Baby Yoga and Me

Having carried a sizable bump around for a very long, very hot summer, I really wasn't in the mood for a work out.

As Gwyneth Paltrow and all of my other coat-hanger thin celebrity peers snaked their way, all skin and bone about the tabloids, I scowled and knew that, even if the mood did ever take me as I sat covered in powered milk, I would just never have the time to get back in shape now that I always had my baby in toe. After all, its not as if I could balance Harry on the rowing machine as I made for the nearest treadmill ? I didn't think they'd like that down at the health club.

I did try the gym. Once. Inspired by Gwynnies size eight flat chestedness I did deposit Harry at my mums', and went for one swim amongst the well toned ? but my self-esteem could just not cut it. Having been a large pregnant woman and having had a difficult birth, my body was not as it should be, and I didn't stay for long. I'm sure no one cared about my having varicose veins now, but I did, and I suddenly felt very much like a mum, and nothing else.

Loosing faith in the idea that I'd ever have a waist again, I pooled my NCT friends to see if they had any tips on how to regain a good shape, without the embarrassment.

There was no way I was doing yoga. It turned out after speaking to the girls that they already had a fitness plan, and were meeting to go to some yoga class the following week. I'd only ever seen yoga on television, and I wouldn't have even considered trying it pre-Harry ? I was never that skinny and stealth. The women all looked like they hadn't eaten for at least five years, and there was no way I was ever learning how to be a 'delicate lotus' with all of the cellulite I'd accumulated now. I lied and told them I couldn't get a babysitter?

Turns out you can take your little ones to baby yoga. I was worried it would be new agey, but our first session soon dispelled all the worries I had about that. Friendly and chatty, the class was only for parents, and I met a whole gaggle of new local mums. We chatted about our babies, their first rolls, nappies and missing socks, and Harry played merrily with the other tots that were there ? something which really made me smile as he's an only child and I was worried that when it came to mixing with other babies he'd wouldn't cope. Turns out he's a bit of a socialite ? that's my boy!

A qualified baby yoga teacher, our leader, Sue, started us off with some very simple stretches, which were fine for any physical type. Her training with Birthlight means she knows exactly what our bodies have been through, and so nothing was too much. I was petrified that Harry would cry when it came to including him in the work out (the baby isn't put under any stress either by the way ? there's just lots of great, gentle skin to skin contact and muscle stimulation, no sun salutations just yet!) but he just smiled. It must feel good, after all, to have the shouty tired woman who's been harassing you for all this time give you some proper, physical warmth and lavish attention.

The stimulation that babies receive doing yoga releases endorphins in the brain, and so they clearly glow after a session, just as we do after a turn at the gym. It was great to know he felt so cared for.

As time went on, our classes did become more adventurous. The stretches we learned started to actively include our babies (they are fabulous weights!) and we all became far less inhibited, and felt happy to move onto the more complex movements.

To calm the babies, Sue introduced music into the classes, which soothed them no end ? in all the time I've been going now, I don't think we've ever had a baby have to be taken out for crying. After Harry's bath, I often do yoga with him at home now, and the heat of my hands and the slow, rhythmic nature of the movements send him to sleep with much greater ease than a simple cuddle and a song tape ever could. He started sleeping through the night months before a lot of other babies that we know, and I'm in no doubt that that has sonething to do with our yoga.

Being an enthusiast now, I've read up on the later benefits of what baby yoga can do and I'm excited. It's clear from the fact he rolled early that Harry has good spatial awareness, and plenty of confidence in what his body is capable of. When we took him for his eight-month check my health visitor told me he will miss out crawling stage ? his spine is strong, and having been made aware of the limitations of his body through yoga, he doesn't need to go through the exploration that crawling allows.

As well as the very evident physical benefits of baby yoga, it's also been a lifesaver for me. On maternity leave I was a bit of a lonely mum, and now I have something of a network. Size ten again and happy, there is never a morning goes by when Harry and I do not have a play date. It's turned things around. I think ill go down the gym tomorrow?

To find details of Baby Yoga activities in your area visit www.busylittleones.co.uk

Lucy Curran

In The News:

Best Books for Babies  Motherly Inc.
Child Health and Development Unit  World Health Organization

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