I’ve been doing yoga on and off for almost 18 years. For me, yoga gives a sense of peace and overall well-being. And as a new mother, I'm discovering the simple joys of “Baby & Me Yoga” classes at my studio in Los Angeles, with my daughter Scarlett. I had no idea how much she was going to enjoy it.
Doing yoga with your newborn keeps both baby and mama relaxed. Plus, I don't have to worry about taking time away from her to keep up with my practice! When the instructor asks us to bring our babies close to our hearts and says, “Let them hear your heartbeat,” it's an amazing bonding experience for any new mom and baby.
Here are a few expert tips from Zooga Yoga, and eight great poses to try with your baby.
1. Warm Up: Cat/Cow
To warm up your spine and begin moving with your baby, place the hands directly beneath the shoulders (the thumb and forefinger making an L-shape) and knees beneath the hips.
Have your baby between your hands on their back as you breathe deeply, in and out through the nose, making sure to make eye contact with your little one and smile.
Repeat several rounds of Cat/Cow until your spine feels warmed up.
2. Release: Child's Pose
If your wrists are sensitive from Cat and Cow, lower to your forearms and give your baby a kiss on their belly.
Now, widen the knees enough to allow your buttocks to sit back on the heels, then fold forward to a comfortable place on an exhale. Keep your arms extended overhead to frame your baby.
Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
3. Heart-Opener: Cobra
With this gentle backbend and heart opener, be wary no to overarch the lower spine.
With your hands below your shoulders, press into your palms on either side of your baby and hug your elbows into your ribs. Let your shoulder release down the back and keep the hip points rooted to your mat. Push up to a comfortable height as you straighten your elbows only as much as what feels good to your low back.
Stay here for 3-5 breaths and lower back down.
4. Strengthen: High Plank
Place your hands on either side of baby and keep your body strong and straight like a ramp — from head to heels, engaging the core. Use the forearms to protect the wrists (if necessary) and knees instead of toes (if you're feeling low back aggravation).
Make sure your gaze is soft and focused, no need to stress when your little one is looking up at you, smiling!
Breathe deeply and smile for 5 inhales and exhales.
5. Backbend: Camel Pose
In this big, expansive backbend, we want to avoid compressing the spine. So once again, only lean back as far as what feels good to you.
With your knees hips-width apart, place your hands on your sacrum as you begin to lean back. Use the hands to protect your low back. You can release your hands to your heels to deepen the backbend.
Breathe in and out through the nose for 3-5 breaths and press back into your hands at your sacrum to lift yourself back up.
6. Counter-Stretch: Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
To help release your spine from the previous pose, come to a sit and separate your legs wide so your baby is in the middle.
Reach toward the toes, but if flexibility only allows you to reach the shins, this is better than forcing the stretch.
Take a half lift out of your lower back on an inhale, and use your exhale to release as you bend yourself forward.
Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
7. Balance: Tree Pose
Testing your balance with your baby can be a lot of fun, just be sure you have a firm footing and keep your gaze focused.
Holding your baby with both hands just below your chest, shift your weight into the sole of one foot and spread the toes, then slide the other foot to the calf or inner thigh with firm pressure. To help with your balance, keep your gaze on a spot on the floor, or across from you at a wall.
Breathe and smile. 3-5 breaths.
8. Playtime: "Elevator Squats"
Your baby will love this one! Be sure to direct the toes straight forward (as opposed to turned out), and sit with tailbone toward the floor and chest lifted.
Keep your baby held at the center of your chest, and not off to one side.
On an inhale lift your baby high overhead, straightening through your elbows, and on an exhale, squat low as you bend your knees and elbows, bringing your baby back to the front of your chest.
Inhale to lift, exhale to squat. Repeat up to 5 times or more.
Zooga Yoga is the only yoga studio in the Los Angeles area dedicated to babies, kids, teens, expecting moms, parents and families.
Gallery courtesy of Tom's of Maine