Are you teaching baby & me yoga classes for the first time? You’re probably scrambling for baby yoga ideas, just like I was. This article has all the tricks that worked in my baby and me yoga classes…plus one that’s supposed to work but didn’t!
Always do a check in when teaching baby & me yoga classes! (And other classes too, but it’s particularly important at classes with new parents.
Connecting with Other Parents
One of the biggest reasons parents come to baby & me yoga classes is to meet other parents.
The first class everyone can check in by introducing themselves, and giving the name and age of their baby. You can also ask them to share any prior experience they’ve had with yoga, so you’ll get an idea what kinds of forms might interest them.
Letting Go & Settling In
Check in also offers an opportunity to vent. Parenting is hard! Trying to get to yoga class on time is hard. You have to pack a million things, baby always poops right before you’re supposed to leave the house, and you’re on the verge of crying because you haven’t slept properly in months.
Asking parents to share how they’re feeling that day gives them a chance to release all that so they can make space in their minds for the present moment.
Otherwise you might be sitting in an opening grounding practice worrying that everyone thinks you’re a loser because you’re always late. Or hating everyone else for having easy babies who sleep through the night, and husbands who understand why the dishes still aren’t done at the end of the day. (This might be a personal story)
When you release those anxieties out loud in a group of other parents, you get to see those nodding sympathetic faces that say you’re not alone. When everyone else in the room gets it, you don’t feel compelled to ruminate.
Passing is OK
Always let people know it’s okay to pass on the check in.
Offer an option to answer the question OR share how you’re feeling today.
Check In Questions for Parents
- These questions really worked for my baby & me yoga classes.
- When did you feel fully present this week?
- What moment did you appreciate this week?
- What could you let go of?
- What would you like to make space for?
- What did you feel gratitude for?
Scarves are the best baby & me yoga props. My sister, a baby storytime leader, told me this one. I just went through my closets and pulled out all the floatiest scarves. This bag of scarves goes with me every class. When I offer them around, literally every parent takes one.
Use them as a visual for breathing practice. Lift as you breath in and allow them to gently float down on the exhale.
Or hold close to your face as you puff out for Kapal Bhati.
Throw them over baby’s face if baby is old enough to enjoy pulling them off again. Hiding your face works too.
Asana Scarf Dance
Moms and Dads hold the scarf in one hand while doing their regular asana practice. Any time baby looks bored, parents can shake and flap the scarf while still holding Warrior 2, or doing a seated side stretch. Babies are mesmerized by the colourful dancing scarf, and forget to be annoyed they’re not the centre of attention.
Don’t Go Gentle!
I had some idea going in that all the moms would be so exhausted and protective of their babies, that they’d want a slow, gentle practice. Unfortunately, this first class of gentle, seated stretching was a big dud. One woman never came back!
I forgot how much parents need to move! You are exhausted when you have little ones, but you’re also fueled by anxious adrenaline. And when you have a baby, you spend so much time stuck in one chair breastfeeding, being trapped at home for naps, or playing the same game of peek-a-boo over and over.
When you get out, you need to move! You want to take up space.
Now I offer a challenging vinyasa flow with lots of core work and strengthening forms. Parents are happy to spend some of their energy. Another benefit is that babies are more entertained watching all the action.
After scarves, this is my favourite discovery for baby & me yoga classes. You have to try it!
Just about the time you’re hoping to wind everyone down – about two-thirds through the class – the babies all start to get cranky and loud. They’re bored of laying on their mats, and ready for naps.
Walking meditation works because babies get a change of view, and moms get an opportunity for quiet focus.
How to Teach Walking Meditation
Ask everyone to pick up their babies and walk slowly around the room.
Direct parents to walk so slowly that they can notice the moment that their weight shifts from one foot to the other.
Invite them to notice increasingly subtle sensations, such as way their weight shifts from heel to toe, and whether they tend to walk on the outside or inside edges of their feet.
