“The more we do our yoga, our yoga, our yoga, the more we do our yoga the healthier we’ll be. We’re bendy and stretchy and peaceful and happy. The more we do our yoga, the healthier we’ll be.” I sing this song regularly in my Yoga Babies classes, but the more I teach and the more I practice the more I realize just how amazing yoga truly is.
When I first came to yoga during University I was attracted mainly by the physical aspect. I had danced throughout my childhood and found the flowing vinyasa style yoga gave me that same happiness I had felt whilst dancing. I loved finding the connection to my body again, loved moving and stretching with a rhythm all my own. Surprisingly though I also came to love the mental aspects of my yoga class. By bringing my awareness to my breath and my natural rhythms through the class I was able to tune out some of the stresses of life. My head was rarely quiet, except for those few minutes at the end of my yoga practice. Once I started practicing yoga I felt stronger, fitter, more flexible, but most importantly I felt more at peace with myself.
I continued going to yoga classes weekly until my first daughter arrived in 2011, by this point yoga was a part of my life and I was keen to get back on the mat. Finding nothing locally, I bought Tara Lee’s DVD, “Yoga for You and Your Baby” and started to explore the wonders of baby yoga. I had thought doing yoga with my baby might be a gentle way to reconnect with my body, start to regain strength and stability, find some balance. What I found once again was so much more. Yoga with your baby is the most amazing bonding experience. It is time without distractions, without expectations. The only thing that matters is enjoying the time with your baby. Whenever we got to that time in the afternoon when we were both exhausted, but it was not yet time for bath and bed, I would put on the DVD. It would take us both from stressed and grumpy to giggling, happy and relaxed. I did start to feel fitter and stronger again, but more importantly I accepted where my body was right then, and appreciated the changes and the little person who had made those changes. My daughter became flexible, stronger, more coordinated but more importantly she felt safe and secure.
I trained with Birthlight in 2013 to teach baby yoga, since then I have continued my training to include toddler, childrens and family classes. I also completed my 200hr training in 2017. During my training we talked about the many benefits of yoga for all the different ages. There are so many physical benefits, it would encompass a whole other post. Baby yoga is fantastic for helping the digestive system and encourages brain development. Toddler yoga improves balance and helps develop fine and gross motor skills. Children’s yoga promotes flexibility and body awareness. But yoga is about so much more.
When we practice yoga together, especially in classes with our children and with our families, we are building communities. We find ways to connect with each other through touch, through play, through songs and movement. In my classes I get some amazing opportunities. I watch new mothers develop confidence as they start to realize that they have all the tools that they need to keep their baby happy and healthy. I see parents with toddlers who are testing boundaries reconnect with one another as they cuddle, laugh and play. I see groups of children working together, smiling together, bonding as a group. I see families share their thoughts and dreams, see them lie together and relax. I am privileged to be able to see the special smiles, the eye contact, the little touches, the hand holding, the hugs and kisses, the whispered words. So yes, most of my little yogis can touch their toes, they can even touch their toes to their nose, (so can many of my yoga parents!) but that’s not the most amazing thing. Yoga is helping them to feel secure, to feel safe and loved. Yoga is building a community for new parents where they can share their experiences with others in similar situations. Yoga is giving families tools to have fun together and to connect with one another. And that is truly amazing.
5 Reasons to try Birthlight Baby Yoga…
- Help baby’s physical, mental and emotional development
The moves and sequences used with the babies in yoga classes are specifically designed to help baby’s development. The stretches can help babies to build strength and flexibility. Working both sides of the body stimulates the nervous system and can help develop conncetions in the brain. Songs and rhymes stimulate babies and links have been made between early learning of nursery rhymes and later reading skills. Providing time in close contact with an adult carer helps babies to feel safe and secure, aiding their healthy emotional development.
- Develop communication skills
Early communication happens long before babies can speak, or even gesture. Very young children will use eye contact, facial expression and movement to communicate with their adult carers. Touch is one of the earliest forms of communication, and many studies have been done to show that positive touch in the early years is essential to healthy development. In yoga babies classes we use lots of positive touch, and spend time watching babies closely, which can help parents to tune into their baby’s needs and recognise their emotions.
- Gentle stretches for adults
Parents often find that they hold a lot of tension in their shoulders and upper back. The stretches I incorporate for adults in yoga babies classes target these areas particularly to help create space and release tightness. Lower back pain is another common complaint, due to weakened abdominals and lots of time carrying and holding babies (and their equipment!). The gentle yoga sequences in class can help ease pain in the lower back, and will also slowly help you regain strength and stability in the core and the pelvis. We also look at different ways to pick up, lift and hold your little one, with tips for how to do these actions most comfortably.
- Support from other parents
Adjusting to life as a parent can leave you feeling isolated, anxious and unsure. One of the most valuable things about attending a class, is having the opportunity to share experiences with others. Realising that there are other people feeling and going through exactly the same as you can be immensely reassuring. And even if there is no magic cure to the 4 month sleep regression, no perfect routine that will work for every baby, it is helpful just to hear stories from others in the same boat (or in this case maybe the same haze of sleep deprivation, exhaustion and doubt).
- A baby friendly environment
I have brought my own children along to classes, and aim to provide a relaxed place to be. You are welcome to feed your baby, change them, and there is no pressure to join in with everything. I encourage parents to follow their own needs and those of their baby’s. I do not expect babies to follow a plan, follow instructions, or be silent for any length of time!
Sarah Brannen is a yoga teacher and family yoga teacher based in St Andrews, Fife. She helps people of all ages to practice yoga together so they can feel healthier and happier. Sarah has Birthlight certifications in Baby Yoga and Toddler Yoga.
Birthlight Baby Yoga Course
Become a Birthlight Baby Yoga Teacher by taking a Birthlight certification course …