Sunday, January 8, 2017

Benefits of Yoga for Babies, Children and their Families

Our warmest thanks to Tatty Bumpkin Franchisee Sarah Gott for this guest blog on the broad reaching benefits of yoga for babies, children and their families. Sarah has been leading Tatty and Baby Bumpkin Yoga sessions in the Mid-Sussex area since 2010

In October 2016 Sarah was the first Tatty Bumpkin Franchisee to complete our ‘Advanced Children’s Yoga Teacher’ course, accredited by the Yoga Alliance

A Word from Sarah 

My name is Sarah Gott, yoga has been part of my life for over 25 years.  I am blessed with a supportive and loving husband and three beautiful boys ages 12, 10 and 7.  I was lucky enough to come across Tatty Bumpkin 7 years ago and this allowed me to not only practise yoga as a hobby but to make it my profession.  
My yoga journey continues and now allows me to teach yoga to all ages from mums with new babies, children in nurseries and schools, to teenagers and adults.  I am a Tatty Bumpkin Advanced Yoga Teacher, Teen Yoga Teacher and British Wheel of Yoga Adult Yoga Teacher. Who knows where my yoga journey will take me next? 

Why Yoga is Important for Babies, Children and their Families -
The Key Benefits

Geeta Iyengar
'Nature has endowed her (woman) with the responsibility of perpetuating mankind. The wealth of a nation and health of a future generation is dependent upon her physical and mental well-being.’ Geeta Iyengar in 'Yoga: A Gem for Women'  

The above quote encapsulates the enormous responsibility we face when bringing a new child into the world. How a woman’s mental and physical well-being will affect and influence a new baby’s start in life and how yoga can support and provide a framework for them to flourish both physically and mentally which in turn, will provide strength to nurture a child’s development from birth, onwards.  

In this blog, I will discuss: 
  • How yoga and massage affects the bonding process between parent and child
  • The emotional, physical and physiological effects of yoga on babies and children
  • The importance of social interaction for new families attending classes
  • The benefits of yoga, breath awareness and relaxation for adults.
I will conclude with feedback from a parent on how my Baby Bumpkin yoga class has supported these areas. 

Yoga, Massage and the Bonding Process 

Scientific research is progressively revealing how much babies need touch and movement for the healthy development of their brains. The sense of touch develops in the fourth week in the womb, but it takes two years from birth to establish the brain connections that enable rational and caring responses. This wiring is largely based on life experiences. Touch brings with it connection and communication, stimulation and relaxation, calming and healing. 

Babies need quality interaction with the adults closest to them to feel secure and free to explore. Massage and yoga are practical ways of communicating love and affection to babies. Parents close engagement with their babies both through massaging the body and touching in general can calm the baby and parents can learn massage skills in classes and practice them at home. 

Due to the closeness of the parent and child, baby yoga enhances the non-verbal communication when babies learn to respond to facial expressions such as smiling and mimicking. Babies learn to become more responsive to different facial expressions, adding a great deal of enjoyment to the exchange between the baby and parent. Healthy bonding and attachment to loving caregivers ensures babies the emotional security so essential to their total development. 

During pregnancy and around birth, new mothers experience a release of the hormone oxytocin, associated with relaxation, connection and nurturing. Yoga stimulates the on-going, positive effects of this hormone. Loving touch also helps to regulate stress hormones, e.g. cortisol. The more often massage and yoga is practised with your baby, the greater the combined sensory effect enhance closeness. 

The power of close touch

The Emotional Effects of Yoga 

Yoga is about developing self-awareness. Recognising how stress affects us, and how it can be communicated to babies unwittingly, is the foundation of joint parent baby relaxation. Positive touch and yoga can reinforce a secure sense of stable continuity. 

With regular practise, together, a framework can be created in which baby can better regulate his/her own levels of physical and emotional arousal, attention and concentration, interest in the world or withdrawal. 

As babies grow into toddlers the yoga mat can be a neutral space where emotions can be expressed safely, boundaries negotiated and lasting trust built through a more complex interaction involving touch, movement, language and imagination. 

A secure sense of stable continuity

The Physical and Physiological Effects of Yoga

Physical elements of yoga increase fitness, flexibility and help develop core stability. However, yoga also brings broader physiological benefits to the child. As a child’s muscles and co-ordination develop, so does the density of their brain and its executive function. ‘Intentional movement’ such as yoga, has profound effects on children's ability to focus, calm themselves and filter sensory information. 