Suggest shifting baby to the opposite hip or arm. People tend to carry their infant on the same side all the time. Shifting to the unnatural side can prevent tightness from building up on one side of the body, and inspires curiosity from the nervous system as it gets used to something new.
Keep this walking meditation going for 2 to 5 minutes, and then ask folks to gradually make their way back to their mats.
After Walking Meditation
Note that people will be in the mood for quiet stretching after this. The first time I introduced this practice, I imagined it would be energizing and we’d return to some exciting balances. Babies and moms looked hypnotized and basically refused to stand up!
Asana for Parent Baby Yoga Classes
The best forms are those that allow parents to hover their faces a foot away from baby. So spend the majority of the class seated, in tabletop, plank or downward dog.
- Easy Pose Forward Bend Adho Mukha Sukhasana
- Butterfly Pose Baddha Konasana
- Cat Cow – Marjarasana
- Balancing Table – Dandayamana Bharmanasana
- Tiger Pose – Vyaghrasana
- Child’s Pose – Balasana – adapted so that parents can be up on their elbows, face on hands
Prone or Face-Down Forms
- Plank – basic and forearm
- Side plank
- Upward Dog
Active and Standing Forms
- Low Lunge
- Warrior 1
For these two, try adding a dynamic element, so that parents alternate between raising their arms and faces and swinging arms down and back as they drop faces to look at baby.
Downward Dog Adho Mukha Savasana with variations Three-Legged Dog, Knee to nose
- Forward Fold Uttanasana,
- Half Fold
- Sun Salutations are great, because there’s so much action for baby to watch, and every other breath involves the parent’s face coming into view.
Hold People’s Babies for Them
Ask first, of course. But if mom or dad is tired of interrupting their practice every two seconds to chase after a crawler, they’ll be delighted if you hold baby for five minutes while they get through a few asanas.
Babies are usually so interested and curious in being held by a new person that they don’t fuss.
You can also let parents know that you’re keeping a close eye on crawlers and will intervene if they’re about to poke another baby in the eye.
Savasana might not work out. So have some other tricks up your sleeve.
Guided Body Scan
I offer a guided body scan during stillness practice. The parents probably won’t be able to close eyes and zone out. But they may be able to focus on different parts of the body while baby wriggles or nurses.
You could also play some music during this time. Personally, I don’t use music during classes. It’s too distracting for my anxiety mind. In a baby class, there’s already a lot of extra noise, so music would be overwhelming.
But Savasana is a great time for the yoga teacher to stop talking, and shift focus to music.
A change is as good as a rest for parents and babies too.
This is the number one recommendation I got from other articles about teaching mom & baby yoga. My sister, the storytime lady, also swears by it.
But I just feel awkward and weird about singing in public. The first class I managed to to croak out one round of You are My Sunshine. I asked if any parents had another song to suggest, but they all stared at me blankly and shook their heads. I just don’t have the gusto to keep it going.
(This might be the other reason that woman from class #1 never returned – she couldn’t bear the awkward singing.)
I gave it one more try after listening to a podcast about teaching baby & me yoga by Shannon Crow. She suggested that we sing-song each baby’s name in unison as we do check in. Tried it for the first two people in the circle. Babies looked weirded out, instead of delighted.
I must confess that even my own children ask me to “just talk the words” when I sing.
Teaching Baby and Me Yoga- Round Up
Overall, I’d review my experience of teaching baby and me yoga as positive. It’s fun to see all these happy baby faces, and I really enjoy connecting with the students over the shared experience of parenting.
The one thing I completely forgot and and had to get used to was how intense and consuming that parent baby connection is. Babies want mom or dad to look at them ALL THE TIME.
So in a normal yoga class, new yoga teachers will probably feel awkward about having all the students looking at them. In baby yoga classes, it’s the opposite. You feel awkward because no one is looking at you. They’re all listening (I hope) but keeping constant eye contact with baby.
Let me know if you’ve found other tricks for teaching baby & me yoga classes. I’m always looking for great ideas.