I’ve practiced yoga for years. Now that my daughter is a toddler, I’m having a lot of fun sharing my practice with her. Lately we’ve been trying out some “jungle animal”-themed yoga poses; at age 2, my girl is learning all about different animals, so she enjoys mimicking some of her favorites during yoga. Since I’m always trying to incorporate things that she’s learned from movies and books, these poses tie in beautifully with a movie that tops our list, The Jungle Book (out on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere now and on Blu-ray August 30). Whether my girl is slithering around like Kaa, the wise and respected snake, or making like King Louie in Monkey post, she’s having tons of fun. Here are some of her favorite poses…
There might not be a frog character in The Jungle Book, but within the mythical language of the jungle in the story, Mowgli’s name is supposed to mean “frog.” Let your tot get into character with this squat; my daughter has sturdy legs and good balance, so she often squats instead of sitting on the ground. Now that she’s old enough to follow basic instructions, I’m encouraging her to associate this stance that comes naturally to her as a basic yoga pose; we “ribbit” like a frog and are working on getting her hands to come toward each other at the heart. This will one day be their basic yogic squat, Malasana.
This yoga pose is an excellent building block for all balance poses, especially (my personal favorite) the tree. Encourage your toddler to stand on one leg. With your support on her side body, help her bend the opposite leg with the top of the foot toward the ground. It won’t look like much at the beginning, but the more balance practice she gets now the more confident she’ll be when she’s ready to try more difficult poses later on. Once your child works her way up to the more challenging tree pose, reward her with a little spread of Baloo’s honey on toast.
My tot has a ridiculously fun time slithering around the house, doing her own impression of Kaa. To do this kiddie take on cobra, she lies on her tummy with her legs out straight behind her and lifts her chest up. Mine hangs out in cobra a lot when we’re watching TV or reading books together. She’s learning to use her arms to arch her back farther, lifting her chest up higher off the ground or bed, and she likes to say “sssss” while she’s at it.
Make like King Louie with this fun pose. My tot and I focus on crossing the legs and lifting one up in the air with the other toward the belly, saying “ooh-eh, ooh–ah” as we go. I encourage her to switch the cross of her legs halfway through, if she’s not too wiggly to take the instruction. This helps to get an even little stretch on each side.
Mowgli was adopted by Raksha the wolf-mama who occasionally pops in to give him some solid advice; any character that resembles a dog is bound to be my daughter’s favorite, and this is, after all, an important basic pose. It doesn’t matter how good their form is. Little kids are inclined to hang out in a down dog-like position anyway, so I take my daughter’s lead and once she’s still in her dog, I’ll separate her fingers to show her how to strengthen her base. As a smaller baby, she navigated toward this pose on her own and now that she notices me doing it in my own yoga practice, she’s likelier to stay still in hers for longer stretches of time. Down dog is an energizing and grounding pose for both kids and adults; it’s definitely something we do daily — sometimes in weird places, like on the back stoop of our house!
A proper version of crescent moon pose (a side bend) will come soon. In the meantime, we’re working on side stretches with the upper half of her body. My toddler finds giraffe pose really silly and fun to do. I tell her to make her neck long like a giraffe, and then she mirrors me as we let our long necks lead our torsos to the left and then the right. When her balance is solid, we’ll add her hands overhead to complete the standing version of the pose.
Like every good kid’s story, The Jungle Book has a happy ending. End your yoga adventure on a cheerful note with this peaceful cool-down pose. Baddha Konasana is a seated pose where the soles of the feet touch, and the butterfly version is a favorite at our house. It’s a great hip-opener for me; for her, it creates a moment of stillness. Older toddlers and little kids might enjoy flapping their “wings” with hands in prayer position. We use this pose as part of our wind-down routine at night, and I’ll gently hold the soles of her feet in place, giving them a little night-night massage before she flutters off to sleep. During the day, it’s a great stretch to incorporate in between other poses.