The neurons in a baby’s brain, from birth, start to connect optimally when they are engaged in a positive communication with their main carer. This exchange of love helps babies develop and make smoother transitions to the next phase in their development, for example from lying to sitting, from sitting to moving.
Therefore, best gifts an adult can give a child are attention, bonding and communication as well as time to play, create, dream and explore. It is scientifically proven that children learn best by listening to words coming from loving adults, either through talking or reading, by playing and by touching. Research shows that bonding with a main carer is of key importance during the early years of a child’s life, particularly the first year.
When we are attuned with their desires or communication, we give and they receive cues to help understand their world.
As babies develop during the first year, they start to actively explore the world through all of their senses, the key being ALL of their senses. Often they will do an activity over and over again, and still think it is funny or fascinating. They are looking to their primary caregiver to interpret the world for them. When we are attuned with their desires or communication, we give and they receive cues to help understand their world. They are communicating using ‘words,’ eye contact, body language, and cries. As children become more mobile their world expands. It is truly amazing to watch a child go from sitting to becoming mobile in a matter of months, thus acquiring the new skill of independence.
Given the enormous physical and cognitive growth during this period, here are some ways baby yoga and baby massage can support the developments taking place:
1. ATTUNEMENT – The art of being present and responsive. During this period of curiosity, attunement is essential; it is how babies learn. Baby massage and yoga bring 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. Baby yoga encourages a relationship with your baby based on acceptance and patience and how to learn to decipher your baby’s cues. For example, when a baby looks turns his/her head away, your baby needs a break from interaction. This can be misread as rejection. The only helpful response to this is to give your baby the break he/she needs.
2. HOLDING –When a baby is being held, he/she feels safe. Baby yoga encourages you to trust the power of positive touch together with your baby. Through relaxed walking, specific holds and breathing exercises, it is possible to calm a crying baby. Of course, it may not always work, but it is useful to build on techniques, knowledge and confidence in handling your baby.
Babies can often spend a lot of their day separated from their parents’ bodies; in car seats, bouncers and cots. Baby yoga exercises recreate active closeness, a structured way of relating dynamically with babies. The postures are very gentle in the first few classes and then explore a greater range of movement. This enhances the vestibular system, the part of our brain that coordinates our spatial awareness, sets a foundation for good posture, balance, flexibility and agility.
3. PLAY – Children learn and develop both cognitively and physically through play. During a baby or toddler yoga class, a parent joins his/her child and they explore the world together through play. The neurons in a baby’s brain, from birth, start to connect optimally when they are engaged in a positive communication with their main carer. After three/four months, a baby loves communicating through play and starts to copy what he/she observes. As a result, the child feels safer to take risks and go beyond the original safety zone. Yoga helps toddlers give physical expression to emotions, images and adventures as well as promoting spinal alignment, balance and flexibility.
4. TOUCH – During pregnancy and birth, new mothers release the hormone oxytocin, associated with relaxing, connecting and nurturing. Baby massage and yoga both stimulate the ongoing positive effects of this hormone. A loving touch also helps regulate the stress hormone, cortisol. The more massage and yoga practiced with your baby, the greater combined sensory effects take place to enhance this closeness.
There are many educational toys and activities available today which help foster curiosity and learning in babies. Having options to help promote the growth and development of children is wonderful. However, there is no replacement for positive one-on-one time with mum or dad and what better way to do this than by practising baby yoga or baby massage. Remember, most babies are more impressed with the boxes that the toys come in than the actual toy. Have fun with your baby; it is a time of incredible growth and learning for both of you.
Ref. Cindy Hill-Ford, Francoise Freedman