Opinion: Baby yoga - fad or fantastic?

Jackie Heffer-Cooke Jackie Heffer-Cooke

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
9:44 AM

Baby yoga instructor Jackie Heffer-Cooke explains why she believes bth baby and mum can get a lot out of a little yoga time.

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Is Baby Yoga a Fad?

So let’s have a muse. A fad is a strange word, ‘behaviour that develops among a population and is collectively followed for a period of time, generally a result of being ‘cool’ by friends or social media’.

So is Baby Yoga a fad?

Nine years ago when I gave birth to my first baby it was like the world turned inside out. All the reference points I had that made me Jackie Heffer, going to work every day as a TV Producer, turning into funtime party animal at 6pm every Friday, wearing good clothes, going out for great food and wine, travelling, walking for miles, connecting with friends, having financial, emotional and physical independence and freedom, well yes, that changed. In fact, it changed from the first realisation of when I found out I was pregnant.

Luckily, for me, as it turns out, from day one of holding my new baby girl in 2005 I knew that it was the right change, and I was open to my identity shifting and my next chapter unfolding. I felt it. But, that doesn’t stop the transition taking time and allowing myself to indulge in all the emotions of letting go of the old and embracing the new was something I needed to go through.

After the Baby Bubble

For the first 3 months I lapped up every moment, every Megan yawn, stretch, gaze. My baby bubble. But, then the truth is, even though in many ways I was happy to slow down and jump off the ‘rat-race’ my mind stayed busy. You can’t expect a mind which has been used to dealing with a hundred questions, meetings, emails a day to just rest. What it does is it keeps going but it has lost its previous focus of work schedules and social diaries, so it switches to the productiveness of mothering, ‘am I doing this right’, ‘am I mothering to the best of my abilities’, ‘should I be better’, ‘can I be better’, ‘is there another way which might be more successful for us both’. We all know this is perpetuated by the amount of online information and books we can consume that make us mothers feel guilt on a daily basis for getting things ‘wrong’.

Then there’s the endless endless washing…

Then to top it off, we’ve been out at work probably full time for a few years, therefore in the name of equality and time, sharing the chores equally with our partners, maybe even having a cleaner. But now we are at home surrounded by washing of plates, cooking - and at weaning stage this can be several times a day only for your lovingly home-cooked food to end up on the dining room floor (or even worse, they don’t like it and won’t eat it! Sob) – and then there’s the endless endless clothes washing that goes on and on and on!... God wait a minute, how did this happen, didn’t I used to have a life!

I need to go out before I go mad!

And there we have it. Sometimes, if serious and not responded to, these feelings can lead to post natal depression, sometimes, if we are listened to and can get some help and time out, it just means understanding this is ‘normal’ and figuring out a way to make yourself, and therefore everyone else in the household, feel better.

I could enjoy my freedom from the confines of the domestic house and my overthinking mind

I was the first of all my buddies to fall pregnant, so I didn’t really have a big collective to tap into when I needed to share a coffee, a laugh and a tear. My mum and sisters live a long way away, so immediate family was not going to be where my sanity was going to be found.

So getting out of the house and surrounding myself with people, albeit even strangers, who simply understood where I was at, was the thing that I could do. Also, when I went to classes I knew it was simply about me and Megan, or me and Sam. My mind could focus on this fun thing we were doing together. I could smile, I could loosen up, I could enjoy my freedom from the confines of the domestic house and my overthinking mind, and simply enjoy myself with my baby. To me it didn’t really matter what the group was, sometimes music groups, sometimes swimming groups, and later when Sam was a baby, yoga groups. It gave my mind a focus, and me a feeling that I was doing something good with my child.

Stimulating my baby to just the right amount

Baby classes are good in other aspects too, babies development factors are a good by-product, enabling my baby to find his or her way with a baby yoga move, or a xylophone, or a swimming float, singing to my baby, experiencing new sounds, sensations, actively stimulating my baby to just the right amount, and looking for those cues of when they have had enough is equally as important too. Also, a plus for me, in baby yoga classes I appreciated a gentle work out for my own body as I slowly took ownership of it once again, and I loved learning breathing techniques to help make myself more calm on those days when I was at home with an overthinking mind.

They are revolutionary as they unchain us from the traditional kitchen sink

As I say at some point in every course I teach, looking after you must come before everything else, as a happy mum, is a happy baby (big plus, your partner will be happier too!) The joy, not the anguish, of mothering is that we all do it differently, and the way we mother and the activities we do now, will be different to the way our mums did it, and will be different to the way our daughters (and indeed sons) do it.

So are baby groups a fad? Is baby yoga a fad? For reasons explained they are a sign of our times, and a way for women to shift into the role of mothering whilst having some fun along the way. I would even dare to say they are revolutionary as they unchain us from the traditional kitchen sink - our mothers/ grandmothers probably would have loved to have options of things to do with their day - indeed every time one of my YogaBubs mums brings their own mother to class, they say “I wish this had of been around when I was a young mum”.

At last for new mums there are things to do during what can sometimes feel like a long day, or a long week; places to go, fun to be had. These classes are positively about community and learning new ways to play, far away from the washing machine. I can’t see baby classes fading away…

From September there are more YogaBubs classes around the region, specifically coming to Poringland and Wymondham, as well as staying in Norwich too. To find out more about ‘YogaBubs’ baby yoga and to find a class near you go to www.norwichbabyyoga.com, or www.theorangegroveclinic.co.uk

Jackie Heffer-Cooke is Co-Director of The Orange Grove Clinic and Baby Centre and Director of BeCalm HypnoBirthing and ‘YogaBubs’ Baby Yoga. She is also a Pregnancy Yoga Instructor, a Pregnancy Massage Therapist and author and presenter of ‘How to take the labour out of labour’. To tune in regularly go to her, ‘The Inconsistent Earth Mother’ blog in The Baby Centre section at www.theorangegroveclinic.co.uk .

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