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Are Baby Classes Causing Sensory Overwhelm?

The case for simple parent and baby classes to avoid sensory overwhelm.

Are some baby classes causing babies to become overwhelmed? Can you tell when your baby is overstimulated? Do you know what the signs might be?

Behavioural signs

crying baby
Babies use body language and cries to communicate their feelings.

If babies are overstimulated, they will try to disengage. They might seem fussy. Furthermore, their movements might be jerky, they might continually look away and avoid eye contact. Their eyes may glaze over. Babies may start crying if the source of over stimulation is not removed. In some cases they will even fall asleep as a protective measure to try and avoid the stimulation.

Because our society is OBSESSED with infant sleep (that is a whole other blog post!) – this is often interpreted as a good thing. I have seen this spoken about as a great benefit of some baby classes that offer lots of external stimulation.

Classes appeal to parents

It is my personal view that a lot of baby classes (including some other baby yoga classes) are not ACTUALLY designed for the benefit of your baby. Classes with all the twinkly flashy lights, noisy bits, and fancy themed layout – you know the ones. They are actually designed to appeal to the parents, providing fun photo opportunities with baby. But, if you are looking to actually connect with your child, you just need to be with them, use your voice, and interact. The added extras are just distractions, fluff that can actually interfere with healthy development.

Our baby classes are different from a lot of baby classes – I don’t use a lot of props. Why? Because your babies don’t NEED extra sensory stimulation. The world is stimulating enough, in fact too much input can lead to sensory overload.

Babies just need you

In class, I guide you to use touch, movement, our voices and interaction. I have a couple of very simple props that I repeatedly use, so babies become used to them. However, most of the time I concentrate on the connection between you and your child.

3 mothers sat next to each other in circle, withbabies lying on ground in front of them. Mums are looking at babies, and using their hands to get babies attention as they make movements for song.
Calming babies using just their voices and bodies

I plan all my classes to help with development in a gentle, considerate way. You learn ways to deal with an overstimulated baby, for when life is just a bit too much. Our everyday living can be overwhelming to a baby – bright lights, loud noises, strong smells. It is therefore useful to have some ways to help sooth an overwrought baby whilst staying calm yourself.

mother lying on her back, making eye contact with baby. Mother is holding baby at arms length over her, so baby is 'flying'.
Bonding, flying, building strength.

Some parents view my baby yoga classes as a time to be peaceful and relax and bond with baby – and with other mothers in the class too. Take away the bells and whistles and there is more time to connect.

 

Edit : After posting this article, I realised that I had not given credit to the wonderful training body that instilled the values I hold dear in my classes. Birthlight train baby yoga and baby swimming teachers to be loving and respectful of babies and their developmental needs. The teachings are true to the philosophy of yoga, and I am honoured to have received their guidance. 

In addition, it’s not just baby yoga that provides classes without the extra sensory tools. There are some great baby swimming classes, sign and signing classes and infant massage classes that all are firmly focused on the bonding between baby and parent. So, if your class isn’t flashy, it’s not because it’s boring your baby – there is solid reasoning behind calm classes.

Connect & Grow Together With Yoga

Connect & Grow Together With Yoga

(and Child’s Pose Yoga)

 

Pink cupcake with candle shaped like a number 1.
                      Happy Business Birthday!

It has officially been a year since my little business started (HOORAY!) – so I thought I’d do a wee blog post on my ‘Why’.

If you were to ask me to boil it down to one word, it would be CONNECTION. Baby yoga, toddler yoga, kids and family yoga, my new Women’s Circles – all of it is about the connection.

Before Yoga

I used to work for the police. I worked shifts, in a busy control room. Then I became pregnant. I had a bad pregnancy – I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (extremely bad pregnancy sickness) – and was off work for months. Then, after I gave birth to my son, I developed postnatal PTSD, with depression and anxiety. The result of all this ill health was a huge feeling of isolation. There were points when I felt very on my own and unsupported.

Then, I discovered yoga as a way to help heal my body and my mind.

My Next Steps

I left my job with the police. I retrained to be able to teach baby yoga. It started with just that, then my offering grew as I underwent more training. All my classes, all my workshops, everything I do has connection at the heart of it. My journey would have been easier if I’d been supported by a community. I am grateful for all the help I received after realising I COULD ask for help. I hope that by teaching my classes, and getting people to connect, bond and grow together, there will be less chance of others feeling the isolation I did.

