How Baby Yoga can be adapted in relation to milestones as well as catering for babies as individuals.

Babies are born and they grow. They all have their own time to take steps. Some have bigger steps, some fast; some grow fast, some slow. But at last they all become able to do more complex things as they get older. This is called development. When we talk about development, we are talking about developing skills which we can group into five general areas:  gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language skills, social and play skills and cognitive skills.

There are many factors that affect the  babies ability to develop their skills. Some factors like genetic factors are uncontrollable but there are also  environmental factors that can affect your babies development. Development cannot be hurried, but restriction of movement and stimulation can cause delays.

Babies are very open to new experiences. They love to move. They love being touched. They are eager for communication and interaction. They are very flexible. Baby yoga classes offer them lovely touch of their caregivers, movement and rhythm and benefits of deep relaxation. In my baby yoga class (3 months to crawling) I can easily see that baby yoga helps babies and mummies while taking steps in development milestones.

Here I will introduce how baby yoga assists motor development.

Gross motor skills is about using large muscles like trunk, limb and neck muscles. They include such milestones as head control, sitting, crawling and walking. Fine motor skills are finger and hand skills that baby uses to manipulate toys. They also develop in an orderly progression from imprecise punch-like reaching to pinpoint pick-up with thumb and index fingers. Although motor development is grouped as gross and fine motor skills, here after, I will  refer to ‘gross motor’ skills as I use the term ‘motor’ skills.

Motor development is from head to toe. Motor skills from birth to two years means getting more and more of the body off the ground, moving from head to toe.

A new born baby can barely lift his head off the surface. He has no weight on his legs. He need to strengthen his muscles, open his chest area to find a balance in the position. Baby yoga helps babies develop these skills. Diagonal stretches with legs and arms tone back muscles and promote suppleness and strength. Arm movements strengthens arms.  We always start the class by soft baby massage, heating up the muscles before practice. We first open the chest area by circular and diagonal strokes. We encourage shoulders to unfold which is so important because babies spent around 40 weeks inside mummies wombs where they have been curled and their front body is completely closed. Opening chest is not only good for helping to raise up and control their heads, but also for proper breathing habits which is vital for health. I encourage mummies to take their babies on their tummies where they can help their babies to open his chest, taking the shoulders back. We help babies strengthen their upper back and neck muscles through being on their tummies. There babies can feel the lengthening of the upper spine and position their heads. Gradually, extending from the spine, they will be holding their heads more steady and eventually lifting their heads to 90 degrees and scaning 180 degrees easily around four months.

After your baby develops the strength to hold his head up, he’ll learn to roll over. Rolling over is one of your baby’s first steps towards becoming mobile.  Rolling from back to side starts around third month, they gradually roll from tummy to side, than from tummy to back, lastly will be rolling over both ways by the sixth month. Firstly, your baby needs to perceive his whole body as ‘one’. Baby massage and whole body strokes help him to recognize his body: back and front, up and down. Rolling your baby over your laps, spiral ups and downs, scoop spiral ups raise awareness of the body while enjoying him. Than, he needs to strengthen his neck and arm muscles. Baby yoga sequences will help them through. Putting your baby on his tummy, he positions in a cobra position where he  props himself up on his arms and hold his chest off the ground, where he strengthens his neck and arm muscles. Arm stretches, winding and rolling arms, bindings are also good exercises for strengthening the arm muscles.  Now your baby is ready to roll over to explore more of the world around.

Now that the baby has head control and started to roll over,  he will be practicing sitting unsupported. Before having complete head control or rolling over skills, he can only sit with support. To sit independently, he needs to add strong back muscles. Self lifts with your soft support is one of the most important vinyasa which help babies strengthen their core muscles together with back muscles, arm, belly and neck muscles. These lifts help them a lot during their first months of developmental milestones.  Massaging back  is important since back muscles contract in daily moves  and need to relax and lengthen to gain strength. Most babies mastered sitting up independently between 6 to 9 months.

Crawling is a milestone that a baby will reach sometime between six and nine months of age. This time he will need to add more abdominal muscle strength. All the milestones he traveled over since now supports to strengthen them, like rolling and sitting. But it can also be supported by extra baby yoga moves. Putting him on his tummy is most beneficial posture for sure. Encouraging crawling with soft support while he is on his tummy, prone gentle twists,  prone heels to hips, prone push/counter push and abdominal massage help abdominal muscles. Self lifts help core strength. Hip sequences help opening the hips and releasing the spine. Push and counter push helps legs muscles. Once he starts crawling he is graduated from baby yoga classes  since now it will be impossible to hold him stay nearby for 1 hour!

As he moves through these milestones he will always need to be in balance to hold and continue. Sitting and standing balances and see-saw balance moves are fun ways to improve balance and harmony.

All babies experience developmental milestones. Although  average times are given for each milestone, it is important to respect each babies development pace. All babies are different and unique and all have different genetic and environmental conditions. Although they are small and they need our help, babies should be considered as individuals. As parents and caregivers, we should develop interaction and fulfill their specific needs. Showing respect with love, meeting their needs and supporting them when they need, our babies will feel surrounded by love in a safe world from where they will start taking little steps. In our baby yoga classes we promote touch and movement with love and respect.In this way we communicate and apply yoga principles that changes lives.

Ayca Yılmaz