Disturbing video on facebook is not 'baby yoga'

Dear all Birthlight teachers around the world,

I picked up a Metro free newspaper on the tube on my way to Heathrow airport this morning and found a piece by Laura Elvin entitled 'Facebook: “Cruelty" video is Baby Yoga’. The article explains how Facebook is refusing to remove a two minute clip showing ‘a naked newborn baby being flung around by the head’, as a ‘chatting woman’?? dunks the screaming infant in a bucket of water, using its tiny stretched arms. The article uses many alarm bells reporting shock and aimed at shocking: the baby is hung upside down while screaming loudly, is shaken back and forth, then goes quiet and ‘floppy’ while the woman continues to swing ‘it’ around in the water as she ‘twists its little limbs’.

As I read I can feel the baby screaming. The words take me right back to the training I refused to submit my baby to with Igor Tjarkovsky in London in 1982.  Tarkovsky is the instigator of a method of Baby Gymnastics and extreme water training that has recently dubbed itself as ‘Baby Yoga’ as Yoga has gained popularity in Russia in the last decade.

The Indonesia-based video was reported to Facebook staff in Britain on the grounds of both ‘graphic violence and nudity’ but the Facebook moderator for the UK said that the clip did not violate standards policy on the grounds that ‘it depicts a form of baby yoga. This is an unacceptable stretching of the term ‘Baby Yoga’ and no one associated with Birthlight can endorse this justification by Facebook. It is time to protest on behalf of the babies out there as the video is gaining shares.

Metro offers a pixellated screen shot from the video with the title ‘sick’ and quotes the words of Lurleen Hilliard, the founder of Nolonger Victims, a global charity campaigning against abuse, who issued the dramatic statement “I think we’ve literally watched a baby being murdered’. What will readers remember? an association of Baby Yoga with utmost barbaric cruelty and baby abuse. As the world initiator of the label Baby Yoga in 1996, I could have, perhaps should have, trademarked it as a hallmark of the gentle and safe movements we promote to enhance babies’ enjoyment of close interaction with parents or main carers. But I did not because yoga does not belong to anyone.

Birthlight Baby Yoga follow babies’ own pace of development to their delight. Should a baby cry, the immediate response is to cuddle and soothe him/her.   Observing baby cues is part of the respect for babies as little persons who show us when they are ready to play and when not. The forceful conditioning of babies inspired by Tjarkovsky on land and in water is abhorrent to Birthlight.

If you have suggestions of how we can disassociate Baby Yoga from this and other video clips that show practices amounting to baby abuse, please send your post to sylvie@birthlight.com.

Françoise Freedman
Founder of Birthlight

The baby yoga I know and love is full of gentleness and joy, nothing like the distressing video on YouTube that has caused so much outrage. For a small baby to be treated in such an uncaring and abusive fashion is heart breaking, to call it baby yoga is appallingly inaccurate. The principles of yoga are based on respect, awareness and compassion, these qualities with gentle yet fun movements for parent and baby create true baby yoga. At Birthlight we celebrate every baby and develop sensitivity and communication to meet their individual needs.

Spread the Birthlight spirals of joy, share your thoughts and do post the Birthlight press release to reassure everyone baby yoga is a wonderful and caring practice.

Sally Lomas
Birthlight Director of Training


In February 2012 a video showing Controversial swinging baby classes was shown on youtube. Birthlight provided this statement then to explain that that was not baby yoga!

Many of you may have seen and been rightly horrified by the recent youtube video  showing Lena Fokina swinging screaming babies by their legs. She calls it 'dynamic baby gymnastics'.

This is NOT Baby Yoga!  this is dangerous, violent, harmful and totally against what babies need...  Igor Tjarkovsky, the Russian pioneer of brutal baby water training, developed these extreme and unsafe practices that have been known for some years as Russian Baby Gymnastics.  Due to the growing popularity of baby massage and baby yoga in Russia through our Birthlight training centre in Moscow, Tjarkovsky's followers have started dubbing his practices as Baby Yoga. Sheila Kitzinger called Tjarkovsky 'the apostle of pain' after seeing him in action in a London pool in 1982. I was there with my baby, and his horrific treatment of babies motivated me to start developing the Birthlight practices now acclaimed all over the world. These are not shock tactics but contagious delight of interacting babies and parents with movements that truly support babies' development without violence.

Medical Anthropologist Dr. Françoise Freedman’s deep understanding of pregnancy, birth and parenting, her multidisciplinary approach of combining indigenous knowledge about reproduction, parenthood and the yogic wisdom of the ancient sages with up to date scientific research makes the Birthlight Baby Yoga (BBY) approach unique. Eminent obstetricians Dr. Gowri Motha (the best-kept secret of the supermodels), Dr. Amali Lokugamage (author of ‘heart in the womb’), Dr. Michel Odent (pioneer of waterbirth and gentle birthing)  as well as or midwives trained in this approach endorse, recommend and/or use the BBY practices. Tried and tested for over 25 years to not only  prevent common ailments in infants and newborn mothers from colic to postnatal depression but also to address these conditions, BBY also aids bonding and teaches practices, that are fun and enhance early parent-infant communication. This gentle parenting uses ancient moves and holds as observed and learnt among Amazonian forest people  as well as rhythmical stretches transmitted through generations of mothers in India for centuries.

Over the last twelve years Birthlight has trained more than 2000 certified teachers in Baby Yoga, counting with highly qualified trainers such as  Sally Lomas, Liz Doherty, Ingrid Lewis and  Marion O'Connor.  With a first video out in 1997 and the first Baby Yoga book in 2000 (Gaia Books), Birthlight has distinguished itself as the pioneer of Baby Yoga not only in Britain but now worldwide with Birthlight centres in Zurich, Moscow, Singapore, Sydney, Taiwan and we have successfully trained teachers in many other countries where we have active partners. Most of the other successful Baby Yoga providers have been trained by birthlight and these practices have brought delight and harmony to families far and wide.  BBY has elicited eloquent testimonies from health professionals and new mums from all walks of life and all origins, contributing the current popularity of our original moves. Birthlight is a small UK registered charity that has grown organically, through word of mouth marketing in community circles.  One parent-baby pair at a time, Baby Yoga contributes to create a better world for our children.

Françoise Freedman
Founder of Birthlight

Press reactions to facebook video

Daily Mirror
The Telegraph
International business time

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