The kids and I have gone to several of these awesome mom-and-me style yoga classes at the Hanford Yoga Center. If we weren't moving, I would definitely keep going. But since we are, I wanted to spread the word so that YOU won't miss out. I know, I know… Most of my readers aren't in Hanford, but hopefully someone searching for kids' activities in Hanford or Lemoore will find this.
So I'll let Heather Griffiths, the Hanford Toddler Yoga teacher, introduce herself!
I'm the mom to an adorable just-turned-2 year-old who loves to spin and just learned to jump lifting both feet off the ground. I am an outdoor enthusiast and a writer. I read Kabir poetry and Terry Temptest Williams books. I am bad at vacuuming my home regularly.
How did you get started in yoga? What do you like best about it?
I started doing yoga in college and haven't stopped. Yoga has such a profound effect on my state of mind. I find when I practice regularly I am more generous, patient, and empathetic, which as a mother are traits I certainly need practice in. And that is what I love best about yoga. I am a more balanced person, both physically and mentally, when I practice regularly. Yoga helps me to have the energy to keep up with my daughter, and the patience to give her the freedom she needs. Not to mention the physical benefits it has had on my postpartum body.
Ooh, benefits like what specifically?
Losing the baby weight, strengthening my stomach muscles, helping me get more restful sleep, helping me deal with stress, giving me tools to cope (like ujjayi breathing) when I become overwhelmed, and giving me more energy to keep up with my toddler.
I think everyone could use a bit more energy! Except maybe our kids. How does practicing yoga help your toddler?
I think the most obvious benefit for my toddler is body awareness. My toddler is very capable but finds her own physical limits and knows when to walk away from a physical challenge. And the confidence I see beaming from her eyes when she learns a new pose. She is a very active child and yoga gives us something we can do indoors that helps her burn some energy while keeping her calm, and even help settle her to bed. As with any exercise, you feel tired after you do a yoga work out, but you have more energy overall.
Yoga is also a great distraction tool when she gets upset, or is getting into something she shouldn't. It doesn't require any equipment, so when we are at the store waiting for daddy, I can keep her busy beside me instead of pulling the garden rakes off the wall. Of course that means I am doing yoga too, in the middle of Lowes. Oh well! We get our workouts in when we can right?
And when she's upset we start doing forward bend and lions breath and maybe bridge if she is feeling inclined. Back bends are good for opening yourself up emotionally and lions breath is always fun, especially when you're mad. Who doesn't like to roar?
I love the image of you doing yoga in the middle of Lowe's. What made you decide to start teaching a toddler yoga class?
I didn't mean to start teaching a yoga class. I was looking for a “mommy and me” type yoga class in my area and there wasn't one. I emailed the yoga studio where I attended while pregnant, asking them if they would consider teaching a toddler yoga class. The owner emailed me back asking if I would like to teach the class. I decided it was something I really wanted to try and it has been a lot of fun. One unexpected side effect of teaching toddler yoga is how excited I am to be able to share my love of yoga, not only with my own family, but with others as well.
That's awesome that you can share yoga with so many people! And start them young, too. How does a typical class with you progress? What will moms and kids learn?
I try to keep the class moving and the kids interested. We start with some simple breathing exercises and stretches to get warmed up then move through two sun salutations. We have to move rather quickly so that the kids stay engaged, but they typically do really well. Then I try to do some poses that are fun for the kids, animal poses, poses to accompany story lines, or poses that make them think, “Whoa! Look what I just did!” Something as simple as a half moon pose with mom helping with balance can be really exciting.
Then we move into some partner poses for parent and child, poses that make them work together. It's amazing how connected you can feel with someone simply my countering their weight with your hands so you both are balanced. Then we cool down. For a savasana, depending on how the child is feeling, I talk the parent through giving their child a massage, or we try visualizing something relaxing, like having your hands buried in sand and listening to ocean waves. I am honestly quite surprised at how well the young toddlers do at the visualization practices. With some gentle redirection, they really seem to respond to it and enjoy the savasana.
I also try to give a narrative of the benefits of the different poses we do. I want the moms to be able to say to their child at home “I can see that your tried but too excited to settle. How about we 'blink like an owl' to help you relax?”
That sounds so peaceful and lovely. What would you tell a mom who is worried her child won't respond well to it, or who thinks her child is likely to “run around like crazy and yell and disrupt everything” …or, you know, similar?
It's okay if your kid runs around. If yoga is something new to them it may take some time before they are really intrigued. But kids are more likely to be engaged if their parents are engaged. Sometimes it's hard when there are a few kids in class close to the same age because they do just want to run around and play. But if mom is doing yoga, the kids will occasionally stop running and try it too. You may be surprised at how well your child does in class doing yoga along side you, especially with your encouragement! And if you practice at home, even just five minutes here and there, your child will respond more in class as well.
I try to show the parents how they can use yoga at home as well. So if the child isn't participating at the yoga center, the parents can still take the lessons home and use yoga for bedtime routine, or for negating a tantrum.
Awesome. Where can I get more information about registering for the class? Anything else I should know before I show up?
If you follow the Facebook page I regularly offer discounts as well as provide resources for yoga at home, like my favorite books. When coming to class make sure that both you and your child are dressed comfortably, cotton shorts/pants and a comfortable shirt. You don't want your clothing to be too lose or too tight. Be prepared to try something new, to make silly faces and noises. We love animal noises in toddler yoga.
Here are a few of Heather's favorite at-home yoga resources for parents and kids. Just give them a click to check out the details or purchase!