Yoga Heals

Photograph of young child sitting on mothers knee, holding a ball. Mother is kissing the child
Bonding during a story yoga session
Mother is seated, leaning over baby lying on ground, looking into baby's eyes. Mother has coloured juggling scarves to play peek a boo with.
Playing peek-a-boo in class

Yoga is a fantastic tool to help with personal wellbeing. It makes perfect sense that we teach this to our children from as early a point as possible. I teach you how to use yoga to bond and connect with your child. It is not all super bendy poses and ‘ommm-ing’ – it is fun and exciting. We play games, we make funny faces and noises. I absolutely love seeing parents and children connect in class – and seeing the families interact with other families.

That is my Why.

Choose the right baby class in baby yoga

Which class is right for us?

Choose the right baby class

How do you choose the right baby class for you and your baby? You are interested in baby yoga – but which class do you choose? A lot of baby yoga providers only offer classes until baby can move on their own – Child’s Pose Yoga is different. There are classes that are perfect for tiny babies right through to the toddler years, and beyond!

Below is a quick explanation of the classes I offer.

All classes involve yoga moves for both parent and baby. They are about connecting and bonding together, through the practice of yoga. I split baby classes depending on your baby’s ability to independently move around. I also structure classes around the babies, taking into account their need to foster close attachments with their carers. 

Pre-mobile Babies

Mother is seated, leaning over baby lying on ground, looking into baby's eyes. Mother has coloured juggling scarves to play peek a boo with.
Playing peek-a-boo in class

The first class offered is the baby yoga class – for babies from 8 weeks until they are crawling. These classes revolve around the connection between parent and baby – they are about bonding, gentle movements, and support. There are a lot of baby moves to assist in the development of their growing bodies. Mum moves take into account postnatal recovery, and babies need to keep mothers close. 

Crawling Babies

‘Tots’ classes are for mobile babies. This can mean crawling, rolling, bum shuffling, toddling – or any other form of movement. When babies become mobile, they naturally want to move and explore. This can make doing yoga with them more of a challenge.  Rising to the challenge is about organising fun filled classes where we let them move, and go with the flow. You will engage your tot with more dynamic baby moves. When their desire to explore or move takes precedent, we do more adult yoga – increasing the amount of moves we learn and practice in class.

At the mobile baby stage, I also provide use a few more props for engaging babies in the yoga session. I am really happy to use Yummikeys and Yummirings in all classes, they are great for teething and sensory play. I recently agreed to be a Yummikeys stockist too – so you can get your own set in class if you like them!

crawling baby looking into camera in foreground, mother doing yoga in background
Babies love to explore!

Tots classes are suitable for older babies and young toddlers until they are about 18 months old, or until you want to try them in a toddler class (it’s best discussing this before booking them straight into a toddler class).

Mixed classes

Occasionally, I will run some mixed classes, combining age ranges and abilities. Babies often love these classes, as they get to interact with younger and older babies. If you are unsure which class works for you and your child, these classes contain a lot of alternatives, and you can pick the one that suits you and your baby best. 

Check out our timetable to find a class to suit you! (If there isn’t one near you, please do get in touch. I’m happy to put on a new class if there’s a demand for it!)

Please also get in touch if you are still unsure, I can help you choose the right baby class!

Plastic Problems

Plastic is Not Fantastic – Or Doing Yoga ethically…

Will 2018 be looked back on as the year the world turned its back on single use plastic? In the UK, at least, thanks to Sir David Attenborough and BBC’s Blue Planet II, it became part of the zeitgeist. The general public had a collective ‘Eureka’ moment – suddenly seeing the damaging effects of all the waste we create.

My ‘Eureka’ moment for all that came slightly earlier – in 2015.  On becoming pregnant, I started thinking more and more about the impact our choices were making on the planet.  I didn’t want to be contributing tonnes of nappies a year to landfill.

patterned cloth nappy on babies bottom
The patterns on cloth nappies are too cute!

Cue the dive into the world of ethical baby products, cloth nappies and wipes.  It is something I would heartily recommend to anyone considering it as an option. There are loads of great online articles, blogs and support groups to help you on your cloth journey too.

Ethics and accessibility

When I came to start my own business, it was only natural that I would look into how I could run according to my eco-values. 

purple yoga mats set out in a circle with cushions and blankets at end
Baby class set up at the Space Upstairs – such a lovely venue!

I provide my own mats for my yogis in most venues I teach in. This is to help make yoga accessible to everyone. Quite frankly, parents have enough to lug about without adding a yoga mat.  It also means you don’t need to get anything new when coming to class. If you’ve never done yoga before, you can come and try it without buying new things. 

     

Natural Mats

purple mats in circle, with demonstration doll on one mat and coloured scarves and balls in the middle of circle
Special class set up for the Dalgety Bay Gala this year!

