This year the team behind WellVet Weekend ensured that parenting veterinary professionals didn’t have to miss out by welcoming parents alongside their “diddy delegates”, and introducing the ‘Family’ stream. This event gave me an opportunity to teach a ‘Parent and Baby’ yoga class for the first time ever, and these are my reflections on that experience.
One thing I love about teaching yoga is the unexpected challenges it brings my way, and seeing as I have never been pregnant, nor become a parent/step-parent myself, my eagerness to provide a class that would be safe and enjoyable for parents and babies alike left me approaching the class with a little trepidation!
Sequencing the class was quite difficult in itself, as I had no idea how many people were coming, if any of the Mums were pregnant, or how old the babies were. Trying to produce a balanced class which would cater to everyone tested my Asana creativity, but allowed me to carefully consider what the differing needs of my students may be. As it turned out, I was teaching a wonderful and welcoming group, some with babies, some with toddlers, and some who came child-free. In order to include as many people as possible, one of the WellVet organisers, Liz Barton, had ensured that the class was screened live into the ‘parent and baby’ room, so that other parents could dip in and out as much as they wished.
I learned a lot from teaching this class, and if I’m honest, was surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed myself. A particular highlight was one Mum’s utter delight at her baby rolling over for the first time by herself- a natural born yogi! It was also lovely to see how supportive the other parents were in sharing happiness at this milestone, and it was a very touching moment. I should thank the beautiful little Evie (extended thanks to her Mum, Kayleigh) who helped me to demonstrate some of the postures, and expertly showed off her “happy baby” pose.
As a result of this class I am now looking into further qualifications to teach parents and babies, and whilst I am no means an expert, here are some thoughts on how to have a successful first class for parents and babies:
- Seek advice from fellow yoga teachers with experience in teaching parents, pregnant women, and babies. I made sure to do my research on how to keep people safe, especially pregnant women, and educated myself on how to engage the babies in the class.
- Provide a safe, practical, and non-judgemental space. It was really important to me that parents didn’t feel like they had to apologise for anything during my class. People were free to come and go as they pleased, and feed/change or otherwise cater to their babies’ needs without leaving if they preferred. We know that babies cry, and rather than judging their behaviour I think it’s fair to say we could sometimes learn from their freedom in emotional expression!
- Check in to see if anyone has injuries or special requirements. Just as you would with any other yoga class, give people the opportunity to approach you to raise awareness of any needs they may have. This stands for everyone, but is especially pertinent for parents who may have given birth recently, be lactating, pregnant, sleep-deprived, or have particular physical, emotional, or hormonal issues.
- Adapt to the students. Be prepared for your plan to go out of the window! For instance, I ended up swapping parts of my sequence around as the babies were very settled when I planned to do standing postures, so we did more grounded poses at that time and did the standing sequence when they started to liven up.
- Embrace the chaos! We had babies crawling all over, parents doing half yoga, half chase the baby, a chorus of cries, and everything you might imagine happening. However, not only was it super fun, but we also managed to achieve moments of calm, and as long as everyone can stay relaxed regardless of what is happening, then it is worth it.
Yoga can be a wonderful way for parents and babies to connect, and can help parents to feel better in themselves both physically and emotionally. Having been inspired by this experience, look out for future content for parents and babies on the VetYogi YouTube channel, and feel free to get in touch if there’s anything you’d like to see.