How to Share Your Yoga Practice with Your Baby
In this blog post Dr. Rehana Jawadwala talks about the possibility of changing the way we view exercise classes for mother's (yoga in particular) to incorporate the baby's experience, and how you can share your yoga, breathing and meditation practices with your baby so that they can truly be part of, and benefit from, the calming effects. All of this can be an antidote to the hyper-stimulating baby classes out there and also re-frame parent and child yoga classes to create a whole new bonding experience.
Using a baby sling, wrap or carrier whilst doing yoga (sometimes known as babywearing yoga) is a wonderful opportunity to deeply connect with your baby and bring the calming influence of a yoga session into both of your lives whilst bonding at the same time.
My yoga practice over the years helped me navigate many of the hard, confusing and complex times in my life. This is how I made sense of the world; I came to my mat; I explored my breath and body and my mind slowly cleared. This was a practice that held constant amidst much change. I changed countries and jobs and the way I perceived the world and my yoga practice stayed true.
Now that I am a mother this special part of my life has even more meaning and place. These days when my mothering role requires me to find answers to situations that I have not experienced before, my yoga practice has become a way to search deep within.
It is this powerful part of my life that I wish to share with my children. It is this deep connection I have with my practice and how it wraps me in its care that I wish my children too would have in their lives.
Like many new mothers when I had my first baby, I attended the mum and baby yoga classes. I thought they were a good excuse for me to continue my practice, I didn’t really consider them for my baby. The mat and its space were for me, my baby just happened to be there with me. I didn’t know there could be anymore to my practice other than having my baby near me so that I could keep an eye on her. Sometimes she played along and other times the practice was all jumbled up as she was unsettled throughout that time. But I enjoyed meeting other mums and all the peripheral aspects of the class and I got a bit of yoga too.
However, there was something deep inside of me that reminded me of a lack of serenity I was used to after my yoga practice. That feeling of unease kept nagging at me. As time went by and my baby would stay with another carer for longer periods, I found my personal practice again. That quiet, that depth of exploration, that attention to my breath all once again making my soul sing. But I missed my baby. I missed how in these quiet and profound times I felt empty without her company.
It was this dichotomy of either being with yoga or with my baby that was the grain of sand that irked me.
It was not until my second daughter was born that I grasped the nature of this discomfort. My second birth was a hard one, physically, emotionally and mentally. I struggled in the early days to quieten my racing thoughts. To help my mind I put my newborn baby in a sling and went for long walks. It was on these walks that my attention slowly came back to my pranayama practice and slowly with this breath work I started to heal, to connect and to experience the newness of my mothering role.
I am not exaggerating when I say it was my breath modulation on those walks that connected me with my baby, with myself and made me whole again. It didn’t happen easily or swiftly. It was slow, it was under my skin, the peace and solitude creeping back into my life.
But there was something more powerful that was happening that I almost missed. My baby was responding to my practice.My little baby who had a rough time at birth too was finding her connection with my breath. She too was easily settled on these walks, her breath and her movements less frantic and more in tune with my emotional space. Maybe I was for the first time even noticing such subtle dialogue between her and me. Did I miss all of this with my first baby? I still remember the tilt of her tiny head into my chest as I took my time exhaling my breath and slowing our world down, the warmth of her whole body and her tiny fingers resting on my collar bones…I sniffed her hair and her face and my body relaxed giving my mind the much needed rest.
We practiced our meditation together, when she was unsettled and we meditated, I noticed a kind of anticipated learning that the she knew I would begin my breath based voice modulation and this made her comfortable and over time I explored moving with her in the sling, practising at times some challenging and engaging yoga postures.
Throughout these practices, she was very much my partner, my companion. I didn’t simply put her in the sling because I did not know where else to put her.
She was in the sling because we both wanted that closeness. She was in the sling as my practice partner. The practice was about the two of us.
She was enjoying moving with me. She would let me know when she disliked my body movement and that I had to slow down for her or even change tact.
Over time this partnership became a bond and rhythm we both knew deep within our bodies. I knew that practising yoga with my baby as my companion rather than an adjunct was what was missing the first time around.
My emptiness of my practice was my inability to truly share something fundamentally important to me with my new baby.
It was this awareness and the profound shift in my experience of yoga with my baby from my previous experience of having my baby with me for practical purposes, that really enthused me to bring babywearing yoga to my community of new mothers.
The ‘Keep Me Close’ babywearing yoga class is an antidote to the hyper stimulatory environments of baby classes. Here we make space for some quiet times with our new babies, getting to know them deeply, move with them, co-regulate our inner emotional spaces and most importantly truly be able to share what is an important part of our lives with our babies.
To me it is this partnership, the lack of hierarchy, the sense of egalitarianism that is the core of my yoga philosophy that I am living out with my baby. My baby is the central reason for metamorphosis, and I don’t want my new motherhood yoga practice to let my baby become an adjunct to my yoga practice. I don’t want my baby to be a bystander or simply an afterthought on practical issues for my yoga practice.
With babywearing yoga done with the right intentions and principles we elevate the role of our baby in our yoga practice and we bring them on par with our experiences of yoga.
I am teaching her that life is about companionship and bonds that get stronger with shared experience. The practice of yoga has given me so much, it has given me a toolkit for navigating the murky waters of life and if I can share this toolkit with my children it will have served its purpose in the fullest.
If you're looking for a baby sling, wrap or carrier for your babywearing yoga class we recommend our Sister Company, Oscha Slings, who make organic and ethical slings from the Scottish workshop also feature a Middle Earth Collection.
Dr. Rehana Jawadwala is the founder of MummyYoga, a specialist pregnancy and postnatal yoga practice service. She is the author of the widely acclaimed “Why Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Matter”. Rehana has a PhD in exercise physiology and nutrition with more than 20 years of professional experience in health, physical activity and exercise nutrition.
MummyYoga has a fully accredited Perinatal Yoga teacher training programme. For more information email tt@MummyYoga.com