Yoga plays an absolutely huge role in my life! At a very basic level it helps me to look after my physical and mental wellbeing.
Physically it helps me to stretch, which is important for runners, and strengthen my body. Mentally it helps me to relax, it makes me feel grounded and helps me to live in ‘the now’.
I’ve been practising yoga for many years now, and was lucky enough to be able to carry on while pregnant, though I obviously had to make some modifications.
I was super excited to learn that Zoe, my prenatal yoga teacher was also running classes for babies. I wasn’t sure what to expect though! Would I do yoga with Baby in a sling, or will Baby who was mostly asleep at the time also do some yoga? I was intrigued and knew that we would sign up as soon as Oliver was big enough!
For me, the classes are a very special way to spend time with each other. I enjoy the relaxed and soothing atmosphere, Oliver loves his stretches, swinging and singing. He shows his appreciation by endless smiling, dribbling and trumping during yoga, and a great sleep after (coffee time, bonus!).
I could go on and on about the benefits of yoga, but instead I have invited Zoe Lowrie, yoga teacher and owner of Honeychild Yoga to tell you more about baby yoga, how and when to start and of course the benefits for you and your baby.
Once you have a baby and get into some kind of routine you’re ready to sign up for baby groups to get out of the house and see other mums. However, it’s important to find a class that is suitable for our lovely babies who are very sleepy at the beginning! So when would you suggest starting baby yoga? When is the best for the mums and for babies?
Gentle baby yoga exercises can be started from as young as 4 weeks old, especially the digestive moves such as knees into tummy. I recommend classes from 12 weeks, however. A couple of reasons: it’s very tiring and younger babies will only really take part for 15-20 minutes, head and neck strength is useful for some of the more dynamic exercises like supported sitting, and lastly mums have generally got the hang of routines and getting out and about without too much stress by 12 weeks!
Does the mode of delivery matter in resuming this type of exercise?
Not really. As long as mum has had her post-natal checks. Some of the lifting exercises we do should be approached with care after caesarean birth as it can still impact the abdominal muscles. I often give cues if that’s the case. Also getting up and down off the floor. Often we don’t even think about it, but simply picking baby up off the floor can result in a twinge or discomfort, so there’s a ‘baby yoga way’ of doing it.
Is baby yoga suitable for someone who’s totally new to yoga, or is there any previous experience necessary? What about the equipment and clothes?
The beauty of baby yoga is that any mum (or dad for that matter) can take part and enjoy the sequences. Elements of post-natal yoga only really make up about 25% of the class – and they’re very suitable for any ability. That’s not to say it couldn’t be more, I’d love to spend the whole class teaching just post-natal yoga! But I take the view that you’ve got a fairly short window of opportunity to enjoy yoga with your baby. Although they like to watch us stretching, they get bored pretty quickly if they’re not involved!
No equipment needed – and something you can stretch and feel comfortable in – doesn’t have to be yoga gear (although jeans are not ideal!)
So what are the main benefits for babies?
Ah so many! There’s the purely physical benefits – easing digestive comfort, helping with colic, exercises that unfold and strengthen their little bodies. Then there’s the cognitive and emotional stuff – gentle stimulation that isn’t too overwhelming, co-ordination and discovery of what their amazing bodies can do (I love watching babies smile as if to say “look what I can do now – all by myself!”). That it’s ok to just sit and stare off into the distance while mum relaxes, helping them to self-soothe. As we move through the weeks and babies get older, we explore more adventures and dynamic exercises – flying, rolling and swinging are all fantastic fun but help enormously with baby’s confidence and trust.
We know now about the benefits for our lovely babies. How about the benefits for mums – except getting out of the house obviously?
Baby yoga is one of the few classes that you do together, ‘with’ your baby rather than ‘to’ your baby. It’s a very joyous class – I always encourage enthusiastic singing (which babies adore, even if we don’t think we’re great at it) which is magical for lifting the spirits. It’s an opportunity to stretch out the areas where we hold tension and tiredness, in the shoulders, the upper back and the chest. We practice pranayama, even though it’s often ‘disguised’ as playing with babies – such as bhramari breath (humming) or full abdominal breathing which is amazing for restoring balance. The end of the class features a relaxation – which takes a few times to get used to for mums new to yoga. I notice the hardest thing is for mums to actually close their eyes and turn inwards – using it as an opportunity to restore and heal. When it happens it’s one of the most rewarding parts of the class for me as I can see them literally ‘let go’.
New mums know that there’s nothing like a real schedule with a baby, so feeding and nappy changing can happen anywhere, including a yoga class! Each mum can take a break anytime and for as long as it’s needed. It’s such a lovely, relaxing, and of course baby-lead class, so is there anything else that we should remember about when practicing with our babies?
Yes, always check your baby is happy to do some yoga. Perhaps introducing it in the same way we do in class, with a massage or a little song. Generally speaking, only practice yoga together if baby is happy and alert. Use regular pauses for cuddles and reassurance. Notice which exercises are firm favourites versus those they resist.
Ahhhhh! I feel totally relaxed after typing up our interview. I hope that you learnt a little bit about how baby yoga can be a beautiful way of spending time with your little one and also about its benefits. If you have any questions just post them in comments below or message me! Finally I wanted to add that even though it’s great to sign up for a class to exercise with other mums and babies, if for some reason this option is not available to you, there are plenty of baby yoga videos and resources online.