You often hear people say that you are never too old to start practicing Yoga. This works in reverse as well, you are never too young to start practicing Yoga.
As a Yoga Teacher and one who specialises in teaching babies and children, I was keen to start teaching my own daughter, Sky, from an early age to give her the very best start in life. I introduced her to Yoga at home when she was not quite two weeks old. I saw immediate effects during times when she was most unsettled. After a few short Baby Yoga poses or sequences, Sky would go from a crying baby who would not sleep to a contented little one who relaxed into a comfortable settling position. As she became more familiar with the sequences Baby Yoga became one of Sky’s favourite things and was helpful in any situation where she felt out of sorts, even in the car!
She has developed a passion for Yoga and loves sharing the practice with others. To the amazement of many of my students, Sky is a genuine help as she almost co-teaches alongside me in the Mums & Bubs and Mums & Tots Yoga classes. I’m proud of my two year old girl.
Specific Yoga sequences and practices designed for the baby at varying stages of their development bring calm to their little bodies and minds, connect and bond the carer to the baby in a peaceful way, and help ease physical upsets such as colic, wind, and fussiness. Baby Yoga sequences are also used to connect the right and left brain hemispheres of the body, connect neural pathways, and bring proprioceptive (sensory) awareness to the baby’s joints. Baby Yoga boosts the immune system, improves digestion and promotes better sleep. Baby Yoga relies on that all-important nurturing, healing touch from their parent and assists greatly with bonding as a result.
Babies feel comfortable with repetition and so Baby Yoga’s impact and enjoyment increases significantly through the consistency and regularity of familiar Yoga sequences. Babies are naturally drawn to Yoga because the poses and sequences feel good to their bodies and minds. It also feels good to be doing something special for their development with their parents.
The key to developing a happy Yoga baby is to practice Baby Yoga both at the times when the baby really needs it, i.e during fussy times, as well as the happy and playful moments.
Movement to your singing voice in Baby Yoga is wonderful for a little baby, and babies don’t even mind if you sing a little off key: they just want to hear you sing to them and feel that you are both enjoying the experience. A loving gaze and playful expressions of encouragement as you move their little bodies into the yoga poses all help make the practice their own special time with you.
A Baby Yoga practice need not be overly long. Regularity is the key. Practicing the sequences numerous times a day for only a couple of minutes each time is far more beneficial for the baby than a long practice once a week. Never force your baby to do any Yoga pose or sequence. If after very gently encouraging your baby, they don’t want to do something, let it go, breathe, and move on to something else. Babies change from one moment to the next so just because they don’t want to do something in this moment, doesn’t mean they won’t love it the next.
Below are a few short Baby Yoga sequences to get you and your bub started with Baby Yoga. Enjoy!
Before beginning a Baby Yoga session, centre yourself with your eyes closed by becoming aware of your natural breath and observing how you are breathing without judgement. You can do this lying down with your baby on top of you, alongside you, or seated on the floor or on a folded blanket with a straight spine. Allow your mind to focus on your breathing and on your connection to your baby. Let other distractions fall away by bringing your attention back to your breath. Then, sit up and chant Aum (Om) slowly three times out loud. This is a very calming way to begin the practice of Yoga for both yourself and your bub, and if you chant whilst looking into your babies eyes, you might see them looking back at you in awe. Older babies and toddlers will naturally join in with the Aum chant when they become familiar with the routine, which makes the practice even more special.
I Love You: Connecting
After centreing, this is a lovely way to commence a Baby Yoga practice. Baby is lying down on their back (or seated for older bubs if they prefer). Take their tiny hands in your hands and with one of their hands on top of the other say “I”. Then, take their hands out to the sides of their body at shoulder height, opening their lungs and chest, say “Love”. Bring their hands back in to the centre of their chest, the opposite hand from before on top, and say, “You”, leaning in to give them a little kiss. Do this a couple of times before repeating the words and movement with a little singsong voice. Any calming tune to the words “I Love You” works wonders. Always end with a kiss.
The Wheels on the Bus: A Five part sequences for overall development and relieving gas
I developed the Wheels on the Bus sequence for Sky when she was around four weeks old because she was displaying signs of an upset tummy and I wanted to give her something fun and uplifting while helping to relief gas. It has since become a favourite with almost all my Baby Yoga students. My toddler still loves this sequence and it has become a great help whenever she has trouble going to sleep in the evenings.
Note: If one parent is able to sit next to baby in the back of the car, this sequence works well for longer car trips to ease any anxiety or frustration.
Lie your baby on their back, with their legs closest to your body. Find a comfortable seated position for yourself, being mindful to release tension in your shoulders, and sit with a straight spine. Allow your breath to flow easily and naturally.
