We know that yoga has many benefits for adults, and it’s also a great way to help improve your child’s mental health and well-being. But what about yoga for babies? It may sound a little strange but, in fact, when your baby is as young as four months of age, it’s actually a great time to start practicing yoga with them. During this stage babies are beginning to become more mobile, and yoga can help with improving their strength and coordination.
One of the best ways to practice yoga with four-month-old babies is offering them a baby massage. Ideally, this can be done in a warm room with them wearing nothing but a diaper, but this can also be done with clothes on. If you like, a room-temperature organic neutral oil (like olive or almond oil) can add to this experience but it’s not a requirement.
Four-month-old baby yoga
Always begin baby yoga and massage by letting your baby know you’re going to do some yoga with them. They’ll let you know if they don’t want to join. Warm your hands by rubbing them together, and add some oil if you’re using it on baby’s skin. Try these yoga moves:
Washcloth stretches. Using both hands around one of baby’s thighs, wring one hand in each direction as if you were lightly wringing out a washcloth. Repeat, moving your hands down their leg. Then repeat on the other side. You can try the same thing on their arms. This is a great option for encouraging muscle development.
Face yoga. Yoga is best for stretching and relaxing the muscles we use most. And what are some of the most used muscles in a four-month old? Their jaw muscles! To do these stretches, bring two fingertips from each hand to the centre of baby’s forehead and gently move them outward from the centre. Do this again with fingertips under the nose, making a “smile” shape, and again under the lips. You can repeat these stretches a few times.
Cobra pose. Yoga, massage, and tummy time all in one! This one is designed for babies who can already hold their head up during tummy time and may be beginning to lift their chest up as well. Use your fingertips to lightly press up baby’s back on both sides of their spine. Then bring your fingers down on the outsides of their back. Continue this a few times or until baby tells you they’re done.
Five-month-old baby yoga
Five months is a great time to practice yoga with your baby too! At this age, babies are becoming more coordinated as they prepare for more mobility. They also begin to see the world differently, with a more expansive view. You can try these yoga moves on and with your baby to encourage these important developmental milestones.
Yoga peek-a-boo. At 5 months babies don’t yet have object permanence, but they love to see their parents and other caregivers’ faces, so peek-a-boo is often a favourite. You can play peek-a-boo while doing yoga to give yourself a moment of self-care too. To do this, lie baby safely on their back on a yoga mat. You can kneel over them on your hands and knees, known as “table top” in yoga, your face above theirs. Take a breath in and breathe out bringing your hips to your heels into what is known as “child’s pose.” Inhale, come back to your face above baby, and be greeted with a big smile as you say “Peek-a-boo!”
Happy Baby for your happy baby. Happy Baby is often a favorite yoga pose for adults, but babies do it naturally. Babies often find their feet at around four or five months, but even if they haven’t they can do this pose. If they’re already holding their feet, just encourage them to keep doing it, and maybe join them lying down next to them, holding your feet, and rocking side to side. If your baby hasn’t yet found their feet, you can help them get the benefits of this pose by lying them on their back and with their feet towards the ceiling, hold their feet, and gently bend their knees and move them side to side.
The Wheels on the Bus. This is a popular way to end a postnatal yoga class and a great way to encourage physical coordination. Sitting up with baby lying on their back, feet towards you, let baby know you will do some yoga on them. All these moves coincide with the song “The Wheels on the Bus” and you can sing each verse with the accompanying baby yoga poses:
“The wheels on the bus go round and round” – Hold on to baby’s feet and make bicycle wheels as you sing.
“The wipers on the bus go swish swish swish” – Still holding on to their feet, swish their legs from side to side.
“The people on the bus go up and down” – Holding on to baby’s ankles with feet towards the ceiling, gently lift and lower them so their bum lifts and lowers off the floor.
“The doors on the bus go open and shut” – Holding on to baby’s wrists or having them hold on to their fingers, bring their hands together and then spread them wide apart.
“The mommies (or daddies or parents) on the bus say ‘I love you'” – Still holding on to baby’s wrist or hands, bring their arms together so they give themselves a hug. Shift them side to side and switch to the other arm on top halfway through.
Get creative with your own verses and complementary movements.
Emily Gold is a yoga therapist and teacher, doula, and public health specialist. She is currently living abroad, in Brussels, Belgium.