Updated: May 5, 2021
Following birth, babies’ transition through rapid stages of development within the first 20 months of life, learning new skills and developing their relationships with people and the world around them. The Wonder Weeks is a great app for keeping track of your baby's developmental "leaps". Baby yoga can help aid these developmental stages through Asana (the yoga poses), massage, movement, song and play, and it assists babies with common physical complaints, as well emotional and social development.
Unfortunately babies can struggle with digestive complaints such as trapped wind, constipation and uncomfortable digestion, which can all lead to distress and sometimes colic. Baby yoga can help to ease digestive issues through gentle abdominal massage and asana such as pumping or marching, which mums can repeat at home either daily or as necessary. A baby yoga class is also a great way to meet other mums and pick up tips and advice from each other.
All types of yoga can strengthen the physical body, aid blood circulation, and tone muscles. This is especially important for babies and they move through the developmental stages and gain control of their head and neck, and later trunk and limbs. Often nowadays some babies have less opportunity to move freely due to the use of baby carriers, prams, car seats and baby bouncers. Now don't get me wrong - all of these devices are a great way to keep our babies safe! But by design they do restrict movement. Baby yoga can compensate for the time spent in restricted spaces and allow babies to work on their gross and fine motor skills. Similarly, most types of yoga encourage increased flexibility, correct alignment of the skeleton via skeletal muscle activation, and strengthen and protect the spine and joints. Baby yoga is no different and all of these benefits of yoga assist babies as they move through the stages of physical development: head and neck control, rolling, all fours, sitting, crawling, standing, cruising, and walking.
My baby yoga classes are baby led, which means that each mum follows her babies cues as to how they are feeling and what they are interested in that day. This allows babies to be encouraged to engage in individual movements rather than following a prescriptive order and follows babies’ development from reflex to voluntary movements. Encouraging and giving opportunities for babies to move, both independently and supported, allows the release of pent up energy, and babies may feel calmer and more likely to sleep.
Tummy time is a great way of helping to build a baby’s upper body strength and can be started from birth by lying baby on the parent’s chest. Tummy time helps to strengthen the back, neck and shoulders but many babies don’t enjoy it! Baby yoga gives mums new and interesting ways of doing tummy time with their babies such as Flying Baby or Tiger-in-the-tree hold. I will be filming a video of some great ways to have fun with tummy time for my YouTube channel, so make sure you subscribe using the link at the bottom of blog page to be notified.
As well as assisting with babies muscular and skeletal development. Baby yoga can also help all the internal physiological systems through Asana and massage. For example, the Nervous system (brain, spinal column and nerves) is stimulated through the senses: sounds, sight, taste, smell and touch. Yogic moves such as dips, swings and therapeutic touch such as foot and hand massage are very helpful. Tactile stimulation, especially touch, encourages positive brain development and a nurtured nervous system which leads to calm babies and adults. The vestibular system is the main physiological system involved in a baby’s sense of balance and spatial orientation. Asana such as bouncing, butterfly balance and swings can help in the development of babies learning where they are in space.
As with adults, babies can benefit emotionally as well as physically from yoga practice. My baby yoga classes give babies just the right level of stimulation, in a situation which is led by each individual baby, leading to a development of routine and more settled, calm babies who sleep well. The baby led style of the class assists mums in learning to recognise and respond to their babies, which leads to healthy communication between them and increases mum’s confidence.
Attending a baby yoga class where there are other babies and adults encourages socialisation - something we have all been missing over the last year! Babies class pick up on the calm signs from their mum, and learn that being around other people is safe and they develop confidence in social situations. Many of the Asana and other activities that can be done in pairs such as mums turning babies to face each other in Tiger-in-the-tree or swinging can also be helpful.
Babies mainly learn about the world through play. It requires brain and muscle power and develops social and intellectual skills and language and problem solving. Coming to a baby yoga class creates a space for mums and babies to relax and have fun together and learn playful activities that can be replicated at home. Celebrating with baby after an Asana or activity fosters baby’s sense of success and achievement which is good for mental health in the later stages of baby’s life. As well as play time classes give mums ideas for calm baby led bedtime routines and teaches mums how to use their voice to calm baby through song, which reinforces bonding, connection and encourages mum to stay calm.
Most importantly a baby yoga class is a place for you to have FUN with your baby. Parenting is hard work, and it's easy to get lost in the sleepless nights, cluster feeds and piles and piles of washing. Finding a space to have fun with and enjoy time with your baby is just amazing. My baby yoga classes are suitable from birth to when baby starts crawling and they start in June. Please get in touch if you want more information. Next week's blog will focus on the benefits of postnatal yoga for mum.