Itsy Bitsy Yoga, Really Big Connections

 I’m a do-it-yourself gal, and a create it yourself kinda gal, at that. For me, that’s never meant buying the how-to guide or going to endless classes. Maybe that’s why I started a home yoga practice as early as I did and why I still believe that what you do in your own home is the foundation for yoga seeping into your life. I’ll always take primary, historical sources over popular or modern reprises and personal experience is my highest authority. In our ever more standardized world, experience that grows authentically from quiet inwardness, genuine desire and spontaneous connection is an endangered species. So I’m an unlikely and wholly enthusiastic endorser of Helen Garabedian’s second book on yoga for the underage and underfoot crowd.

Garabedian’s thorough education, passion and deep experience shine through her writing and organization of this really useful manual on yoga for you and your toddler. She has credentials as an Infant and Early Childhood Developmental Movement Specialist – who knew!? – and clearly has a  passion for investigating, facilitating and revelling in the mind-body connection with children. She’s a certified yoga instructor, Reiki Master, Infant Massage Instructor, Pregnancy Yoga Teacher and Brain Gym graduate, all certified.

My earliest yoga memory is mimicking my mother while she does yoga with the television. Mom is in what I’d now call “Down Dog” and I crawl through and then put my hands and feet on the floor and wiggle around until a bug catches my interest. I figured that when I had children they’d learn yoga by immersion. What Garabedian has taught me is that it really makes sense to talk to toddlers in their terms and to tailor asana for their bodies and experience.

She grounds this specialized treatment of mainly asana in a practical understanding of yogic principles and a research based treatment of the benefits of yoga for toddlers. After all, what’s the best way to enlightenment? Never loose it. If children come to us consumed by presence and moment-to-moment immersion in awareness, maybe one of our greatest gifts is to learn to work with and nurture this into reflexive awareness, rather than the time honored method of suppressing it so that as adolescents they seem to rediscover it for the first time in history.

The book is organized so that you can easily tailor your practice time to your goals. Along the way, you’ll inevitably learn about movement development  in toddlers and may be enticed to learn about learning and bonding. This one was a revelation to me, even for teaching grown ups: “I am able to understand and respond to a sentence like, “Touch your toes.” But it may be hard for me to respond to a sentence like, “Reach down and touch your toes.” It seems so simple to make it simple … but it takes thought, planning and consideration. Garabedian helps with that.

She renames some poses and others are taken from natural movement. Renaming Trikonasana (Triangle) “Falling Star” turned me off at first, but it makes sense for the same reason. One of the benefits of renaming is to adjust adult expectations. Not only does Falling Star paint a picture that Triangle will not for the toddler, but it helps the grownups leave behind our expectations of form and perfection. And that’s pretty yogic right there.

Garabedian specifically points out how the various poses and movements benefit you and your toddler, gives clear, concise instruction for showing your toddler and easy suggestions for integrating affection and presence. What better way to lead ourselves into meditative presence and practice than to share moments of awareness and embodiment with those we love.

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One thought on “Itsy Bitsy Yoga, Really Big Connections

  1. Thanks for sharing this review! I am doing training to teach yoga to children in a couple months. (That said, I have no idea what I’m going to do with that training. We’ll see!)

    I really like your paragraph about the renaming. At first, that was something that was rubbing me the wrong way about ‘kids’ yoga.’ It felt like dumbing yoga down and then painting it fluorescent yellow. But I’ve come to view it differently and I appreciate the way you phrased that.

    Still, a lot of this kids’ yoga movement is unappealing to me. It’s too manic for me. But I think there is certainly room for all different approaches. (And if I end up doing yoga with kids, I’ll be bringing my own, unique approach to it.)

    I’ll check this book out. 🙂

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