More than a dozen mother-and-child teams showed up on a recent Monday morning to learn how yoga can become part of a toddler’s play and development.
They met in the Christiansburg Library community room and took their cues from Candy Beers, a yoga instructor and pediatric sleep consultant.
In a small room swirling with children, activity and noise are the norm, but when Beers and the mothers joined in an “om,” the children were captivated into momentary quiet.
That gave Beers the opportunity to begin leading the group in a series of poses that owe their origins to the yogis and yoginis of the Far East.
Beers changed the moves often and accompanied some of them with songs, to the delight of the children.
“Children can learn best in their own time and space,” she told the group, encouraging mothers to let their toddlers roam the room. “They are going to want to explore the space,” she said.
“Yoga for toddlers is not really a quiet activity, but a celebration of the poses,” she said during some introductory comments. “You might not see much yoga today, but you may see your child trying it out at home tonight.”
She joked that if a child tried a downward dog pose in the bathtub that would allow a “bum washing opportunity” for the parents.
As Beers moved from move to move, she offered tips to the parents. Stop-start games and moves help the child become ready for potty training and contribute to impulse control of many types.
She converted familiar tunes.
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” morphed into self-affirming lyrics accompanied by wide arm stretches. “This one would be a good activity to do before bedtime,” she suggested.
She asked the group to lie on their backs and cross their feet in a swinging motion. All but the pregnant moms turned over and did the same leg swings on their tummies. They followed the teacher’s lead into a position of arranging their feet and legs into a diamond shape.
They pinched fingers together and then put them overhead like animal ears. They walked in a circle singing “Ring around the Yogi.” Back on the floor, they did another yoga pose when Beers demonstrated how they could lie on their backs, lift their chins high, and gaze back over their foreheads.
Occasionally a child needed to stop and give his or her mom a little kiss or receive a big hug.
“I like letting her have new experiences,” said Shauna Bayes, mother of Karoline, after class.
Meredith Airaghi has been practicing yoga for 20 years. She said it was “neat to introduce (daughter) Lucy to yoga in a child-friendly way.”
Children in the Monday morning class at the library ranged in age from one year to four-and-a- half.
Beers began practicing yoga while she was a student at Penn State University. She continued while studying pediatric psychology at Pratt Institute in New York City. A decade ago she trained to be a yoga teacher and was inspired by teacher and author Helen Garabedian who is credited with starting the Itsy=Bitsy Yoga movement, designed to help parents use yoga-inspired massage with infants and yoga moves with young children.
Before the class ended with the traditional “namaste,” Beers let the moms know she leads a post-partum support group called “Circle of Moms” the third Sunday of every month.
“I love supporting infant mental health and post-partum health,” she said.
Beers will be expanding her monthly class for toddler yoga at Life in Balance, which has moved to 1512 N Main St., Blacksburg. At the new location, Beers will have space to offer her class on a weekly basis starting Sept. 24. The Sunday classes will begin at 4 p.m.
Toddler yoga “is basically a class for parent and child,” Beers told her students. She assured the moms that being involved in the process will enhance bonding.
For more information, call 381-6215.