Why parent and baby yoga is so much more than an exercise class – you cannot serve from an empty vessel!
By the time a parent and baby class starts, many mums will have been awake for hours, been busy meeting everyone else’s needs, doing the school run, feeding, changing, rushing! Arriving on time has been a massive achievement; there may have been many hurdles to jump so far this morning!
Once we are ready to start, we spend some time focusing on our breath. We sit baby on our laps, we close our eyes, we don’t talk, we just breathe. The room becomes calm. From where I am sitting I can see mums taking a peaceful moment, eyes closed. I can see lots of little faces, alert and gazing at me, sensing the change of atmosphere, curiously still. Now our mums are calm, so are the babies. This is a wonderful thing to point out, that these little children are sooooooo responsive to our state of mind. That you can calm your baby by calming your mind.
Yoga for mum
Over the next half an hour, we focus on mums; we stretch and breathe, paying particular attention to our upper body, back, shoulders and neck. All of which are likely to feel tense and sore from anxiety, feeding, holding and rocking baby. We move in and out of postures that promote the recovery of the body after childbirth, postures that gently develop core strength and stability. We regain our balance, often with baby in arms; we learn how to take some time out, how to slow down, how to be good to ourselves, and it feels good.
Yoga for baby
We sit with baby in front of us, and gently move their arms and legs. We stretch out their limbs, rock them, massage them. As I look around the room, I see precious moments, mums and babies smiling at each other, babies cooing as they enjoy the feeling of the movement and their mothers touch. In this moment, I see love, trust, bonding and attachment.
In the middle of the room there are balls, ribbons, mirrors and coloured scarves for babies to explore. We spend some time playing with baby, we sing songs, and we lift and lower a parachute so babies can feel the wind on their faces. We blow bubbles, feathers. I see mums engrossed in quality play, sharing, engaging and communicating with their child. It’s a wonderful thing to see.
If the babies will allow us to – we lie down and relax, mums can do this on their backs or sides, sometimes sitting up with babies on laps, feeding, or sleeping. We focus on the breath, we relax our bodies and calm our minds. At times this may be a small taster of the possibilities of relaxation and meditation (depending on the baby’s needs!). I always encourage mums to go home and take time to do this alone, as 20 minutes in a deep relaxation can be extremely valuable to a busy mum, her health, wellbeing and happiness.
Cup of tea and a chat
This is when we all get the chance to chat, bring up concerns about parenthood, support one another, realise that everyone else has bad days too. I see a new friendships forming, and I see that what we are doing together is so much more than an exercise class for mums; it’s a moment in time where together, we remember to be kind to ourselves and to others. We learn how to look after our bodies and minds, to put our health first, to support one another and enjoy the ups and downs of motherhood, however crazy it may be!
You cannot serve from an empty vessel
I hope that all the mums, some who feel disappointed with their births, who have scars to heal, who have been shocked by the aftermath of having a baby, or who may be experiencing post natal depression, go home feeling calm, valued and supported. Feeling confident in their role, trusting their instincts. Knowing that it takes time to heal, and there is no rush. Knowing that they are doing a GREAT JOB!
It has become very clear to me as a mother, and a teacher, that to be a good mother, you must first give yourself time, show yourself love, kindness and compassion. So put yourself first, take some time to relax, do yoga, meditate, have a sleep, lay around all day playing with your baby, enjoy the moment, for you cannot care for others if you do not care for yourself. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
To all the mums out there – you are more important than you know, to your tiny baby, you are the whole world!