Thought having a baby was the best excuse ever to ditch your yoga class? Think again. Babies and yoga do mix – and in the best circles.
Gisele Bündchen and Fearne Cotton are both big fans, as are the many mums who regularly go along to baby yoga. Not only is postnatal yoga great for that post-baby body tone-up (and yep, your pelvic floor) but there are lots of benefits for your little one too.
We talk to baby yoga expert Sam Petter to find out more about baby yoga.
What is baby yoga?
Baby yoga is about giving your baby the opportunity to reach out, stretch and explore life with every limb while following some gentle yoga moves. Crucially though, baby yoga also involves relaxation, letting your baby know what it feels like to be quiet and still. This range of experiences can help your baby on both an emotional and physical level.
What age can you start baby yoga?
The best time to start is probably after your baby is 6 weeks old, once you have had your check and the baby has better neck control to keep them safe. By then you will also likely have more confidence. Always look at your little one to check their reaction and to ensure you are doing things they enjoy, it is all about really simple yoga stretches, not complex moves. If you have any concerns at all then consult your health visitor or GP.
What are the benefits of baby yoga?
Baby yoga mixes physical touch with emotional contact and movement. The meaningful touch and play used in baby yoga gently encourages your little ones to enjoy and explore their newfound skills as they start to progress and move in different ways. Even if you only do it for 5-10 minutes at a time you will really notice the benefits such as bond and communication.
Bonding with your baby
Baby yoga is also a really great way to bond with your little one – again the meaningful touch and play helps with this process. One of the main frustrations of being a new parent is that, in the beginning, there can be a lot of things you don’t understand about communicating with your baby because you are still getting to know each other! By doing baby yoga you will learn some really useful techniques to help you ‘have a conversation' with your baby right from the start. As you establish good eye contact with your baby and move with them in this very intimate way, it will help you both to understand how to communicate with each other.
Perfect baby balance
Babies who do yoga are often more advanced when it comes to crawling and walking.
‘Yoga helps a baby find his centre of gravity and increases his awareness of his own body and limits,’ says Amy Thorley, director of Hands on Babies. ‘Many of the moves are things a baby does naturally, but yoga encourages him to bear weight on his arms and legs.’
The thinking is that by locating his centre of gravity, your baby will be steadier on his feet when he learns to walk.
One use of baby yoga is to ease colic – intense, uncontrollable crying that some think is linked to digestive problems. ‘Yoga can help by stimulating the circulatory, digestive, hormonal and immune systems,’ says Amy.
‘It releases tension and the way that pressure is applied to the abdomen is closely linked to baby massage, which can help with digestive discomfort.’
Are there any baby health conditions that might affect its use and success?
If your little one has any specific physical conditions such as ‘clicky’ hips, reflux or congenital disorders do consult your health visitor or GP before trying baby yoga. The great thing about baby yoga is that you can just take it to the level that both you and your baby feel comfortable with – it is not a competition! So just do the bits that work for your baby, stretching the parts of their body that are safe to be exercised.
When your baby is teething or if they have recently had injections, be aware that they may be extra sensitive. In some instances baby yoga can be a good distraction for your baby, helping them to cope with these experiences. However, some babies may not enjoy doing baby yoga at this time. Your baby will make it clear if they are not enjoying it so always be aware and in tune with the signals they are giving off and react accordingly.
Finding a mother and baby yoga class near you
Baby yoga is really safe and easy to do in the comfort of your own home if you don't feel like attending a class; all you need is a warm, safe and calm environment. Place a non-slip towel or yoga mat down on a clear space of floor and you and your little one are good to go!
If you feel nervous about doing baby yoga for the first time on your own, then why not enrol in a local class to gain confidence. These will usually be run by baby yoga instructors. A quick Google search of mother and baby yoga classes near me will help you find one close by.
However, if your baby is healthy and there are no known issues which could affect their enjoyment then you should feel empowered to go ahead! This is a big workout for your little one, so go gently at first, reading your baby’s reaction and mood with every step.
Top tips for getting started with baby yoga
Do your baby yoga routine when your baby appears active and is showing you they want to play and move.
Do not do baby yoga if your baby is tired, hungry or has just been fed. Remember baby yoga is only beneficial for your baby if they are feeling happy and comfortable.
Don’t do baby yoga with your baby if you are feeling over-tired or uncomfortable yourself. Your baby may pick up on your signals and feel discouraged.
Keep good eye contact with your baby as you do the moves. Really ‘tune in’ to your baby. If you do this you can respond quickly to baby’s cues and check they are still enjoying themselves.
Smile at your baby to give them reassurance.
Never force the movements. If your baby is under five months they will have less range of movement at their shoulders, elbows, hips and knees compared with an older baby. Younger babies rely on this natural tightness to move, so it is important not to disrupt this.
Start off with just a couple of repetitions, increasing length and duration as you learn together.
Remember to show your baby how proud you are of their new skills!
Ensure that your little one is wearing a well-fitting nappy such as Pampers Active Fit. This type of nappy will adapt to your baby’s movements because it has stretchier sides than ordinary nappies to help to keep your baby dry and protected no matter how much they move.
Consult your health visitor or family GP if you have any specific concerns.
Baby yoga moves to have a go at
This move is sort of a hybrid between the downward dog and the cow-cat pose and will help your baby develop strength in their upper body. Simply lay your baby's body over your legs with their arms hanging over one side and encourage them to push themselves up.