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Birthlight baby yoga - my story

Growing up as a child in a family with very little physical contact, I was determined that as a mother I would enjoy physical and tactile relationships with my own children.
When the time came for me to be a mother I was drawn to attachment parenting, baby massage and baby yoga because they promised a connection I knew I wanted to experience with my own babies.

I remember my first baby yoga class well. Conor, my 2nd baby, was much younger and smaller than the other babies and instinctively I wanted to protect him from the big exciting movements the others were doing. But I continued exploring the baby yoga world and soon discovered the fun and joy that drops, swings and rolls can bring to a mother and baby’s interaction. When I embarked on the training with Francoise and Sally, I had no idea just how profound the effects of that practice would be not only on how I handled my children but on how they went on to handle each other.

Initially I learned a series of baby postures and sequences which I practised on my baby and on the subsequent babies who attended my early baby yoga classes. Postnatal mothers saw it as a continuation of baby massage and an opportunity to spend time bonding with their baby and to learn some fun songs and sequences they could continue with their babies at home. With time and practice my postures and sequences grew more inventive, my understanding of the postnatal period and the baby’s early development deepened and my confidence as a teacher of baby yoga increased. But it was only with the arrival of subsequent babies in my own family that I really began to understand just how powerful a practice baby yoga could be - with a cumulative effect much greater than the sum of its parts.

When my daughter Freya was born, the yoga we shared together happened more off the mat than on. This playful way of handling her permeated much of our shared physical relationship and became more of a tactile language of communicating than simply shared play. My confidence in handling her affected the way I carried her, moved her, touched and massaged her and really influenced in every way how I communicated with her. The connection we established kissing, cuddling, smiling into one another's faces - being physical with each other - felt so deeply nourishing. The oxytocin just flowed between us. Freya enjoyed a similarly physical and playful relationship with her father - something that filled me with such happiness as I knew firsthand how important a foundation this would be for shaping her future interaction with the opposite sex.

As my children have grown older that tactile connection has stayed with us. Baby massage has evolved into back tickles, head massages and foot rubs for my older children. Baby lifts and inversions have evolved into headstands, shoulder-stands and handstands on the lawn. My original baby yogi, Conor, is a keen 9-year-old gymnast and regularly accompanies me to the yoga classes I teach.

But perhaps the greatest legacy of my baby yoga training, and the aspect that has surprised and delighted me most, is how my children have taken on and used the language of baby yoga to relate to the new baby that has recently blessed our home.

Baby Finlay arrived 6 months ago. As he settled into his body and his new home, and we adapted to the latest addition to our family, I was able to see clearly the fruits of the baby yoga legacy - not only in the way that I handled him - the two of us often in a prolonged physical improvisation that surprised and delighted me - but, more intriguingly, in how my children also handled him.

My daughter Freya, now 4, communicates with him through little devised sequences she has either taken from me or composed herself. She cannot help herself. Baby Finn is forever bouncing on her lap, see-sawing back and forth, being tilted one way and then the other, then hugged to within an inch of his life - happily , it seems. Although she is particularly active in her play with him, the boys are also the same. My 11 year old son Rowan regularly wants to massage him, carry him and enjoys a wonderfully playful relationship with his baby brother. Their delight is palpable.

      

The wonderful point here is that their confidence in handling baby Finn, and the natural physical relationship which they all share with him, is something their have learned through osmosis rather than something I have set out to teach them. This knowledge has found its way to them by watching me, perhaps also through their own body memory, and via their own uncensored and innate need to reach out and physically connect to one another. They speak the language of baby yoga.

This was a deep joy I never could have imagined when I embarked on Francoise’s Baby Yoga training all those years ago and it brings great healing to the touch-bereft child in me.

 

Nadia Raafat