Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Week 2 - Baby Bumpkin's Yoga Activity for the Week is Cat!

By Sue Heron Training Co-ordinator Tatty Bumpkin and Paediatric Physiotherapist 

In this blog I describe a Baby Bumpkin Yoga activity and outline some of the benefits for both you and your baby so you can enjoy doing the activity at home. 

The Baby Bumpkin Cat Yoga Activity 

Cat Pose for Younger Babies

A gentle stretch for you and fun for your baby too!
Cautions for your baby 
Remember, when you are doing the poses with your baby, never force the movements and keep looking at your baby to make sure they are comfortable. If you feel any resistance, or your baby becomes unsettled, do stop. Once your baby has settled, gently try the pose again, perhaps making clicking sounds or using a toy to distract them. If your baby remains unsettled, do not persist with the pose.  
Young babies are not able to fully straighten their elbows or take their arms right up over their head so only move your baby’s arms within their comfortable range of movement 

Cautions for you 
If you are a new mum doctors recommend waiting until bleeding has stopped before doing some gentle yoga posture. It is important to get the okay first from your health visitor or midwife before you roll out your yoga mat!  For women who had a Cesarean section, the wait for doing yoga will be longer.

Cat pose is an ideal pose to help gently stretch and mobilise your back muscles however: 
  1. If you are a new mum your back will be slightly less stable so do the movements slowly and carefully. Be very careful not to over arch your back in either direction, but especially do not let it arch downwards towards the floor as this can cause back strain. 
  2. If you know you have issues with your back always get advice from a health professional before doing cat pose. 
  3. If anything starts to feel painful do stop

Description of Cat Pose

  • Settle your baby on a mat in front of you and encourage them to look at you. 
  • Keeping good eye contact with your baby, come up onto your hands and knees over your baby - this is ‘cat’ pose. 
  • Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Keep your back level i.e. do not let it arch downwards towards the floor (see above), to do this you may have to tighten your tummy muscles – this is good!
  • In cat pose you can smile, nod and shake your head at your baby, even make funny faces and meowing sounds like a cat - just for fun! 
  • If you feel confident to do so, bend your elbows to kiss your baby on their forehead, then straighten your arms - like a mini ‘press up’. 
  • This is a great way to bond and have fun with your baby and also to strengthen your arms in preparation for carrying your growing baby.
  • If you feel comfortable in cat pose, and you do not have any back problems, tuck your chin in towards your chest and gently arch your back towards the ceiling – like a cat having a stretch (see picture below). 
Gently arch your back towards the ceiling
  • Try to breathe out and tighten your tummy muscles as you do the movement. Hold this arched position for a few seconds, breathing normally but keeping your tummy muscles tight then gently bring your back down to the starting position. 

N.B. Some mums might find that it is hard to put their hands flat on the ground in cat pose because their wrists are sore, if this is the case, make a fist with your hands and balance on your knuckles. However do try to keep gently stretching your wrists so that eventually you can do cat pose with your palms flat on the floor. 

Cat pose 2 - For older babies 

Cat Pose variation 1
  • Once your baby is starting to gain control of their head, they can try cat pose across your thighs. This is a great way for your baby to experience ‘tummy time’ as they are in close contact with you for that added reassurance. 
  • Gather a few of your baby’s favourite toys or a safe baby mirror which you can use to entertain your baby with once they are in cat pose. 
  • Make yourself comfortable, sitting on a mat or cushion on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Try sitting with your back against a wall for added support. 
  • Lay your baby on their tummy either:
    • Across one of your thighs letting their knees rest on the floor (see variation 1 above). This is usually better for older babies.
    • Across both of your thighs, gently tipping them upwards and backwards by lifting up your thigh which is under their shoulders (see picture below courtesy of pathways.org). Gently encourage your baby to push up from your thigh using their forearms this will help them to raise their head and chest up higher. Carefully place one hand on your baby’s bottom, this will encourage them to push through their hips and will also give them added support. 

Note: Whilst doing cat pose with your baby always be guided by them and be careful not to overtire them. Keep looking at your baby’s face to check they are happy and keep talking to them so they are reassured. 

Other Activities - Walking the cat! 

If your baby is older (4 – 5 mths), and they are confident in cat pose, you can add a bit of movement by alternately bending and straightening your knees under them. Remember to keep talking or singing to your baby and stroking down their backs as you do this movement. 

Why Cat Pose is Good for Both You and Your Baby

Benefits of Younger Cat Pose 1 

1. Bonding with your baby 
As you move into cat pose, over your baby, you will be making it easier for them to look at you and you will be building up the relationship between you both. Your baby will love to gaze up at you, remember you are the best play mate for your baby! 