Yoga supports fitness and flexibility
Importantly, Yoga supports also ‘self-regulation’ in the body. Self-regulation refers to several complicated processes that allow children to appropriately respond to their environment (Bronson 2000). 

Movement practices, combined with appropriate mirroring develop a child’s self-awareness, emotional intelligence and self-control. Movement builds brain cells and increases the optimal functioning of every system in the body. Children's yoga is the perfect playground for active fun, developing motor skills and fitness along with social-emotional awareness and self-regulation tools. 

Tatty Bumpkin becomes a wise friend to share feelings with

Yoga and Social Interaction 

For parents, a baby yoga class often provides a social safe-haven. It’s an opportunity to be with other mums, laugh and be silly with their babies and children. Socialising with others, sharing experiences, chatting and laughing makes people happy; this in turn makes a contented happy baby or child. 

Parenthood can bring anxiety, external pressures and lack of self-confidence. Attending yoga classes together can help diffuse these feelings, bring confidence and calm and help forget about other anxieties. Just leaving the house with their babies and doing something positive will create joy and promote achievement. 

The benefits for families practising yoga together provide ways to bond, nurture and nourish the physical body, control stress through breath awareness and allow playful relationships to develop through contact, imagination and exploration of physical activity. 

A social safe-haven

Benefits of Yoga for Adults 

These are numerous! Practising yoga can bring flexibility, improve strength and posture, stretch and strengthen the body and provide opportunities to practise breath control. These in turn provide tools for stress management. 

Attending a yoga class provides ‘restorative ‘me’ time away from the distractions of home, family and work, opportunities to de-stress, receive tuition on new postures and progression of others to give confidence in home practice. Classes provide a chance to develop relaxation, breathing and meditation and a guided way to develop a more supple and stronger body. 

Anyone can practise yoga, at any age, at any time in life. As practice develops, you will find you can handle yourself better under stress, breathe to relax your body and free your mind for clearer thinking, you can become more centred, calm and balanced.

A Parent’s Perspective 

After attending a year of my Baby Bumpkin classes with her little boy, who was just 8 weeks old when they started together, a mum wrote: 

“I just wanted to pass on a big thank you for the wonderful hour we get to experience with you each week for our baby bumpkin class. It's been wonderful seeing our little ones develop through your class. This one hour is such quality and bonding time each week that I will dearly miss once I go back to work. 
When life gets, tough I will take a moment and remember the relaxation I felt each time we came to your class  I hope we will be able to keep it up and still see you for some classes in the new year. It's been the best class for babies we have attended and are forever grateful for your efforts each week in making it so enjoyable.” 

Within this message from the new mum, she has expressed key points of the benefits outlined in this essay. She notes:
  • The regularity of an hourly class each week – providing a safe haven and routine to her and her little one in the all in important maternity leave first year. 
  • She has seen her child develop physically within the class over the months, the class allowing a framework to mark these developments. 
  • She mentions the importance of the quality bonding time she has experienced within these classes. 
  • Finally, she reflects on the importance of being able to relax with her little one and how this time has given anchor memories that will help with future stress when busy life takes over. 
As a Baby Bumpkin teacher, it's a privilege to be able to offer the benefits of yoga to families and children. To receive feedback such as the above re-enforces the good work yoga provides. 

Going back to the words of Geeta Iyengar, “Nature has endowed women with the responsibility of perpetuating mankind. The wealth of a nation and health of a future generation is dependent upon her physical and mental well-being"  I hope I have outlined in this blog how the benefits of yoga can help provide the building blocks of a healthy future generation by families practicing their yoga together. 

Sarah Gott 
Tatty Bumpkin Advanced Children's Yoga Teacher


Geeta Iyengar. 'Yoga: A Gem For Women'. 2002. Timeless Books.  

Martha Bronson. 'Self-Regulation in Early Childhood'. 2000. Guildford Press. 

British Wheel of Yoga. ‘Introducing Yoga into Your life’ .

Baby Bumpkin Training Manual. Tatty Bumpkin Ltd. 

Francoise Barbira Freedman. ‘Yoga for Mother and Baby’. 2010. CICO Books.

Jackie Silberg, ‘Games to Play with Babies’. 2004. Brilliant Publications. 

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