Mommy~and~Me Yoga 101
An easy way to ease back into exercise, mommy-and-baby yoga can be a safe, fun and healthy practice for both of you as long as you take a few precautions.
Looking for a simple way to connect both emotionally and physically with your baby? Try mommy-and-me yoga! Unlike the kinds of yoga you might have practiced on your own (or simply heard about), doing yoga with your baby is quite different: At yoga class, you’ll help your baby perform simple stretches with playful music and some simple props thrown into the mix to engage and stimulate the minds of your little yogi. Just don’t expect your 3-month old to rock a warrior two pose — you’ll hold onto her throughout the practice up until she’s proficient at crawling or walking on her own.
BENEFITS OF POSTPARTUM YOGA FOR MOTHERS
- It helps ease new parent jitters. Get started by attending a class taught by a trained instructor — it’s a safe and structured way to engage with your baby.
- It’s a little TLC for your body. Any kind of yoga gives you an opportunity to nourish and care for your body through focused stretches and mindful breathing exercises, which is especially important after carrying a baby for nine months and then giving birth!
- It stretches and strengthens the muscles that need the most TLC. The gentle movements and mindful breathing that are integral to yoga boost abdominal strength and activate the pelvic floor muscles, which aids recovery from giving birth, while classic poses — from upward facing dog to cobra — help open up the shoulders and chest you rely on for all of the rocking and cradling you do in the first few months with your baby.
- It helps you meet new moms. After baby is born, you might not have as much time for socializing. But it’s reassuring to talk to other mothers who are going through the same experiences as you are. Yoga class provides a safe and nurturing environment for new parents to discuss worries and concerns. You’re not alone!
- It helps you and your new baby bond. Yoga is a healthy, playful activity you can enjoy together.
BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR BABIES
- Helps develop motor and sensory skills. The simple stretches and poses can help your baby gain self and environmental awareness. Of course your baby doesn’t need to be running marathons right out of the womb — but experts believe that early activity can help your little one develop voluntary movements, which can build a strong foundation for sports, dance and exercise later on in adulthood.
- Aids in digestion. Apanasana, or knees-to-chest pose, has been shown to alleviate constipation, gas pains and colic (which is often caused by gas).
- Promotes better sleep. Although it’s not guaranteed, some parents report their babies sleep better after attending baby yoga classes.
HOW IS A POSTNATAL MOMMY-AND-ME CLASS STRUCTURED?
Most public postpartum yoga classes have a very open and casual atmosphere. Lasting anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes, they often begin with meditation or breathing plus some beginner-friendly pose sequences that involve holding your baby in your arms. Moms sometimes feed or change their babies during simple sequences — it’s really no big deal! So you don’t have to worry about your baby’s behavior upsetting the zen.
HOW SOON AFTER BIRTH CAN YOU START?
While some yoga studios welcome babies as young as 6 weeks old, waiting until your baby can hold her head up without your help (usually around 3 months of age) can set you up for a safe practice full of poses that put you both to work.
SAFETY TIPS FOR POSTPARTUM YOGA
While mommy-and-me yoga classes should be structured with your safety and baby’s in mind, keep in mind these few tips to stay safe:
- Get your doctors’ OK. Make sure to get clearance from your child’s pediatrician as well as your own doctor before attempting any baby yoga.
- Check out baby’s skills. Can she lift and hold up her head on her own? If not, hold off. The practice will be much safer when she can.
- Protect your tummy. If you’re recovering from diastasis recti, avoid poses that engage your core muscles (like boat pose) and skip any deep backbends.
- Stretch gently. Because your body continues to produce hormones that loosen the ligaments even after you give birth, don’t push too hard on the stretching.
- Don’t overdo it. If any move seems like it might be a little too much for you or your baby, speak up. If you still feel at all uncomfortable, skip it. Baby yoga should be more about the bonding than the workout. Safety always comes first!
- Baby comes first. Taking care of your baby is your first priority — and it’s really no big deal if your little one cries for a feeding or a diaper change during class.
BABY YOGA MOVE TO TRY AT HOME
Curious and want to try a little mommy-and-me yoga at home? Here’s a playful pose you can practice with your little one (of course, the safety tips above still apply). Keep in mind, it’s best to do mommy-and-me yoga in a class with an experienced yoga teacher, who can help ensure you’re doing the poses correctly and safely.
Butterfly Pose with Baby (Baddha Konasana)
This hip-opener will feel great for you and give you and your baby some playful facetime.
- Sit down on your mat facing your seated baby, supporting her by holding her hands (or wrapping your hands around her upper body if she’s still working on sitting up).
- Bend your knees and bring your heels together as close to your body as you can, opening your knees out to the sides. Position your baby’s heels together (so she’s mirroring your position.)
- Continue to hold on to your baby as you shift your upper body from left to right and back and forward, moving together.
- You can hold this pose as long as you’d like, but for your baby five of your inhale/exhales should be a good count — of course adjust depending on how well your baby takes to it!
- If you’d like, lie baby back on her back and hold her feet together, knees open wide. Gently rock her feet back and forth, massaging her back on the mat.