the space and possibility of movement in the outside world can be overwhelming. Yoga to the rescue!
Gaining spatial sense provides your baby with confidence. Being assisted through simple yoga poses with a caring guide builds social skills and relationships. Yoga assists babies in very practical developmental skills, too, such as learning to roll over, tummy time and crawling.
Always make sure you have a willing participant when you have your baby do yoga. Make practice fun and a bonding time. Never force a baby to go into a pose or stay in a pose longer than she seems to be comfortable. She might stay there one breath or several. Sometimes, a yoga pose may not even last one full breath; it's the movement and consciousness of space and connection you're after — not perfection.
From about 1 month to 4 months of age, a baby is just becoming aware of her body and how it moves. Verbally directing a baby to move her body into poses really isn't practical; rather, you assist them in feeling their bodies in gentle stretches.
Good Morning Stretch: Lay your baby on her back. Help her extend her arms overhead and her legs straight out in front. Hold the stretch for a breath or two and then let her release and move naturally.
Wind-Relieving Pose: Lay your baby on his back. Gently press on the bottoms of his feet and ease his knees toward his chest. Allow your baby to accept the movement. Hold the squeezed-in pose for a few breaths, then allow him to release.
Knee-to-Chest Pose: Instead of coaxing both knees into his chest, do just one at a time. Again, you'll lay your baby on his back and gently press one knee in toward his chest. hold for just a breath or two, release and then switch legs.
After about 5 months of age, a baby has a little more control over his body. He's likely holding up his head, rolling over and propping up into Cobra pose on his own!
Encourage him to explore poses that come naturally to him and that help build practical strength skills. Upper-body strength gives him the power to push up into all fours and to even begin crawling. Getting accustomed to putting weight on his feet prepares him for taking his first steps in toddler-dom.
Bridge: A baby naturally moves into Bridge around 5 months of age. Encourage her to do the pose by having her lay on her back, bend her knees and plant her feet into the floor. Gently help her lift her hips up, so she creates a ramp from her knees to her shoulders. Celebrate with coos and claps. Let her stay in the pose as long as she likes.
Downward-Facing Dog: This pose is a natural for older babies as they explore how to crawl. Place your baby on her belly and encourage her to get into all-fours, if she's willing to follow directions. Encourage her to lift her buttocks up toward the ceiling as she presses her hands and feet down. She'll most likely naturally go into the triangular shape of the posture.
To encourage your baby into either of these poses, put her on a blanket or mat next to yours and play a little monkey-see-monkey-do. It's OK if she pops up for just a second or two — it's about the strength and play, not long, deliberate yoga holds.