The mats I provide are Eco Yoga mats – they are made from natural rubber and jute – not PVC or other plastics, like most yoga mats. With care, they will last just as long, if not longer, than their plastic contemporaries. When they do eventually need to be replaced, they will decompose down if disposed of correctly. I also think they are pretty awesome mats to do yoga on! (Some people may have issues with latex – if you have a rubber allergy, let me know. I will source an alternative.)

Careful considerations

When I use props in my classes, I try and make them myself, or source them second hand or ethically. I prefer to use natural materials for their sensory qualities. When I do use plastics, I make sure they are not single use, and that I have carefully considered alternatives. 

purple mats in circle with coloured juggling scarves and balls in centre

I try to make sure that what we use in class is not negatively impacting the planet, or people in any way. This is in line with the Yamas in yoga philosophy (that is, the ethical guidelines to try and live by). 

If you are trying to cut down on the plastic yourself then it might be reassuring to know your yoga practice with us is eco-friendly too! 

 

Too Wild For Toddler Yoga?

Is your toddler too wild for toddler yoga?

Do you miss the yoga class now you have a toddler?

Or maybe you’d like to try yoga out, but can’t see how you’d find the time in your toddler’s busy schedule?

Would you like to share the joy of yoga with your toddler, but unsure how to engage them?

One of my absolute favourite things is teaching yoga to toddlers and their caregivers. When I speak to people about toddlers doing yoga, some immediately get the benefits yoga could bring to toddlers. Others wonder how on earth you get a toddler to participate in a yoga class. Truth be told, some sessions are easier than others. There are days where it feels a bit like herding cats – and that’s OK! With toddlers, you have to appreciate that it is developmentally appropriate for them to want to run around and push boundaries, and explore new things. My job as a toddler yoga teacher is to try and get them to focus that curiosity and energy into practising yoga in fun ways.

My job as a mum is slightly different – I have a wild child. The boy in the orange is my son. I’m on the far right, giving him a hug. This is a yoga class I took him too, where I didn’t listen to my own advice. I spent the time trying to control his behaviour, and got stressed out. Look at the pictures though – he’s enjoying himself, the teacher is cool with it. I should practice what I preach, right? 

By structuring classes in such a way as to hold toddlers attention (as much as is possible) – we can encourage them to participate in games and activities. These games and activities are actually ways of making yoga fun, because we all want to do something fun, even as grown ups. And if they don’t join in – you can be sure they are having fun, and absorbing it all, like a sponge. My son does the poses from that class at home now. 

The benefits of yoga for toddlers are wide and varied.

The physical – improving strength & flexibility and developing co-ordination & balance to name a few – are carried out in a non-competitive environment. This encourages children to try a pose or, as some often do, observe poses in class, then try them out at home when they feel ready. Toddlers can become more aware of their own bodies, & learn that the more they try things, the easier they become.

Yoga is more than just physical exercise. The non-physical benefits are equally important. Toddlers can learn to self regulate their behaviour, and it can improve mental and emotional wellbeing.

 Toddler wrapped in a yoga matYoga classes can help toddlers build concentration as they follow instructions. They encourage imagination, as we use our bodies to interpret the world around us. Games often have children using their breath, learning to control that in fun ways, that can help teach them to RELAX – which is such an important life skill that is often overlooked.

I plan classes so that they are toddler led – and let them know they are in charge of what they want to do in class. This shows them that we are respectful of their boundaries. This, and other activities in class help model appropriate behaviour to toddlers. You will actively explore themes of kindness, respect, generosity and compassion in our classes – as all these qualities are intertwined with the philosophy of yoga.

But of course – none of this would be possible without the class being FUN!

 

We use our imaginations, stories, songs and games to ensure toddlers actually want to come back to class, and keep sharing yoga time with their Mummies or Daddies – that’s right, it’s not just the toddlers doing the exercise in class – you also get class time to interact and learn some fun things to do at home after class has finished!

Happy toddler in Happy Baby pose, with mother in same pose in background

Yoga can help with toddler’s confidence, as they become aware that they can make their bodies do things, and can interact in a secure, supportive environment, as and when they choose to. Sitting observing is great, if that’s all they choose to do – as is taking themselves off to a quiet corner if they need the space. Every child has different needs, and by respecting those needs, we give them the best environment in which to flourish.

Finally, I’m sure some of you are saying ‘that sounds amazing, but my child is far too active to enjoy yoga’.  Imagine your active toddler finding a calmer outlet for their energies. Imagine them realising that relaxation can be just as fun as constant action.  In class, I will often tell parents that it is OK to let their child run about. The only ‘rules’ are that they are not hurting anyone or really disturbing the class. Often just continuing the class and allowing the teacher to maybe adjust the pace slightly, your child will re-engage without the need to impose control on them. Concentrating on the class can focus their attention on the class too.

