Do you need to soothe a wakeful baby and pack in some some calming 'me' time too? If so, says Sally Rowland, baby yoga could be the answer - the latest trend sweeping through the post natal world.
In the last few years baby yoga classes have sprung up across the country as mothers of babies over three months old have woken up to the benefits of yoga to both parties.
The main difference between adult yoga and baby yoga is that baby yoga is a joint practice and in one session the baby will be given as much physical activity as if they were handled and carried all day.
Boosting sleep and behaviour
The positive aspect of this is that it will help the baby to sleep more deeply and behaviour should become more 'settled'. It is also proven to be a great way to help the digestive system, colic and even infant constipation.
Francoise Freedman who set up Birthlight, a charitable trust that focuses on a holistic approach to pregnancy and babies says the movement has grown organically: 'I have been teaching adults yoga since the late 80's and once I had my own children I realised there could be huge benefits from yoga for babies.'
From small beginnings Birthlight has almost single handedly developed a far- reaching network of baby yoga classes across the country.
Francoise says says that babies from three months can really benefit from a class once they have reasonable neck control. Classes usually last one and half hours which gives the babies plenty of time to relax and get used to the one-on-one stimulation and interaction with their mother (or father).
'Towards the end of the class you can see the babies are totally blissed out. They are completely relaxed with their arms above their head." She stresses that yoga must be seen as non competitive.
'Every baby must be nurtured as an individual. You must never force them to comply or impose any physical movements on them.'
Francoise has noticed that some mothers get stressed out or even competitive about when their baby will roll over or crawl but she says it is an obsession that should be played down: 'I believe that the milestones of development are enhanced by yoga but it is a very gentle thing.'
So what happens?
What positions will your baby be put in? Most classes will focus on opening out the hip and knee joints, strengthening the muscles in the legs and base of the spine and plenty of 'tummy time' which allows babies to lift their heads and strengthen the neck muscles.
We always begin with some massage to relax the baby and even if they arrive in a grotty mood they will be calm by the end of the session, explains Francoise who also uses singing and simple rythmns in her class.
She says there is lots of laughing too. 'The social aspect of bringing the mother and baby together and other mothers together is very important.'
Once your baby is toddling there is no need to abandon yoga as the next stage has been cornered by Yogabugs, which organises lessons for children from two and and half to seven.
Fenella Lindsell, founder of Yogabugs says, 'Its a wonderful way to introduce yoga to children through really fun, creative adventures using all the postures you would in adult classes including back arches, forward bends and twists.
'But in a creative environment - so the children might imagine themselves as saving a mermaid or flying on a magic carpet or walking with dinosaurs.'
Children's yoga company Yogabugs has now trained over 1,200 teachers across the UK. Over 30 per cent are funded by local authorities as nurseries respond to the huge behavioural advantages of offering yoga classes to energetic and sometimes over stimulated toddlers.
The classes offer a non competitive haven from the realities of a busy life and children are encouraged to understand the benefits of posture, concentration and breathing techniques.
Amanda Johnston who teaches Yogabugs says, 'You can see that it helps young children physically, because it keeps them flexible, but what yoga does for children on a spiritual level is even more important.
'The techniques we teach them during meditation can really help them in times of stress because they learn to quieten their minds and switch off.'
About the author:
Sally Rowland is a freelance journalist writing about lifestyle, parenting and health. She has contributed to a range of glossy magazines, including Conde Nast Traveller, Cotswold Style and Spanish Homes Magazine. Sally can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org