A circle of eight adults and nine toddlers lay on their backs on top of colored yoga mats, stretching their fingers out in the opposite direction of their toes. Kids and parents laugh simultaneously as they stretch together. It’s Friday morning at Bloomington Area Birth Services, and it’s time for toddler yoga class.
“Reach, reach, reach!” yoga teacher Anastacia Corbit-Clarkson said. “How long can you make yourself?”
Yoga classes designed for all ages are popping up across the country. In Bloomington, at least three locations provide yoga for children ages 13 and younger. Vibe Yoga Studio has story-time yoga for young ones and “tween” yoga on occasion. The Monroe County YMCA has a weekly class available for children ages 7 to 11.
“It’s a growing trend,” said Erin Thomas, studio manager of Vibe Yoga. “People are recognizing the benefits of yoga, that it’s a life-changing, life-long activity.”
Toddler yoga helps introduce the idea of quiet time to young children and also assists with developing attention spans. Toddler yoga is time for parents and children to spend laughing, singing and trying out different poses together.
Malte Raff, 22-months-old, balances on his nanny Jasmin Besler’s back and smiles while the yoga group does different animal poses during class at BABS. Actual yoga moves, such as camel pose, elephant pose and downward-facing dog, are all included in the class, and instructors encourage the toddlers to pretend to be different animals. Making animal noises and letting the kids run in a circle to give them a break from sitting down helps break up the class.
The kids are allowed to run around if they wish, play with toys or come back to singing and stretching with their parents or guardians. The parents are encouraged to remain peaceful throughout the session, and their kids will typically follow suit.
BABS is a nonprofit dedicated to prenatal and postpartum care. In 1994, BABS opened its doors, and in 2009, toddler yoga was started.
“Toddler yoga is healthy, fun bonding,” BABS owner Georg-Ann Cattelona said.
BABS decided to start toddler yoga sessions to give the parents with kids who have gotten too old for postpartum mommy-and-me yoga a class to attend. The toddler class is designed for moms, dads and caretakers who want to get back into their yoga routine and bond with their kids at the same time.
“I truly love teaching parent-tot yoga because it helps everyone, parents and caregivers and tots, be present in the moment and just let go and have fun,” said Samantha King McDonald, teacher of toddler yoga at BABS.
Cattelona, who teaches prenatal yoga and has been doing yoga for about 25 years, said yoga is about mindfulness.
“You want people to be in their bodies, paying attention to what they’re feeling,” Cattelona said. “If something starts to hurt, you should stop what you’re doing.”
Currently, more than 20 million people in the United States practice yoga. Licensed psychologist Arnie Kozak said yoga provides a way to bring mindfulness into movement and eventually into the daily lives of yoga practicers.
By incorporating a yoga practice early in life, people gain good exercise habits that have the possibility of becoming ingrained and can last into adulthood, giving children a healthy advantage from starting early, Kozak said in a ctwatchdog.com article.
The toddler class at BABS starts to sing “You are my Sunshine,” and the class members sway together in unison. During this session, the class is focusing on love and emotions.
“Where are we flying to? A pretty flower? That’s what butterflies do, right?” Corbit-Clarkson said with a big smile on her face.
The parent-and-toddler combos sit on their yoga mats, knees bent, flapping their legs up and down like wings in the toddler yoga room at BABS. Corbit-Clarkson looks over at her son, 15-month-old Quinn, and he smiles back at her, eyes wide.