Come along, try a few sessions. You will not be judged for your child’s exuberance. It could be the very tool they need for their emotional toolbox!

Self Care Sundays

You may have noticed that I often use my social media accounts to share or link to a post, using the hashtag #selfcaresunday. If you follow many baby or mental health blogs, you might find a lot of them do the same. I’d like to explain why I think it is important to get that weekly reminder to look after yourself; and what ‘self care’ means anyway!

A half empty glass with text reading You can't pour from an empty glassWhen we become parents, we go through a change. Suddenly, you are responsible for this tiny human. They are completely incapable of doing anything for themselves. It can be very easy to fall into the way of putting all of your energy and time into looking after your baby, and forgetting about yourself. Over time, however, if this continues, you will become depleted, and you can’t look after a baby if you are running on empty yourself. Although we should practice self care EVERY day, I hope my weekly nudge reminds you in case you have forgotten in the daily rush that is life with small children.

There is an industry built on ‘self-care’ – things like bath bombs, candles, face masks – and if that’s what makes you feel better about yourself, or helps you relax, that’s great. However, I think it overlooks the small acts of self care that we all need to do to stay afloat. For me, that is things like having a shower, trying to maintain a tidy space (difficult with a toddler), and remembering to eat and drink on busy days! My personal exercise and yoga practice is also important to me – and as I have been struggling to make classes recently, I booked a one to one session with a yoga teacher friend recently, so she could put together an at-home personal practice to help me ‘move on’ in my yoga practice.  

It’s all about remembering to fit in time for yourself – which is something I incorporate into every baby and toddler yoga session I teach. The simple fact you choose a class for both you and your child is a great start.  In addition teaching you to share your yoga practice with your child, I ensure you get a chance to relax at the end of every session. The more you practice relaxing, both in class and at home, the more your child becomes accustomed to you taking the time to look after yourself. Modelling self care like this is an excellent lesson to be teaching your little ones! 

I’d love to hear from you on how you fit in self care for yourself – both the boring ‘brushing your teeth’ sort, and the fitting in a yoga class/massage sort too!

 

World Mental Health Day 2018

my maternal mental health story #maternalMHmatters

 

TODAY is the start of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and here at Child’s Pose Yoga, I am giving the week over to a series of blog posts on maternal mental health matters – which is a matter that is very close to my heart, as I suffered from mental health issues following the birth of our honey badger.

I could ramble on and on about the subject for days, so to give my posts some sort of structure, I am going to attempt to follow the themes laid out for the week. So – first post is ‘What is perinatal mental health?’

You can read a variety of articles online to find out exactly what perinatal mental health encompasses, so I am not going to inexpertly replicate any of them – instead I will talk about MY perinatal mental health.

Due to the hyperemesis gravidarum I suffered from throughout my pregnancy, I was probably at least a little bit depressed before I gave birth, I don’t really think my issues started properly until afterwards. Any lowered mood I felt then I blamed on the fact I was being sick all-the-blimmin’ time.

If I were to describe what exactly I am still recovering from, I would say it was a mix of postnatal depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress. My medical notes in the year and a bit I was signed off work for after my maternity leave simply said postnatal depression.

Happy Mummy face and Baby
What I showed the world – my FB profile pic when Honey Badger was about 3 months old

From the moment my son was born, I was very protective of him, I didn’t like being away from him, and if someone else was holding him when he cried, I got very very anxious. I was exhausted from a tough pregnancy, and lack of sleep following that – honey badger refused to sleep in his cot, or indeed anywhere except on me or his daddy. I had grazes following the birth that were situated right at my urethra – so whenever I went for a pee, I was in absolute agony – I felt like the pain was worse than labour itself. My husband started a new job three days after our son was born, so he wasn’t able to take any maternity leave, and I felt suddenly all alone with this tiny being, and completely unprepared for parenthood.

I got very teary, but was advised that this was probably just the ‘baby blues’. However, they didn’t go away, and I would spend hours crying, feeling like I was wasting the time I had with my newborn. I would end up shouting at him as he woke up every time I tried to close my eyes for a bit of sleep, and I would manically sing nursery rhymes to try and calm him as I tried to grab a quick shower. It got to the stage that his crying became a trigger for my anxiety – I would do anything to try and stop him crying, I felt like I was a terrible mother if I let him cry at all. On top of this, I started having intrusive thoughts – of dropping him down the stairs, or shaking him to stop him crying – and although I was certain I would never act on any thoughts that would cause him harm, they were very distressing, and I was ashamed of having them.

