By now, everyone knows the great benefits of yoga. People understand that it keeps them fit and strong, and can actually help heal some aches and pains and possibly even heal or mitigate some diseases. Yoga increases mental acuity and promotes a general feeling of well being. It relieves stress and strengthens muscles. And it can be practiced alone or with hundreds of other people, in your home or on a retreat or in a class. It may be the most versatile exercise since walking!
At the same time, we’re learning more and more about how infants connect with adults, and especially how they bond with their parents. For decades parents have taken their babies to the swimming pool and out jogging. Now yoga instructor Angela Cerkevich from Yoga Tales in Bethesda, Maryland, is encouraging people to consider doing yoga with their babies.
Cerkevich first presents an overview of what a yoga program with an infant might include. She notes that many of her suggestions might need to be tailored to the specific age of your own baby—she’s demonstrating with a four-month-old—and modified to meet your child’s needs and responsiveness, but that in general a baby-and-parent yoga might include: getting centered together, baby massage, warm-up and tummy time, Kegel exercises, sun salutations, the tree pose, ball exercises, core strengthening, hip openers, twists, cool downs and Savasana.
What you’ll need includes a yoga blanket, a yoga mat, a yoga pillow, a yoga ball (all available at sports stores or online), and last but not least, a baby.
One way to use the yoga ball is to play with the baby with the baby seated on the ball. Your infant needs to be able to hold its head up by itself for this to work. Start by putting your legs on either side of the yoga ball. Make sure first, however, that you’re seated on your yoga pillow, because otherwise you’ll have a tendency in this activity to round your back too much. So make sure that you’re settled in comfortable, and then take the baby and put it on the ball. Don’t let go! All you’re going to do now is bounce the baby gently on the yoga ball. Most babies love this activity. They naturally bounce a lot on their own, so having this time with you bouncing them is the best game ever. In addition, make sure that you maintain eye contact with the baby. This helps with the bonding we talked about earlier.
Another activity you can do, which strengthens your core, is to sit on the ball yourself (removing baby from the ball first). Even for infants who are getting fidgety, this usually works. Put the baby in your lap and now you can bounce gently up and down on the ball. If you put your hands on the baby’s belly, you can check its breathing; make sure to check in with your own as well.
Staying on the ball with the baby in your lap, you can lift your lower belly slightly, lift your chest slightly, and make sure that your shoulders are low and relaxed. Now what you want to do is lean back a little and make sure that the baby is leaning with you; there should always be contact between you. Now instead of bigger bounces, you want to bounce gently, doing pulses really,