2. Working on Early Communication Skills
As you do different expressions at your baby i.e. smiling at them, looking surprised or puzzled your baby will be encouraged to mimic you and will be learning the different ways they can move their faces to express themselves. If your baby is three months of age or older, they may start to copy your facial expressions, gestures and sounds. 

3. Benefits of Cat Pose 1 for You 
As you move into cat pose you will be:
  • Strengthening your shoulders, arms and wrists
  • Stretching out your back muscles.  As you arch your back in cat pose you will be stretching your back muscles and gently mobilising your spine. 
  • Strengthening your tummy muscles.  Often after pregnancy it is hard to ‘feel’ your tummy muscles - cat pose will help you to become more aware of these muscles. As you arch your back up and tighten your tummy muscles you will be encouraging these muscles to become more active, this is important, as your deeper tummy muscles help to support your back. 
But always be advised by your midwife or health visitor if you have any concerns about doing cat pose. 

Benefits of Older Cat Pose 2 

  • As part of their ‘postural control’ process, your baby gradually gains control of their body. They will be able to move and ‘control’ their head and shoulders before their hips and legs. 
  • Cat pose gives your baby the chance to refine their head and shoulder movements whilst still feeling close to you. When you do cat pose with your baby for short periods during the day you will see their ever increasing skills i.e. 
    • If your baby is 3 months old they will be starting to lift their head straight up and may be pushing down equally with both their forearms. You may also notice that they are now naturally bringing their elbows directly underneath their shoulders (younger babies position their elbows behind their shoulders). This change of elbow position will make your baby more stable on their tummy.
    • At about 4 months your baby is likely to be lifting their head and chest higher off your thighs in cat pose. They will feel more stable as their shoulders, hip, spine and tummy muscles become stronger.
    • When your baby is 5 -6 months they will start to be able to shift their weight onto one arm so they can reach forward with the other.  They may also be starting to push up on just their hands, straightening their elbows, when they are on the floor. These reaching and pushing movements are wonderful for the development of your baby’s shoulder and hand muscles. In addition as your baby pushes up on their hands, whilst on their tummy, they will be refining their propping skills ready for sitting
    • At about 7 months your baby may well have a surge of activity! Whilst on their tummy they may tuck one knee under their chest and, crucially, at the same time push up with both hands so they move into the crawl position. Once on their hands and knees, they will enjoy rocking themselves forward and backwards as they stimulate their body senses. At this age you try a progression of cat pose – place your baby over one of your thighs with their hands and knees on either side (see picture). They can now experience crawl position whilst feeling supported and close to you. For information on the benefits of crawling for your baby see my blog http://tattybumpkinltd.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/2014-autumn-term-2-week-2-tatty.html

Our Baby Bumpkin Sessions – Nationwide

Please remember though, for you and your baby to gain the full benefit of all the Baby Bumpkin Yoga and multi-sensory activities, find out about your local Baby Bumpkin class at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/classes/find-class.html
  • Because each Baby Bumpkin adventure is carefully linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). 
  • The sessions not only enhance your baby’s physical skills they also develop your baby’s early communication, social and thinking skills.  
  • Our qualified Baby Bumpkin Teachers are fully trained in aspects of baby development and Baby Yoga and are kept fully up-to-date by our professional team of paediatric physiotherapists, Yoga teachers and musicians.

The Baby Bumpkin Adventure this Week

If you are taking your baby to a Baby Bumpkin class this week you will go on an adventure with Baby Bumpkin and his friend Cat to find out what people do all day! Your baby will have a chance to: 
  • Develop their physical skills as they do the cat and cycling poses with you. 
  • Progress their early communication skills and enhance their bond with you as play as sleepy, stretchy cats to the Tatty Bumpkin cat song. 

Stretch out as a stretchy cat! 
  • Progress their early visual, hand and thinking skills as they play with the building props.   
What house shall we build for cat?
  • Have fun with others and develop their social skills as you ‘splash in puddles’ together to the Tatty Bumpkin instrumental track!  
  • And finally, at the end of the session, enjoy a special moment of relaxation and bonding with you.  

Or Why Not Work for Yourself? 

Maybe, you are thinking of a new career, which gives you:

  • The opportunity to work with kids
  • A great sense of job satisfaction and
  • Flexible working to fit around your own family?

In which case - find out how you could be trained to deliver Baby and Tatty Bumpkin classes in your area at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/business/index.html

Love Baby Bumpkin x

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