First, hold your baby’s ankles as you circle their bent legs around in an alternate cycling movement as though they are riding a bike, in time with your slow singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus go round and round, all day long.” This pose strengthens the abdominals and lower back muscles, and is also good for the hip and knee joints for baby.
Second is the wind relieving aspect of the sequence. Bring your baby’s bent legs up towards their chest, holding there for a moment, and then straighten their legs back out again as you sing “Baby’s [or use their name] little legs go up and down, up and down, up and down, baby’s little legs go up and down to make their tummy feel better”. If during the pose, the baby actually passes wind, repeat and hold their bent legs in at their tummy a little longer before straightening them out again. Do this as many times as needed. The pose massages the abdomen and the digestive organs.
Third, we work on integrating the hemispheres of the brain by crossing the body at the hands. Hold your baby’s hands, and move their fists on top of one another, changing positions with every “chatter” as you sing, “the mummy’s on the bus go chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter, the mummy’s on the bus go chatter, chatter, chatter, all day long”.
Fourth, hold the baby’s straight legs at about 60 degrees away from the floor, and move them from side to side to create a gentle twist in the spine as you sing, “the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, the wipes on the bus go swish, swish, swish, all day long.” This is a very gentle spinal twist for a healthy spine and gently massages the abdominal organs, helping improve digestion.
And lastly, finish with the “Wheels on the Bus”, slowing down the verse and the movement before ending with a kiss.
Leopard Swings: A pose for easing an upset stomach
Positions such as lying your baby’s tummy over your thigh applies a little gentle pressure to your baby’s tummy, and helps ease an upset stomach. Leopard Swings are particularly calming and help relief discomfort for this same reason.
Stand with your feet wider than hip width distance apart with your knees slightly bent, your feet turned out to the sides. Turn baby over so that their front of the body is facing the floor. Place one arm under their head and chest, supporting their upper body with your hand, and the other arm scoops between their legs, under your baby’s abdomen. With baby fairly close to your body, gently swing baby slowly from side to side, as you sing in a lullaby way, “swing, swing, swing… swing, swing, swing.” You can carry baby around the house in this position to help relieve an upset tummy too, and as a great way to give baby extra “tummy time” while being close to you.
Making “tummy time” fun
Most new parents are made aware of the importance of tummy time for developing strong neck and back muscles and assisting in the development towards crawling. Place baby on their back and make a gentle circle massage of their back, alongside their spine while avoiding the spine. Gently wipe down the entire back of the body with both hands to finish the back massage. Do gentle “froggy” kicks by moving the feet towards the buttocks to help strengthen the back. A little counting rhyme to go with the movement such as “one, two, froggy kicks” helps make tummy time fun.
Flying Child Pose: A playful partner pose
Lie down on your back, knees bent up towards your chest, feet off the floor, head on the floor. Place baby on your shins and gently rock baby side to side by moving your shins from one side and then the other. Once baby is comfortable with this, gently move your shins up and down ever so slightly, watching baby’s reaction. If they resist the movement, decrease the amount of movement until they are comfortable to go further. If they are very happy, increase the height of the up and down movement of your shins incrementally. Always look for signs of enjoyment or discomfort so that you are not pushing your baby beyond what they are comfortable doing.
Finish the pose by separating your legs a little to bring the baby onto your chest and give them a little cuddle. Then gently roll them onto the floor next to you, as you roll yourself to the side, turning your body away from your legs as you come up to sitting. This takes the pressure off your abdomen. Never come straight up to sitting from a lying down position as it pulls on the abdominal separation that women experience after pregnancy.
NURTURING EACH OTHER:
Bringing your own body into alignment and gently allowing a natural, calm breath to develop in your own body while moving your baby in and out of poses, smiling and playfully enjoying the practice with your bub benefits both of you.
Doing your own Yoga practice for yourself whilst baby is with you is tremendously beneficial for your own wellbeing, self-nurturance, and postpartum body needs. If baby is right there with you, you are role modelling the importance of looking after yourself to your baby, which becomes a normal part of daily life.
I frequently ask my daughter “What is Yoga?” I would expect her to do Tree Pose, or Downward Facing Dog, or one of her other favourite poses, but she always has the same answer. She does the “I Love You” sequence, which melts my heart.
Kylie Peters is the Owner/ Director of Simply Kids Yoga in Sydney. Kylie is offering Yummy Bubby readers a free first class of a Mums and Bubs Yoga course when you mention Yummy Bubby. For more information about our classes, visit: http://www.simplykidsyoga.com.au