At first glance, yoga and your child might seem like an odd pairing, since yoga is often about quiet and stillness -- words that don't usually describe kids. But little ones don't need laserlike focus to reap the benefits.
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"Many poses are active and playful, which helps children cope with their emotions," explains Helen Garabedian, author of Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers. Kids can start the mini routines at 18 months. The poses may help your child release extra energy, handle frustration, or relax before bed. He may behave better -- and you'll feel great too.
Tantrum Tamer: Donkey
This pose makes kids laugh, helping them forget their frustrations. Get on all fours, knees hip-width apart; hands shoulder-width apart, a few inches in front of shoulders. Lift hips up and back and straighten legs. Raise leg and hold for three counts; lower leg and switch sides.
Tantrum Tamer: Jumping Tree
Face your child and stand 2 or 3 feet away from him. Place right foot on the inside of left leg, then hold his hands. Tell your child to place his left foot on the inside of his right leg. Bend standing knee and lightly jump in place; switch legs and repeat for 10 to 30 seconds.
Bedtime Soother: Flying Heart
Stretching and deep breathing instantly relax muscles and help kids wind down at the end of the day. Bring soles of the feet together so legs form a diamond shape. Rest hands a few inches behind butt, fingers pointing away from body. Lean back slightly, lift chest, and drop head back. Breathe in and out deeply as you hold pose for 15 to 30 seconds; repeat up to three times.
Bedtime Soother: Falling Star
Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart and raise arms out to the side, palms down. Tilt torso left and place left hand on or close to left foot. Reach right hand toward the ceiling; look up or straight ahead; hold for five counts. Return to standing position and repeat up to five times on left side. Switch sides.
Energy Burner: Kissy Knee
Yogis say this pose improves digestion, so it will give your little one an overall feeling of calm. Sit with right leg stretched out in front of you and left foot against inside of right thigh. Bend forward and make a smooching sound as you kiss your right knee. (Bend right knee if necessary to make it easier.) Slowly come back to starting position; repeat up to three times before switching legs.
Energy Burner: Star
These active moves can help kids blow off steam. Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart and raise arms out to the side, palms down. Teeter from side to side, switching feet, as you sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"; keep swaying until you've done the song three times.
Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Parents magazine.