Yoga

​ Why I love (teaching and using) Baby Massage

I initially started teaching Baby Massage to cover a good friend on maternity leave with her twins, thinking it would complement what I do nicely anyhow. I didn’t expect to love it and learn from it as much as I have and do. So I wanted to share with you how precious it is for babies, parents, maybe grandparents and carers too.

History

Baby massage is older than people may realise. It has been passed down through generations in many different countries across the world; including Asia, Africa and New Zealand. It was brought to the USA by a lady called Vimala McClure. During her stay in India in the 1970’s, McClure saw mothers massaging their babies as she walked around the villages. Also, when she fell ill, she experienced how the people there used massage to help some of the patients back to health. When I had Matilda, we just went to class as it sounded nice. I had no idea of the numerous benefits until I came to teach it.

Bonding

I didn’t have trouble bonding with Matilda but I still could have done more massage with her. I had a traumatic birth experience and so struggled with PTSD and anxiety for a while afterwards. (I can only tell that in hindsight.) Human touch is like nutrition, especially for babies. It literally nourishes them.
Some of the massage strokes involve songs or rhymes so it is also nice to use your voice (another way to release stress is to sing) and gently entertain your baby that way. Baby massage helps produce Oxytocin, the love hormone, so it can help with depression and PTSD.

Not just for babies, but older children too

I still do massage on Matilda and she’s 3.5. When we’ve gotten cross with each other and need to calm down and re-connect, I like to offer her my love with some massage. And she’ll often ask for it now too which is lovely. Once babies get to like their massage, even though you think they may crawl away whilst you do it, they’ll often pause to watch me (the teacher) or take in what another baby is doing, so it’s a great learning/social environment in class too.

Tummy troubles

Baby massage is commonly sought by parents of babies with constipation, wind or colic. It can be excellent to help ‘get things moving’ and release trapped wind through some very simple strokes. As well as my daughter, I’ve had the pleasure of massaging my niece and a friend’s baby and had reports of “they did a poo soon after! Thank you!”.

Posture

I’m a posture geek in my other work as a personal trainer and yoga teacher so I was excited to learn that baby massage can also help with posture. You might be thinking “posture for babies?!”. However, we might realise as adults that our posture could be better and we may suffer due to tight shoulders or standing badly, so why not work on it from a tiny age? Poor habits can start early on; for example wearing stiff soled shoes too soon can inhibit the natural movement of the foot.
Through a few simple strokes or just an awareness of the body holding tension, you could help your child hold their body in greater comfort and confidence. I’d love my daughter to have a good awareness of her body and it’s capabilities as she grows older. When babies begin to crawl or walk they can sometimes develop tension in the hips or shoulders for example (as it’s a bit like body weight exercise), so this hands on time in massage can help you identify and remedy this.

 For more information on my Baby Massage and Mamma Yoga classes,

see here.

Below are a couple of case studies to show what Baby Massage has helped with in my classes. Names have been changed for privacy:
Jade and Oscar: Jade came to class with Oscar and said she couldn’t put him down at all, he needed to be held all the time. Cuddles are great, of course but also us Mums need a few minutes to use both hands. Jade said after the first course the Oscar was way more content and less clingy. She could put him down and he’d calmly watch her instead. (Jade and several of her NCT pals came to the course three times in a row.)
Rita and Amber: Baby Amber came with her Mum, Clare a few times and when Amber was a bit older, she came every week with her Granny, Rita. It was lovely to see the two of them come and enjoy this time together, so Clare could get some rest or run an errand or two. Rita was having chemotherapy during the time they came to class so I’d often pick up little Amber for her, as she was weak. I’m happy to say she made a full recovery from the cancer. I think baby massage was their special bonding time, so that Amber got to know Granny that way too. Very moving…
Thank you to Lizzie and Alex from my current class in Caversham, who have kindly let me use their photos which I take on the fourth week of the course.
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Dynamic Stretching for Postural Correction

Stretching after exercise is very important, not only to prevent muscle soreness the next day, but to also allow the muscles to realign and not remain overly tight following exertion. However, you should also use stretches even without doing any physical activity. Due to everyday activities; be it standing, sitting for long periods or lifting things regularly, your body will develop areas of tension. This is simply the body’s clever way of supporting itself; when in the same position time after time, certain muscles come into play, adapting and becoming shorter and tighter. Your muscles will stay this way unless they are attended to with some simple stretches. Further help can be sought through classes like yoga, which is fantastic for lengthening muscles, improving flexibility and posture.
To prevent a build up of tension and its visible effects e.g. hunched shoulders, rounded back, neck jutting forwards, short stride length in gait, it is useful to try and integrate some movements that are key to realigning the body towards optimal posture as well as greater comfort. These movements can, in turn, help prevent injury. With one set of muscles dominating a movement where there should be an equal balance, this can cause other muscles to strain to compensate and lead to a pull, strain or even a tear.
If you are sitting for long periods of time your hip flexors are prone to becoming tight. This tension can alter your posture and affect your gait, which in turn may lead to pain or injury.

