Mom and Baby Yoga Strengthens the Body and SpiritPre-natal yoga is increasingly popular among pregnant women because of how it safely exercises and energizes the mind, body, and spirit. Among yoga’s many benefits are physical strength building, relaxation, stress reduction, and a feeling of deep connection to the baby. However, after giving birth, many women do not continue with yoga because they do not know how to continue their yoga practice in their post-partum shape or have ready access to Mommy and Me yoga class.
Jyothi Larson’s book Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby: The Yoga Workout for New Moms (Bantam Books, 2002) offers several routines appropriate for different stages and details the many benefits to both mother and child in continuing yoga. Larson describes baby yoga as a method that takes advantage of babies’ love of being touched and a “reassuring way to connect them to the world.” By continuing – or even beginning – a yoga routine, new mothers build confidence, connection and a strong and healthy body for both themselves and their babies. Also, exercise is instrumental in working through issues of depression, and yoga is particularly effective for mothers with postpartum depression because of the strong mind-body connection.
Yoga benefits beginners and experts alike, based on the intensity of the pose. Like any exercise routine, the intensity and difficulty of a yoga practice grows with time. For newly post-partum mothers, it is especially important to listen to your body, to begin postures slowly, and get medical clearance to begin exercising again.
Mom and Baby yoga can take any form necessary – whether it is an hour of practice or 10 minutes fit into a busy schedule. A particularly effective way is to begin a routine at the same time so your baby will learn to expect it as part of the day.
A few basic yoga moves are simple to introduce.
Deep belly breathing begins with a straight posture. Deep breathing strengthens abdominal muscles, helps you calm down and focus inward, and can be done anywhere. Sit cross legged (Tailor sitting) on the floor with your baby either in your arms or on a blanket in front of you. Inhale through your nose, visualize your belly expanding, and exhale through your mouth.
Shoulder rolls relieve tension and build upper back strength. Bring shoulders back and up as you inhale, exhale as you bring shoulders forward and down. Repeat three times and change directions. These can be done anywhere, while your baby watches you.
Pelvic tilts strengthen the abdomen and lower back. Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Tilt your pelvis upward off the ground as you inhale, slowly bring the pelvis down to the floor and contract your abdominal muscles as you exhale. Your baby can either be on the floor beside you or resting on your belly and thighs (hold onto him with one hand while you move up and down).
Half Spinal Twist works a range of muscles and increases flexibility. In a seated position, stretch legs out and hold baby out in front of you. Keep your left leg straight and cross right foot over left knee as you lift up baby. Slowly twist to the left until the baby rests on the ground beside your hips and you are looking back. Hold for three breaths. To release the pose, turn your head and bring baby back to center, then uncross your leg. Repeat with the other side. Posture is important in this pose so keep both buttocks on the floor and sit tall. Baby should have good head and neck control before using her in the pose; before then you can place her beside you.
Downward Dog is a stretch for your back and hamstrings. Lie the baby on the ground in front of you. Begin on your hands and knees with spread fingers. Curl your toes under, exhale and push your hips toward the sky into an inverted V. Gently push your heels toward the floor and look back toward your knees. To come out of the position, you can go into a plank position or back to your hands and knees. At any time you can look down and smile at your baby.
Child’s Pose is a pose of relaxation and contemplation. With your baby lying in front of you, get on your hands and knees and move back so your buttocks are resting on your heels, your forehead is on the ground, and the baby is between your hands. Breathe in this position as long as you’d like, then as you come up you can tickle the baby or blow raspberries on his belly.
These poses can be done in the above series or independently, along with a host of other poses depending on your time and experience level.
Yoga helps mothers physically and mentally keep up with the demands of children. Additionally, babies who grow up around yoga will imitate poses, which helps them develop greater body awareness, self-control, flexibility and coordination. As he or she gets older, you can modify your routine to further include him or her. Integrating your child into your yoga routine is yet another way to support mother-child bonding, and babies will pick up on and benefit from the calmness promoted by your practice.