Having just come back from teaching my first solo Birthlight Baby Yoga teacher training course, I feel inspired and on fire to share with you just why Birthlight baby yoga is SO valuable for all babies, and how it can help shape each and every one of our little ones into loving, intelligent adults... even if the conception, pregnancy, birth or immediate postnatal period was difficult in any way.
Many of you know my long term interest into pre and neonatal neurobiology and psychology. Scientists and psychologists who study this amazing stuff know just how much of an impact our pregnancy, birth and early babyhood has in shaping our personalities, likes and dislikes, sociability and even our ability to form loving and satisfying relationships in adulthood. Birthlight has always used the latest understanding and advances in scientific and medical research as the foundation for what is offered in Birthlight pregnancy or baby yoga classes.
Our capacity to think things through or simply react to life in a constant state of fight or flight is also affected by this critical primal period, as is our emotional intelligence.
Baby yoga is the loving engagement of babies and their carers, at the pace of the baby, in positive touch, movement and rhythm. It is also the experience of deep relaxation and sharing and caring... all essential aspects of a baby yoga class.
Babies are born into the world with open hearts and open minds and are ready to embrace new experiences. If they had a rocky start, perhaps as a result of a difficult pregnancy, birth, or the first hours/days/weeks after birth, it is quite normal for these babies to be more withdrawn or clingy or difficult to settle.
Baby yoga helps parents first and foremost to understand better the needs of their babies. Parents and carers learn to read their babies' 'cues' by observing the responses given when in class.
The loving handling of babies in a class includes dry massage, gentle yoga sequences, lifts and holds that are relaxing, fun, and strengthen mum, and sequences that parent and baby can enjoy together. Caring for baby must also include caring for the carer and so simple yoga stretches that alleviate feeding shoulders, tight lower backs and help close the body after birth, are all integral to a baby yoga class.
These actions help babies to move from reflex to voluntary movements and contribute to the development of the brain and nervous system. They also stimulate the digestive system, helping babies to digest their milk better whilst their organs are still maturing.
The countless physical benefits include the stimulation of all the senses, settling babies, better sleep patterns, enhanced communication between parent and baby, and strengthening and balancing of the physical system.
How babies benefit emotionally is to develop what is termed as 'emotional intelligence' - the ability to recognise and read emotions in ourselves and others; to respond appropriately and to control emotions appropriately.
When we have not been handled with appropriate sensitivity and awareness in our early babyhood, it can be difficult for us to be able to respond to others appropriately and to recognise what they need or want.
Birthlight Baby yoga classes deepen the bond between carer and baby by increasing the sensitivity and awareness with which babies are handled, and by developing a repertoire of beneficial responses to the variety of physical, emotional and cognitive needs a baby has.
Emotional and Cognitive (the power of thinking) development are supported hand in hand, through the songs and rhymes that are repeated when making particular movements, or yoga sequences/massage, the action and rest that goes on from one moment to the next. The early and positive interaction between baby and carer supports the development of positive associations and expectations, memory, language and reasoning skills, concentration and listening skills, learning through experience and creativity.
The holistic nature of Birthlight baby yoga draws from a variety of attachment and early development theorists including Piaget, Vygotski, Bruner, Bandura and Bowlby. However, it also recognises that every baby is different and so offers parents the opportunity to explore how to meet the needs of their baby in a loving and heart centred way, that helps the baby to grow feeling safe and secure in the world.
Dr Francoise Freedman, the pioneer that founded Birthlight, gained the inspiration behind her baby yoga classes and training from her time observing how an Amazonian tribe engaged with their young in pregnancy, birth and babyhood. Joyful movement and close physical contact were a foundation for deep bonding.
Bonding is an intense attachment that develops between a parent and their baby. It is a constantly evolving process that can start before conception even, but certainly during pregnancy, and certainly some time within the first few days after birth. Sometimes this bonding is delayed or prevented, and when this is the case it can have very serious effects on the newborn if opportunities to create more secure bonding are not offered through the first weeks, months and years of life.
Bonding is both emotional and physical and is two-way. It is essential for healthy physical, emotional and intellectual development of a growing being. Our immune system is compromised, our cognitive development potentially impaired and our emotional needs are not met when a baby doesn't have a secure bond with a loving adult. How can this be created when birth trauma both for parent and baby, may make it difficult to accept and access painful emotions?
Being able to accept and understand our own emotions is the first step to being able to understand another's, especially a baby who cannot articulate through words what s/he needs.
This is where baby yoga comes to the rescue yet again.
Bonding comes through the shared enjoyment of the activities in the class... the interest a carer develops in reading her baby's cues and responding to them appropriately. This gives her a sense of achievement, and this good feeling can then be shared with her baby, through the appropriate handling identified. This creates a positive spiral of interaction that can restore hope where previous feelings of despair were experienced.
Slowly baby learns to trust in these new positive interactions and can begin to express their needs more fully. The shared enjoyment that is experienced is what creates the greatest healing... the increase in the love hormone oxytocin helps to rewire the brain to expect pleasure and this helps in turn to handle all forms of pain better.
In the time since I started teaching baby yoga in 2004, I have met lots and lots of babies, some as young as just a few days, others months or years old before we have met on 'the outside'.
The grumpy, crying and angry babies have all taught me so much about giving mothers permission to trust what their heart tells them is right, in caring for their baby, over what well-meaning friends, relatives, books and officials offer. No one knows better the needs of their baby than the mother, and helping her to trust this would do a great service to humankind, and in turn to all species on earth.
Babies are born entirely dependent and vulnerable, yet trusting and open. Somewhere along the way they either learn it is safe to trust and be open, or not to, and baby yoga helps to repair situations where it's needed. If your baby is a happy, bonnie little soul, then baby yoga only serves to further enhance and support their flourishing in every way.
Conditions that are caused by a lack of coordination between the systems of the body, or the two hemispheres of the brain, are all improved by baby yoga sequences.
The brain continues to develop in the first two years of life and at a speed that is faster than our current technology. Creating positive neuropathways, whilst allowing older less joyful experiences/memories to be healed and fade away, is for me, the greatest benefit of baby yoga. It helps us to do something positive in the now that allows the past to be the past and the future to be genuinely hopeful.
I have been wondering if there is any clinical diagnosis or developmental condition that could not be helped by baby yoga, and I haven't found one yet! If you haven't already tried one of our Newborn Baby & Postnatal Yoga (0 - 3 mos) Yoga in Croydon or Baby & Postnatal Yoga (4 mos+), why not come and find out what great work we are doing and fun we are having?