When Nathalie de Lange tells people that she teaches yoga to toddlers, she is often met with quizzical facial expressions and many questions to follow, much like you’re reacting right now! Just how does one teach an advanced discipline like yoga to a moving, squirming, playful toddler? The words yoga and toddler seem to be polar opposites, surely? De Lange explains that once you take away the practice of yoga itself, what you are left with are imaginative play and creativity boosters, which is what toddler yoga is really all about. We asked her to give us the lowdown on a class of yoga for tots.
OM… WARMING UP
Every class is started with an ‘Om’ song, which is simple and straight to the point. This incorporates breathwork without the kiddies even noticing. The song can be sung at home, at school, in the car, and when moms just want to calm everyone down. During the first few lessons the parents and their tots are a little reticent and De Lange says that she spends these singing and rubbing hands and feet together by herself, but once everybody knows the melody and then the words, they sing along with gusto. The Om song is followed by a full-body, shake-out warm-up, which they all love, especially in the cold winter months.
THE ANIMAL BAG
This is everybody’s favourite part of the session! After they’ve opened their little lungs and warmed their little bodies up, everybody sits in a circle and they wait for their turn for De Lange’s magic yoga bag. Inside this bag are plastic animal toys decorated in beautiful colours and designs. When their turn comes, they close their eyes and take out an animal, which can range from domestic farm animals to wild animals, or from creatures of the sea to fantasy animals like unicorns.
They talk about the animal; its colours, the sound it makes, where it lives and what it eats, and then they move into a specific pose for that animal. De Lange shares how delightful it is to watch a toddler lie on their belly as they lift their limbs off the floor to mimic the pose of a Locust, or to coil into a Cobra pose with ease; scoot around the floor in a Pigeon pose or finding the Anteater. These little children effortlessly make fully resonating ‘meow’ sounds as they stretch out into graceful Cat poses; they bark and wag their tails while bending into the Downward Dog position, before howling, panting and going for a walk before lowering into the Upward Dog to howl at the moon. Animals create the ideal interaction and imaginative play for children aged two to four years, who want to feel and see and pretend to be the animal.
Read more about Yoga for tots in our August 2014 issue. Subscribe here!