Many brand-new mothers look for a gentle exercise class that will not only help them ease their post-pregnancy bodies back into shape, but will also improve their posture and flexibility while giving them back some pre-baby physical confidence. But finding quality childcare while they waltz off to the gym for an hour or two is not always feasible – either practically or financially.
Baby yoga classes are a fun way for both baby and parent to interact.
Wouldn’t it be great to find a class where both mother and baby are welcome, one that actually encourages the child to participate and thus facilitates parent-child bonding at the same time? Well, mother and baby yoga classes are designed to do just that. In fact, studies have shown that the more a tiny baby is touched, the more secure and loved he or she feels. And the more a woman gets back to her pre-baby shape after giving birth, the better she feels as well.
Baby yoga, therefore, can be a win-win situation for everyone. But if the thought of attending any class that begins with the words “Mommy and Me” makes you want to retch, look away now. However, if you have the stomach for a Mommy and Me baby yoga class – and most new moms have big tummies indeed – then this could be the perfect exercise course for you.
Forcing two-month-old Arabella or tiny Tristan to do complicated yoga poses might put you off, so think again. Baby yoga is designed with both child and mom in mind, and aims to have both perform safe, gentle exercises that are calming, relaxing and stress-free. Neither parent nor child has to do anything that is too difficult or beyond their abilities: the goal is to go at a gentle, soothing pace, with lots of breaks for feeding, sleeping or screaming.
Classes concentrate on breathing, meditation, stretching and achieving basic yoga postures, which are designed to give new moms inner balance and help them build up their strength after they have given birth. Often the muscles used in childbirth are the ones concentrated on the most, such as the pelvic floor area, the shoulders and the upper back.
The idea is to prepare women for more intense yoga classes once their children are a bit older – and to help the baby not only sleep and eat better, but to feel better overall. Holding your child as you perform the yoga exercises will help the time go by quicker – and helping him or her to do some basic postures, such as the knees to chest pose, can make them feel more comfortable and calm as well.
What to Expect
Baby yoga classes usually take babies from age six to eight weeks until they begin to crawl, depending on the class. Very young infants are usually incorporated into the exercises themselves, with the adults holding them or exercising over them. The key is to follow your baby’s lead: often smaller babies sleep while the mother exercises; when they get a bit older they can actually begin to participate.
Yoga is good for new mothers for a variety of reasons. It not only increases flexibility, movement and the heart rate, all of which are important for shedding that pesky baby weight, but it also restores the alignment of the body, helping to put muscles, tendons and ligaments back into place following the previous nine months of pregnancy. Finally, it helps reduce stress, which any new mother knows is an integral part of new motherhood.
Yoga followers say that even tiny children can perform basic yoga postures (see above), which can help them sleep better, digest their food better and be happier overall. “Physically, one short yoga session is the equivalent of being carried and touched all day. At the end of the day your baby will sleep more deeply and healthfully,” the It’s a Mom’s World website proclaims.
“Developmentally, your baby’s internal organs will be stimulated, improving the function of the nervous and digestive systems. Psychologically, the baby learns to cope better with stress and enhances the mother-child bond which increases communication between them.
“Yoga is a perfect way to spend quality time with your baby. Babies’ in-born love and physical need for movement and touch are combined naturally in the practice of yoga movements, positions and stretches. The pace is slow and concentrated, which is perfect for the baby’s ability to integrate and absorb. Go yoga – and have fun with your baby!”
What to Bring
To get the most of your yoga session, make sure you have the following on hand:
Yoga mat. Real yoga mats are best and they are fairy cheap – get one at a good sporting goods store.
Comfortable clothes for you and your baby. This is not a time to dress up little Tiffany Marie to show off to all the other moms, nor is it the right place to squeeze yourself into tight-fitting Spandex workout gear that you last fit into way back in 1988. Wear something that you can move around in – without worrying if it will split!
Drinks for both you and the baby. Don’t ruin the moment by allowing you or Junior to get dehydrated. Make sure you have food – or a breast – on hand as well if Junior is likely to need a feed during the yoga session.
Baby massage items. Baby yoga classes often incorporate a bit of baby massage into the class. You will need a cloth or blanket to lie the baby on and some massage oil – olive oil works best.
Diapers. Unless your little genius is toilet-trained by six months, take a few more with than you normally would. If you expose Junior to the open air during a massage, he may wet himself – and you don’t want to be caught short.
Blankets. Sometimes babies fall asleep during yoga, which gives their mothers time to have a work-out without any interference. Make sure you bring either a blanket or something equally comfortable to lie your baby down on should he or she actually fall asleep. Don’t waste the moment!
Baby yoga benefits both mother and child, with exercises designed to help the adult become more flexible and better balanced, while helping the baby digest food easier and sleep better. The classes also help new moms bond better with their babies, feel more confident as a mother and even make new friends. Be warned: your little one might like the experience so much that you’ll soon find yourself signing up for toddler yoga next…