In my time working with families I've seen it all; moms, dads, caregivers and grandparents. They roll out their mats and begin to get ready for yoga while infants are crying, singing and playing on their blankets. The first time I went to baby yoga I had just had my son, then three months. It was crazy! The babies cried, the moms whipped out bottles and placed beside the mat was their car seats, diaper bags and a pile of toys. After the shock in difference from my prebaby practice to this new world, I began to warm up to it and even adore it. It was like our own little world of beautiful insanity. Some babies would sleep through the whole event but my son of course chatted until he could roll, and then he rolled until he could crawl, and then at 10 months, he walked. My teacher, Dawn McCorry handled it like a champ. It was inspiring and she became an amazing inspiration towards me finishing my 95 hour prenatal training through Mamata Yoga.
Last night a mom asked me "What happens if my daughter cries during the yoga class?" I responded "she will." The babies will cry, they will pee or poop, they will maybe spit up, they will need a bottle and they will maybe even have a small snooze. My son used to be asleep as I arrived into class which gave me 15 uninterrupted moments of zen on my mat. He then would wake up and I would pull him out of his car seat and he would join me. It brought me so much joy to spend this time with him and practice a discipline as a mother. A caregiver, specifically a mother, is your babies whole world. You are the access to their everything. It's important you understand that in baby yoga you have permission to parent. Do not excuse yourself, worry, or feel bad if your child has a need. We all understand and have been there before. This is a safe place to be together as new parents with our infants. Teachers all vary, but in my classes I allow feeding (breast and bottle), access to connect with your baby and time to snuggle (I do however ask that bums are changed out of the room).
So what happens when in the baby and me class? It depends on you, your child and the day. Some days I could bring Fox in and he would sleep for a huge part so I was able to flow with my teachers directions. It got harder once he could crawl because he wanted all the toys. As a teacher, if your infant ever wants to explore in our classroom I invite them to do so. If I see you are in a comfortable pose and you need support, as long as I have consent I will pick up babe until you're ready to grab them. I may even ask to place them in one of my baby carriers such as my Aura Leaf sling, and carry them so you can continue to enjoy your practice. I have gone to mom and baby classes as a parent and sat on the mat for the entire class with my son and just did modified poses.
Once Fox could crawl I felt he was no longer welcomed into a lot of classes. I understood, he often would pry at other infants noses or wander away with their toys. It was sad because I had made some great connections with other moms. Just because Fox was crawling didn't mean I didn't need the social connection during my yoga class. I was sad and I missed it. I decided that I would offer a Baby + Me class to babies crawling to walking. This of course will make our classes look different. Moms will still be offered time to do standing poses while babies play with the toys provided by AT yoga or anything brought by you, and then we will include them into our practice with songs and activities (think of a library program, meeting a registered parent class, meets a parent and baby yoga class all smashed into one).
Why take a mom and baby class?
Research suggests that yoga for adults offers many psychological benefits. Postpartum effects 7.5 % of Canadian women, and while the number sounds small as a new mother myself meeting and working with many other new mothers, it felt much bigger than that. Postpartum depression and anxiety is very hard and lonely. Just being a new mom was hard and lonely! Being in yoga really helped me take back that control. Even if Fox and I just sat on the mat for an hour while he cried or rolled around, I wasn't alone. I had other parents who knew what I was going through and even if I didn't say a word to any of them, I knew there was solidarity.
Infant and toddler yoga is also beneficial for young children. Watching my son grow I cannot believe how much of a natural yogi he is, which really meant I was too once upon a time. Think of the names: childs pose, happy baby... they are made from the natural movements children take. My son tends to do a lot of balasana (childs pose), adho mukha svanasana (down dog) and upavesasana (squatting). There is lots of research showing the benefits of yoga for infants, such as creating a deep connection between the mom and baby, engages them in song and movement, offers a soothing environment and includes babies in physical activities and mindfulness.