Here is a stretch pattern to remedy this area:

Lunge forwards with your left foot in front, allowing both knees to form a right angle and reach up as high as you can with your right arm while keeping your shoulder blades down your back. Then step back to a neutral standing position. Repeat this 15-20 times, or until you feel looser in the hip flexor area. Then change sides.
NOTE: To increase the stretch sensation, add a rotation in your torso either towards or away from the front leg. Take care however, as it can have quite a dramatic effect.

Another common complaint, in sportsmen particularly, is tight hamstrings. Instead of the usual static hold you may already know, we will add some movement to allow maximum benefit. Step your right foot backwards leaving the left foot to rock onto the heel, then take your hips back while reaching your arms forwards (towards your toes or out ahead of you). Now step back up to a standing position and repeat. Imagine someone is pulling your hips backwards and your hands forwards to get the best stretch!

This dynamic form of stretching is far more beneficial in the long term than the static type; the muscles are naturally stretched in two or three planes of motion to trigger contraction back towards a position of least effort/tension — we call it centre: you currently know it as neutral.

To support this increased flexibility you should work on your core strength to allow the spine to align well in accordance with the surrounding muscles. Core stability is important to everyone, active or not; it can help to prevent back pain and to have greater control over your stomach muscles, achieving a slimmer and more toned appearance. As well as abdominals exercises, make sure you work your back and do some twisting movements to encompass all planes of motion that the body goes through.

Through doing these exercises, you should feel a lot less restricted in the lower body and perhaps your upper body as well. Practice daily for maximum results; it may improve your posture, when static or walking, as well as alleviating any niggling pain you have had. These are some of the benefits of dynamic stretching. I hope you enjoy using them!
If you have any questions then please do get in touch.

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The benefits of practising yoga and what it does for me

In September 2012 I started on my yoga teacher-training course in London. I would not have known back then just how much it would affect me, how it would be so life changing and important to me.

It’s especially nice to be living here in Brighton, with the sea nearby, and to have a short walk home from class. I have done my practise today as well as a class locally and I’m so incredibly grateful to have yoga in my life.

Why? Because … I am calmer, I am more resilient when things get stressful, I am even more thankful for the little things in life, I cry less and accept more, my body is leaner and stronger overall, and lastly I feel that I know myself a whole lot better because of yoga. I feel truly honoured to be able to teach this wonderful art and ancient practice, so that I can do my best to assist others in a similar way.

Training

I have been active all my life. From loving gymnastics as a little kid to doing my degree in dance, I have been nicknamed ‘a pocket rocket’ many a time. Having been a personal trainer for over five years, I enjoy a mixture of disciplines to keep me feeling happy, strong and slim. Yoga has definitely helped with another passion of mine, kettlebell training. When doing kettlebell swings with a 12kg bell one day, I realised how much stronger I felt in my back and shoulder muscles.

Emotionally

It’s not all peachy and a story of discovering my bliss. At times, going to yoga teacher training has left me feeling open, exposed, vulnerable and in need of hibernating under the duvet with a cup of milky spiced chai. I found that it can stir up things that I didn’t even know were troubling me. Yoga allows you to work through your own ‘baggage’, digest it and come out alive the other side and be grateful for the experience.

It is natural for a group to bond through studying and training together. But there is something much deeper than can be said about the kind of ‘sisterhood’ felt amoungst the group of teacher trainee Yogis. After the first couple of weekends and once we’d had a chance to meet everyone, I came home and said to my boyfriend “I’ve never been in a room with so many nice people all at one time”. At school or other group events, there’s always one with an ego problem, or a performer of the bunch who wants to outshine the rest. However, at yoga training I always felt fully accepted and comfortable in my surroundings. — This is such a good thing because at various points throughout the course, we all needed to have a good cry — a meltdown over the Sanskrit names for poses — or something. On the last day of the course, the group went out for a lovely vegetarian meal in central London. Upon saying goodbye it dawned on me that we would not be together as the same group again. Sure we’ll arrange meet ups, but some will move away, etc. so really, it was the end of an era.

A Mantra in every day life

George Harrison describes a mantra as ‘a mystical sound vibration encased in a syllable’. One of my favourite mantras (with lots of syllables!) that I learned from the course was ‘Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu’. This translates as ‘May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all’.

Namaste and here’s to the future Yogis! With love, light and happiness xx

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