Baby yoga can be enjoyed by all the family and you don’t need to be an expert to reap the benefits, says Marjorie Brennan.
While the benefits of yoga in pregnancy are well-established, after the baby is born, most mums are too exhausted or hormonally challenged to keep it up.
However, with baby yoga, mum and little one can both reap the rewards of the relaxing exercise.
After all, how often do we marvel at babies’ flexibility, watching them putting their feet in their mouth or effortlessly doing the downward dog?
Gail Bovenizer of Harmony Yoga Ireland has been doing yoga with parents and their babies for almost 10 years. She says babies — and their parents —benefit hugely from the classes.
“It’s all about movement and socialisation,” she says.
“We do hip sequences which can be quite good for relieving wind, colic and constipation.
"For the babies themselves, they’re stretching out, they’re moving. There’s language development because there’s a lot of singing going on in the class.
"For the parents, they get out of the house and meet other people. We always have a cup of tea or coffee at the end so they can have a good chat.”
The babies in Bovenizer’s classes range in age from three months up to nearly 18 months.
“If the parents don’t go back to work, they just keep coming back,” she says.
From 18 months on, they can move on to toddler yoga classes.
“We have toddlers and I’m jealous of how flexible they are,” says Bovenizer.
“The yoga helps them become much more aware of their bodies. I have a little girl in toddler yoga who did baby yoga and she can name all the parts of her body — she is really interested in how her body works, for example, when she’s eating, what parts of her body are involved with that process.”
The classes Bovenizer teaches in Churchtown, Co Dublin, are simple and relaxed, given the nature of her clients.
“We always have an icebreaker, where everybody says something about themselves and their baby every week which builds a relationship between the parents and the babies.
"We do a simple warm-up, we don’t want to do too much as the babies are always involved. We do a dry massage, which gives the babies an awareness of their bodies.
“We do different songs and rhymes, we do some sitting down, some lying down, putting the babies on their backs.
"Then we do some work with the babies while standing. Then we do some relaxation at the end, followed by tea and coffee.”
While it’s mainly mums who are involved in the classes as they are normally on maternity leave, Bovenizer has had dads at some of the classes.
“For toddler yoga, we have a large number of grandparents who get down on the floor and do all the work with them, which is brilliant,” she says.
Bovenizer’s classes are hugely popular and have been nominated in the best baby and parent activity category of the Maternity and Infant awards. She says baby yoga is a natural progression from baby massage, which is more suitable for infants under three months.
“I do two baby massage classes constantly every five weeks and they feed on. I have two baby yoga classes and they’re pretty much full all the time.”
Rowena Carr is a nurse from Churchtown who started pregnancy yoga with Bovenizer and has since attended with her three daughters, aged six, three and 16 months.
“My children love it. It helps them interact with other children for one thing. They love the spontaneity of it — it can be lovely and relaxing but also lively and energetic.
"Initially they may not be able to do a whole lot in the class but as they get older, they start doing things for themselves, getting more mobile and adapting it. The classes are great fun and not restrictive. They have a ball.”
Rowena’s three babies were breech and two had to wear hip braces. She says the yoga really helped them.
“We did the yoga with the hip brace on, and without it when they could. It was brilliant for them and in no way painful or harmful.”
She says the classes have also been invaluable in helping her get out and connect with other mums.
“I really looked forward to the classes. It was a really friendly environment and I’ve met people there who I am still in touch with, six years down the line.”
She has also found the classes have provided a good opportunity for bonding.
“My children are very tactile and love the closeness of it. My six-year-old comes with me to the baby yoga class and brings her own doll to do the yoga with.”
Now that she is expecting her fourth child, Rowena does pregnancy yoga whenever she gets a chance.
“I’m not a yoga buff — with three kids, I’m lucky to get out the door,” she laughs.
“I’m just interested in the fun, interaction, and just getting out of the house.”
She brings all three of her children to yoga, and when child number four arrives, they will go too.
“Gail has an open-door policy. When you’re coming back to normality after having a baby, you’re hormonal and your head can be all over the place.
Gail’s approach is so therapeutic, she’s wonderful and my kids adore her. I was very lucky to find her.”
KEEPING YOGA SIMPLE
Pampers, together with baby yoga expert Sam Petter, has developed a baby yoga routine, with simple stretches that parents and babies can do at home.
Here are some of Petter’s tips:
* Maintain eye contact to check your baby is happy.
* Never force movements your baby isn’t ready for.
* Smile to reassure your baby.
* Don’t try any of this activity when your baby is tired or hungry.
* Baby yoga is ideal from four months old but make sure you always work at your baby’s pace and stage of development.
* If your baby doesn’t seem to be in the mood, don’t worry, simple try again another day.
See the video for the routine here: http://goo.gl/QlIj6S
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