Mom and baby yoga classes vary in their intensity and length, but most last from 45 minutes to an hour. The youngest class members are typically 6 weeks old and can be as old as 8 months.
Bloom Yoga Studio, 4663 N. Rockwell, Chicago, (773) 463-YOGA and Sweet Pea’s Studio, 3717 N. Ravenswood, Chicago, (773) 248-YOGA, are just a few places offering infant yoga.
For new mom Christen Hammersley, there are days when there isn’t even time to take a shower.
Hammersley’s plight is not unusual. Between caring for a new baby and the regular demands of life, many new moms have trouble finding time for themselves. Hammersley, a 30-year-old Oak Park resident who gave birth to Amelia in August, found her salvation in mom and baby yoga.
"It’s so challenging to find time for yourself as a new mom," says Hammersley, who took her first mom and baby class at Bloom Yoga Studio in Lincoln Square. "So having an activity that is centering and fun and feels good for both mom and baby is just really great."
More yoga studios are offering infant yoga classes to help empower new parents and strengthen the bond between mother and child. The classes not only help new mothers recover from the strains of carrying and nursing a child, but can also improve a baby’s digestion, relieve fussiness, encourage neuromuscular development and improve sleep.
Many of the exercises consist of the mother holding the baby in different positions while she maintains a yoga pose designed to work on alignment and build strength. The classes have a very open environment, so if a child needs a diaper change or feeding in the middle of class, it is both welcomed and accepted.
"The mothers are thrilled to have somewhere they can take their babies that is calming and nurturing and also great exercise," says Sharon Walther, the instructor of Bloom’s mom and baby class. "And the babies respond well. They get to be around other babies in a really soothing environment."
According to Helen Garabedian, infant development specialist and founder of Itsy Bitsy Yoga in the Boston area, the benefits of mom and baby yoga can be more than just physical. Many new mothers can also use an emotional boost.
"This is a nice opportunity for mom to take a break from the week or maybe get out of the house," Garabedian says. "New moms might be feeling isolated and this is a place where they can come together with like-minded mothers and get the support that they need in this new journey of parenthood."
Hammersley, who does yoga at home with her baby every day, says the most valuable aspect for her was just taking the time to be with her child. Between feedings, diaper changes and cleaning spit up, it can be easy for new mothers to lose sight of what is really important.
"You are just being there with the person that loves you and that you love," Hammersley says. "So much of my attention is focused on how to make (the baby) happy, setting aside time every day that makes both of us happy is really awesome."
Gary Cohen is a student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.