The healing power of baby yoga
Birthlight Baby Yoga teacher Rumi Shanti shares the story of how she helped Japanese Tsunami victims with baby yoga.
I first met Sayuri and her one month old baby, Mari on one day in May to provide Baby Yoga session. They were Tsunami victims. Sayuri lived in Sendai, in Tohoku area in Japan, where the huge earthquake and Tsunami attacked on March 11th. She was 9 month pregnant and she was at home with her another 4-year-old son at that time. Soon after the earthquake hit, her husband called and told them to run away, and they survived from Tsunami although their apartment building was dwelled by big waves. She lost contact with her family and spent 2 days with her little son in the car until her husband found them. They evacuated Sayuri’s grandparents’ house in Ishinomaki, where was safer but no electricity no water. Sayuri gave birth to Mari on 20th of March 9days after Tsunami. It was too difficult to live with newborn baby without lifeline. They decided to move to her husband’s home town, Okinawa, where I live. The husband had to stay in Sendai to work. Sayuri’s mother in law thought they needed special care and I was honored to give them 1-2-1 baby and postnatal yoga sessions.
Mari was crying hard and Sayuri looked tired when I arrived there. Sayuri fed her hungry baby and she talked briefly about what they went through, then we started Baby Yoga. Sayuri and Mari enjoyed so much together! The baby loved songs, dry massage and first hip sequences. During hip sequences Sayuri came to smile and said to her baby, “ You did well, yes, you did well ( during the hardship). You are such a strong baby. Oh, you love baby yoga, don’t you, darling?” The baby was listening to her mother. I was amazed how well new born could respond. I saw the joy increasing between them. Although Sayuri’s body got so weak and had quite bad ache in her arms, shoulders, back and pelvis, she seemed grateful just to breathe deeply in very simple postnatal movements. On that day the baby slept so well and they started doing some home practice.
It was after hip sequences on the second session, when Sayuri started talking about her anxiety and problems. The rest was just listening to her. She talked about her uncomfortable evacuation life and very private stories. At the end, she almost cried and said, “ I don’t like here at all. I am so stressed out! I want to go home. What can I do?” I didn’t know what to say but I tried to be an active listener. On the next session, the baby Mari was sleeping soundly and Sayuri seemed so much better physically although she said the situation was as bad as before. We started postnatal and I sometimes touched her body to draw her attention on her self. After one hour slow practice, her comments turned out to be positive. I thought it was important to listen to her as a counselor but physical approach of postnatal yoga would work well on her.
We went to the beach for the fourth session next week. It was a beautiful sunny day. Sayuri’s mother in law looked after the baby. I tried to find a good place to spread our yoga mats but Sayuri said that she preferred walking on the shore.
I had seen that the point was Sayuri’s mind was in the past or the future, most of the time at her hometown. She was missing everything she lost. I understood it was such a hardship and she needed more time to recover. However being at the seaside between earth and water, was a good place to find the present moment. She said it was so refreshing.
Those stories were followed by the most wonderful baby yoga sessions. I planned songs for hip sequences but Sayuri talked so much to her baby that we never needed songs. They enjoyed everything I taught. They succeeded on beautiful shared relaxation, which was really moving. Sayuri’s 4-year-old son joined and we had a great family yoga time. It was only 10 sessions for four months until Sayuri and her children went back to Sendai. The government prepared a new apartment for them. Sayuri looked like a different person when I saw her last. She was a happy strong mother. She e-mailed me from Sendai to say “ I realized that supportive environment is so helpful for postnatal. I would like to start a circle for other new mothers to help each other. It is my future dream!”