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Move It Mountain View: The Flexible Family

Here are a few yoga-inspired stretches you can do with your child to make fitness fun and accessible for the whole family.

When my son was a toddler I often took him with me to the gym just down the street from our house.

He would watch me teach classes from the window of the childcare room adjacent to the group exercise studio. Sometimes he would mimic the moves we did. Sometimes he would just watch us with his mouth open and his eyes wide.

Afterward, he greeted me with an enthusiastic “Look what I can do!” and showed me his own interpretation of the Pilates move or kickboxing routine he had just witnessed.

I decided I would have to find exercises we could do together to continue supporting his interest in movement and physical activity.

Over the years we've taken a variety of family focused classes, including mommy and me swim lessons through the , a family Zumba class in Palo Alto, and my personal favorite, Parent & Child Yoga through the . We have accumulated quite a collection of physical activities that we enjoy doing together.

There are plenty of benefits for your child to include them in your fitness regimen. Among them, you will help cultivate a love of fitness in your child and promote an active lifestyle. You will strengthen your parent-child bond, increase connection and improve your nonverbal communication skills. Furthermore, you will both be receiving the benefits of exercise, more restful sleep, better concentration and healthy weight maintenance.

Stretching is a great place to start when beginning to include your child into your fitness regime. It's a gentle and low-impact activity appropriate for all fitness levels. Regular stretching helps to keep the muscles, joints, and ligaments supple and healthy.

Here are some of our favorite partner stretches that we hope you can enjoy with your child:

SeeSaw: Sit across from your child with your legs straight out in front of you, soles of feet touching or with your child’s legs between your feet. Clasp your hands together and take turns pulling each other forward until the bending partner feels a stretch in the back of their legs, also known as the hamstrings.

Double Dog: Get on all fours. Have your child stand a few inches away from your feet with their back towards you. Have them bend forward to reach for their toes and then lift their legs, one at a time, to rest the tops of their feet gently on your mid to upper back. When they let you know that they are secure and ready, tuck your toes and lift your knees off the ground, raising your seat to the ceiling while pressing your heels to the ground. Hold this position for as long as is manageable for you and your partner. Slowly return knees back to the floor before your child removes their feet from your back.

Lizard on a Rock: Begin in child’s pose with hands resting by your side. Allow your child to sit gently on your low back, facing away from you, and slowly roll themselves down so that they are laying on your back. Have them open up their arms breathe deeply in and out. When you are both ready, have your child roll up slowly and switch places. When you become the lizard, sit on their feet instead of their back.

Try these exercises with your little one and see how they work for you. Feel free to explore other fun ways you and your child can stretch together.

Let Patch know what you discover!

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