Yoga – whether for mom and baby or simply mom alone – offers a plethora of mental and physical benefits, along with much-needed social time.
At Meghan Trevorrow’s yoga class, om-s are punctuated with coos and the occasional cry. Here, focusing on the practice comes secondary to taking frequent breaks to comfort babies and to breastfeed.
The instructor of Ottawa’s wildly popular Mommy and Me Yoga encourages it.
The classes, held on the third floor of the Bayshore Shopping Centre every Tuesday and Thursday morning, attract dozens of mothers and babies ranging from just a week old to edging into toddler territory.
“I love teaching the class,” said Trevorrow. “Moms come to the class when it fits into their day, and they get an hour of exercise and socialization.”
Because there are so many ages and stages in Trevorrow’s class, she urges moms to take it at their own pace.
“It’s a fine line between getting out and moving, and giving your body much-needed time to recover,” she said.
Birth, whether it was natural or via caesarean section, is a physical trauma for the body, she said. “Carrying and delivery of a baby is a lot of change for the pelvic area, and it kind of moves everything around.”
Then there is the daily physical strain of lifting and carrying baby.
“New mothers often experience tight shoulders and sore backs from carrying a growing baby, and from the postures
we take to feed baby,” said Tara Cartland, owner and teacher at Rama Lotus Yoga Centre in Centretown.
And Amanda DeGrace, president and founder of Little Lotus Yoga, said postpartum yoga practice allows a new mother “to come back into her body after nurturing and growing another human being.
“Yoga is a great way to start to bring stability back into their bodies, create muscular balance and slowly and
carefully rebuild strength.”
And the benefits of yoga go beyond the physical.
“This class allows mothers to connect with other moms,” said Trevorrow. “It gets mom out of the house at a time when she might be feeling cooped up.”
DeGrace notes that the sense of community and camaraderie in a mom-and-baby yoga class is much stronger than in regular yoga classes.
“Sometimes just getting out of the house and being around other lovely people is more important than the actual yoga practice,” she said. “We see friendships build in our classes – casual coffee one day after yoga turns into planning a walk for the next day.”
Yoga enabled Ottawa resident Danielle Vicha to meet other mothers when her daughter Rachana was born.
“You create a support network with other mothers,” said the 35-year-old public relations consultant. “You share
parenting advice and get breastfeeding support … and it is a great way to gain some independence as well.”
Vicha also found yoga deepened the bond with her daughter.
“It became our adventure. Getting on the bus together, heading to the community centre. It was an enjoyable time
for my daughter, although she was always a happy baby, she really enjoyed yoga – the attention from me, the movements and the songs.
I found joy in seeing her engaged.”
Vicha’s daughter is now nine years old, and they continue to do yoga together at home, on matching yoga mats.
“I think it’s great for bonding with baby since it’s a set amount of time to focus on you and baby and in a positive atmosphere,” said 32-year-old Ottawa resident Meghan Good, who regularly practises with her daughters, ages six months and two years.
“It’s a great way to introduce mindfulness and awareness of your body.”
One of DeGrace’s favourite times is when the group settles into its yoga practice.
“All the moms are holding their babies heart-to-heart,” she said. “I can see these moms relax with their babies
immediately, their shoulders soften, their jaw softens and it is mom and baby just breathing together – just as it was when baby was in the womb.”
Although babies are likely too young to remember taking part in yoga classes with mom, they will have the experience imprinted into their subconscious, said Cartland.
“It is an experience of bonding with mom, moving their bodies in perhaps new ways, and seeing their mother move
in new fun postures as well,” Cartland said.
“Having active, healthy, happy parents who engage their children in physical activity is a great way to instil the importance of physical education in children.”