When Aiden was born one of the first things I did when he was six weeks old was enroll in Mommy and Me Yoga. I loved the idea of getting out of the house and meeting other mamas with little ones and I knew it would be great for Aiden. I ended up taking several different classes and I do believe he benefited both in terms of development and help with his gas issues. I benefited too because I was able to get a little activity, learn some great stretches and development techniques for Aiden, and meet some great moms. I feel very lucky through this journey to have met Kristy Rodriguez. She is a prenatal yoga teacher and she wrote an amazing book that all pregnant women should read called Pure Nurture (read my review here). I took a couple of her yoga for new mom workshops and just love her teaching style and genuine support for new moms. I am so excited and honored that she wrote the following blog post about the benefits of yoga for and with babies.
As always, consult with your doctor and pediatrician before starting any activity with your baby.
By Kristy Rodriguez, Pure Nurtue
Yoga classes for babies are all the rage, but are they beneficial? Are they safe? Yes, and yes! Practicing yoga with your little one creates a special time for bonding as well as providing physical, mental and emotional benefits for you both.
Benefits for Baby
Yoga, like any movement, stimulates muscle and nerve development for baby. Moreover, touch is associated with many benefits in child development. As such, gently assisted yoga movements, done with proper precautions, can be physically and emotionally helpful for baby, and can be a bonding activity that you can do together
Benefits for Mom
Motivation to exercise can be hard to come by at any time. But with a new baby, it can feel impossible. It’s hard to find time and it’s hard to pull yourself away from your little one. And depending on your recovery, you might not be ready to hit the gym just yet. Instead, try some gentle yoga movements—but bring baby along to help! It’s not only good for you, but it solves a scheduling problem in a way that you can feel good about.
It probably goes without saying, but be very gentle with baby! When practicing at home, limit baby yoga to 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Practice less or more as you determine your baby’s needs. Make sure baby’s head and neck are supported at all times to protect soft spots and help with neck control. Some babies have hypermobile joints, so you do not want to stress them too far—avoid extreme stretches. For yourself, make sure that your doctor is on board, especially if you’ve had a C-section.
Doing Yoga with Baby
To begin: Place baby on his or her back on a blanket or on your mat. Come to your hands and knees with your baby just under your upper body, allowing you to look at each other. Place your knees under your hips (hip-width apart) and hands under your shoulders with fingers spread wide like starfish. As you exhale, lift and round your spine toward the ceiling, gently pulling your belly toward your spine. Next, inhale as you drop your belly toward the floor, bringing your head up and lifting your chest toward the front of the room Repeat five times (1 cat and 1 cow represent one repetition). As you move your spine, smile at your baby. Talk to your baby, make faces, etc., whatever feels natural to you and whatever your baby responds to the most.
Just as you did for cat/cow pose, place your baby on their back on the mat or a blanket at the top of your mat. Come into a table top position. Place your hands shoulder width apart on either side of your baby’s hips or feet. Knees bent on the floor, hip width apart. Gaze at your baby for a moment, take a deep inhale and as you exhale, lift your knees from the floor- straightening your legs and coming into an inverted “V” position. Hold the pose for three to five breaths.
Come onto your stomach, legs stretched out long behind you. Hands press onto the floor under your shoulders with your elbows bent. Keep the tops of your feet, legs and hip bones pressed into the floor. Inhale as you begin to lift your chest off the floor, pressing your arms toward straight. Press your shoulder blades toward each other as your sternum lifts forward. Gaze remains forward with your chin parallel to the floor. Hold the pose for three to five deep breaths.
For baby: baby can be laying on his or her back at the top of your mat or to the side of you on a blanket. Depending on age and stage, this can be a great time to have your baby practice “tummy time”, where they will naturally begin pushing themselves up into a “cobra” position. Young babies will naturally struggle toward this position during tummy time, and older babies will find it useful a step toward crawling or getting up.
Build your core strength with boat pose. Practicing this pose with your baby makes it more fun. To begin, sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Hold your baby on your chest, supporting their head or for older babies, have them sit on your lap facing you, support their body by holding them at their torso. As you hold your baby, gently lean back with a flat back, chest lifted. As your strength builds, you can begin to lift your feet off the floor, bringing your shins parallel to the floor. Again, as you hold your baby, make eye contact, breathe deeply and smile at your little one.
Legs up the wall
Relax the body and mind after practicing energizing yoga postures by placing your legs up the wall. Begin by placing your bottom close to the wall. Lay on your side, holding baby in front of you or have baby sit in front of you. Gently and carefully roll to your back sliding your legs up the wall. Bring your baby to your chest and hold baby, chest to chest or allow your baby to sit on your hips. Your baby’s back can be leaning up against your stretched legs. Gaze at your little one or close your eyes. Stay here for one to five minutes allowing your breath to be soft and relaxed.
*Practicing yoga with your baby is a great lesson on surrender. So much of the practice will depend on your baby’s age, stage, mood, hunger level and how tired or awake they are. I’ve had women come to my mommy and me classes and they sit on the mat breastfeeding the entire class. Other times a baby may sleep the entire class or crawl around and try to visit their baby friends. Let your little one be your guide as you move through the poses. Be kind and gentle with yourself and your baby, knowing that each practice will look and feel differently.
Kristy S. Rodriguez, pre- and postnatal wellness expert and advocate, is the owner and founder of Pure Nurture, LLC, a business devoted to educating and inspiring women to nurture and nourish themselves through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. As a Holistic Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher specializing in pre- and postnatal wellness, Kristy works with individual clients, as well as teaching classes and workshops, both in person and online.