Baby Yoga – An Interview with Helen Garabedian
Many women continue with formal yoga instruction after the birth of a child. In some cases mom and infant classes are offered. Classes can focus on helping the mother to restore her own fitness level using the child primarily as a prop. Other classes consist of yoga exercises for the new mother accompanied by some movement for the infant. Yoga instructor Helen Garabedian offers classes which focus on babies and toddlers where mothers who may or may not have previous yoga experience teach their babies. We spoke with Helen about her work with baby yoga.
Pat: Why did you decide to specialize in teaching yoga to infants and toddlers?
Helen: It is my belief that over 5000 years ago when yoga was first developing, the yoga masters studied the movements of babies to create yoga asanas. Visualize in your mind a baby just learning to hold themselves up with their palms and belly flat on the earth. Here you can see our cobra pose being performed by infants. Again, surrender and see downward dog in your mind. Here you can find a baby that is on hands and feet pushing up just before coming into standing. In a sense, through the practice of yoga we are returning to the unrestricted innocence and bliss of a infant.
Pat: How do babies practice?
Helen: I teach baby yoga to two different age groups: birth to pre-crawling, and crawling to 24 months. Moms are responsible for carrying out all of the baby's movements in the younger group. Moms move the babies into the limbs and bodies that they have been born into. Younger babies get to feel their bodies as they are gently maneuvered to aid digestion and development. In the more active age group, moms are there to maneuver the baby when necessary and are also open to letting their child explore yoga on their own two feet.
Older babies learn to express themselves through movement of the body. For parents, a yoga practice provides the time to slow down enough to truly see and treasure their baby in the here and now! Babies grow and develop so quickly it's important not to miss the present. Every moment offers a new opportunity to learn more about the emerging personality and composition of your new baby. Overall, babies love yoga and the attention they receive in class.
Pat: Do toddlers learn to perform yoga by themselves?
Helen: After one to six classes, the crawling/walking babies learn various yoga postures so well that they will move into different poses just by being asked to do so. Moms and babies love to show this new found talent off to family and friends. One of my longtime students, Lily, a joyful 22-month-old redhead moves gracefully from mountain to tree to downward dog to extended child to cobra to upward facing bow pose. It is beautiful to watch. Most of my younger students shine the biggest smile when coming into class and seeing me along with their baby yoga friends. Some babies get so ecstatic that they shake their hands and feet up and down in excitement frenzy! One of my students, Matthew, started practicing baby yoga with me at 4 weeks and is now 9 months old.
Pat: What are the benefits of baby yoga?
Helen: For the child, yoga strengthens immunity, improves sleep, improves digestion and circulation, stimulates neuromuscular development, helps regulate emotions, can help to relieve gas pains and colic and increases self-awareness.
Pat: And for the moms?
Helen: Baby yoga can help increase parental confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, help alleviate postpartum depression, promotes intuitive parenting and lets moms make new friends with other new moms.
Pat: While adult yoga is becoming more mainstream, it is unusual for yoga to be taught to children, although the field is growing. How did you come to be an innovator in this field of baby yoga?
Helen: By examining hatha yoga postures with the intention of readapting it for the non-verbal baby to do with or without mom's help, my program began to develop. My work with babies is a blend of intuition, classical hatha yoga postures, breathing (pranayama), and the movement of energy, all with relation to a baby's anatomy and physiology. My teachings are not only a result of my research, but are based on my experience of teaching nearly 100 moms and babies each week. Since I was a child, I have worked with and cared for babies in different capacities. First as the older sister and then as the neighborhood babysitter, I consistently used my intuition and creativity to care for and entertain little ones. Several years ago, I began thinking about how holistic minded parents could connect with and raise their babies with awareness. Yoga gave me the platform for my purpose of "helping many other people find peace and realize their limitless potential in this lifetime."
Helen Garabedian is a USUI Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified yoga teacher, and has trained with many spiritual teachers and yoga masters in this lifetime and others. For more information call 508-405-1885 or visit http://www.baby-yoga.com