Teary eyed me with baby boy
This was how my husband would find me on return from work most days. Welcoming, no?

I did try to seek help from the doctor, but I was told that to take antidepressants, I would have to stop breastfeeding. Stopping the one thing I felt I was actually good at as a mother would have made me feel worse, so I decided not to take the pills that were offered. No other help was really forthcoming at this point, so I continued on the way I was.

My anxiety got worse. My crying got worse. I started having postpartum rages, where I would be inexplicably FURIOUS at something, and I felt like I no longer knew who I was. I would frequently fall out with my husband, and this would trigger more unwelcome thoughts.

I started to think it might be better if I was no longer around. One night, after another argument, I lay in bed and started researching suicide methods. I was ‘trapped’, feeding my son, so couldn’t act on any urges to hurt myself – and it was the thought of my son growing up without a mother, even one as rubbish as I thought I was that made me reach out to a friend. She told me to tell my husband how I felt – which I did, and the next day was a whirlwind of scary activity, that saw my at the GP, then at the hospital, then home again with a prescription for the same antidepressants I had been offered months before, but this time I was told I could breastfeed whilst taking them.

That was almost two years ago, and I have since gone through talking therapy, taken up yoga and mindfulness, (started teaching baby yoga!) – and I still take the pills (and I still breastfeed!).

I am on the road to recovery. If you ever feel like I did, know that, with help, you can recover too.

10/10/2018 edit : 

This article has just popped up on my timeline – It’s by Eve Canavan, a rather brilliant woman who has become an ardent campaigner for perinatal mental health awareness, following her experience of postpartum psychosis. It’s well worth a read.

Exploring yoga through stories

A tale of toddlers, and Gruffalo Yoga…

At the start of the summer, I completed my toddler yoga training with Birthlight. This is a follow on from the baby yoga  for mobile babies– for the next stage of your child’s development.

Child peering through adult's legs
Peek a boo!

As a previous children’s specialist bookseller, I am thrilled that this stage can now include storytelling as part of the class. Some classes  follow a simple narrative throughout the class, like a trip to the beach. Others can use a storybook as inspiration for the moves and games in the class. This inspired me to take a look at one of my favourite children’s storybooks – The Gruffalo – and make it into a yoga story.

In the beginning…

The first session was held in Dunfermline Public Park – where there is a Gruffalo and Mouse woodcarving, by local wood artist Johnny Chainsaw. There are also other woodland creatures, and a mystical wizard in the School Wood beside the park, and there is a seat for the Dunfermline Giant. The park is definitely worth a visit if you like a nice wander in the woods – and excitingly, come November, there will be a brand new playpark too! (I’m very excited about this – we love a playpark!)

Back to the yoga though – the first session sold out, as did the second session. The day was glorious, and Rachel from Shootsweet Photography came to take photos of the first session. She really managed to capture the mood of the class, and you can see her wonderful photos below.

A move indoors, and a new venue…

Next outing for the Gruffalo yoga was in Edinburgh, at the end of the festival. It was meant to be another yoga in the park event, but the week before the classes, the weather forecast for the day started to look bad, then worse… the tail end of an Atlantic storm was due to hit the UK. Cue a frantic scramble for an indoor venue (note to self: always have a back up!)

Luckily, I struck gold with St Stephen’s Stockbridge agreeing to accommodate us. It was a stroke of luck in more ways than one, as they have now also agreed to accommodate us for a monthly toddler story yoga class!

Future Story Yoga Adventures…

So, a new chapter is about to begin. Join me in Edinburgh for our story yoga sessions on the following dates : 

Sunday 30 September – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury (bring your teddy!)

Sunday 28 October – Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Hallowe’en session – feel free to dress up!)

Sunday 18 November – Draw me a Star by Eric Carle

Sunday 16 December – The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Xmas jumpers optional)

Sessions are kept small, to ensure the space doesn’t get too busy – so booking is essential. Tickets are available for the September session now, with the other sessions going on sale shortly.

I will soon be introducing family yoga sessions for older children, but at present, the toddler yoga sessions are suitable for 2-4 year olds and their parents. Siblings are also welcome to come along, I will always work to accommodate them in the session too.

I hope to see you all on the mats – I love sharing these yoga tales with you!

Sarah x

Photograph of young child sitting on mothers knee, holding a ball. Mother is kissing the childtwo children in foreground, looking up, open mouthed, in lion breath pose. adults and children in background watching on.