Toddler Yoga at Yoga on York, in Towson

Nora Cleanthous, left, 2, of Idlewylde, Noah Johnson, 3, of Westminster, yoga instructor Spirit Wedmore of Westminster, Katherine Peters, 4, of Rodgers Forge and Ali Peters of Rodgers Forge practice yoga with the rest of their class during "Together with Tots" at Yoga on York in Anneslie, on July 18. (Staff Photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing / July 17, 2011)

Nora Cleanthous, of Idlewylde, is already a yoga practitioner of note — and she's only 2.

"She loves to show off what she has learned," said her mother, Jennifer. "When I change her diaper, she'll stick her butt up and say, 'I'm doing my yoga.' "

Nora also has learned about deep breathing. She does that all the time, her mother said. In fact, she is better at it than her 5-year-old brother.

"If she's in the middle of a crying fit, I remind her to take a deep breath and then tell me what's the matter. It works wonders.

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"She calms down and says something like, 'I want my milk.' "

Nora and her mother take part in the Together with Toddler class offered Monday mornings at Yoga on York in the Anneslie Shopping Center.

The yoga and massage studio, at 6711 York Road, offers a variety of classes for all levels and abilities: beginner, intermediate and advanced yoga, as well as yoga for athletes, aerial yoga, and the toddler sessions that focus on children ages 2 to 4.

The class is open to dads and their toddlers as well, but it's typically mothers who show up with their offspring in tow.

Peaceful bond

Yoga on York began offering the class because there appeared to be a demand for it, according to Jayne Bernasconi, a Towson University faculty member who has been active in the field of modern dance and yoga for more than 30 years.

She co-owns the studio with Kristina Auth Paltell, a licensed massage therapist and fitness, personal training and yoga instructor.

"When I was distributing fliers door-to-door to get the studio off the ground, a number of people asked me if we were going to have children's classes," Bernasconi said.

During each session, instructor Spirit Wedmore makes the yoga moves fun for the youngsters.

"We make it play to get them involved in exploring their own bodies to find out what they can do," Wedmore said.

At the same time it's a workout for their mothers. The "together" in Together with Toddler is the parent and child performing in unison.

"It creates a special bond you don't get from other kid activities," said Rodgers Forge resident Ali Peters, who brings her daughters Katherine, 4, and Anna, 2, with her.

"You and your child are totally connected, unlike play dates where the moms talk to moms and the kids play with each other," Peters said. "You're totally focused on your own child."

Wedmore is a certified Karma Kids Yoga instructor who keeps the youngsters enthralled with her singsong voice, chanting and broad gestures.

But the entertainment value of the class pales in comparison to the benefits for the development of the child, Wedmore said.

"Yoga means union — union with the self and then union with others, she explained.