SANTA CRUZ, Calif. ― Babies can be good yoga partners. Just ask the folks at Pacific Cultural Center’s Ashtanga Yoga Institute.
Babies live in the present moment, are flexible and like to stretch. But the Mama & Baby Yoga classes are really for the moms.
One or two volunteers attend, holding and distracting the little ones who have had their fill of a quiet yoga practice, allowing their moms to continue with the asanas, or poses.
A mother of two, instructor Treea Clements said she started teaching postnatal yoga in 2005 and taught prenatal yoga before that. She said she includes a “check-in” time for moms to talk about what they might be dealing with as new parents.
“The women really bond,” she said. “We are all coming in to spiritually center and ground ourselves and to bring our bodies back to strength, flexibility and health. It includes some powerful inner stuff.”
Bella Shing balances 6-month-old Josey on her legs during Momma and Baby yoga at Pacific Cultural Center’s Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Santa Cruz, California. (Shmuel Thaler/Santa Cruz Sentinel/MCT)
Clements’ class includes time for moms to sit in a circle with the infants, moving their chubby little legs around while singing or doing gentle poses together, at times even using babies as weight to accentuate a pose.
Soft music plays while the babies coo. There are lots of smiles.
Jenner Howland, who lives on the North Coast, came to a recent class with her cheeky, red-haired, 8-month-old daughter, Averly.
“I just love it; it’s something I can do with her,” Howland said. “And the first half of class we get our own yoga. I leave feeling more energetic and it’s time for myself and time to focus on my baby and what’s really important.
”I feel more grounded, more present to my child, when I leave,“ Howland said.
Olivia Hearley of Aptos, Calif., said she likes the way the class helps her regain her core strength, some of which was lost during pregnancy. She said she needs it with two young sons.
”We actually get to do yoga and get a good workout,“ said Hearley, who was with her 6-month-old son, Luka.
”I like feeling strong; it’s empowering. And just being present and conscious of your breath; we can all be reminded of that more,“ she said. ”It’s just a really sweet thing to do with your baby.“
Volunteer baby handler Mary-Margaret Bierbaum, a Santa Cruz, Calif., criminal defense attorney by trade, said she has been helping with Clements’ class for about four years, She said she is given a pass for a yoga class for her work.
But the real draw is the soft little babies, said Bierbaum, who does not have children but calls the class her ”baby fix.“
”This is such a nice change from my stressful life,“ Bierbaum said. ”Sometimes I come straight from court. But I just look in their eyes and I see something of God, or the universal source.
“I seem to have a knack for putting them to sleep, and the mothers are so grateful.”
Teacher Clements said she is grateful to have the chance to help new moms. And the babies, she called them something to marvel at.
“For a lot of women, postpartum is not an easy transition,” Clements said. “I’m so glad to hold a space for them, to have the support this massive life change. And the spiritual aspect is important. It’s like ‘Oh, yeah, no matter what, I can remember that I embody this peaceful presence and my breath can bring me back to that.’”
“And,” she added, flashing a bright smile, “we have fun.” Prenatal and postpartum classes have been taught at the center for years, said Amar Gludt, manager of the center.
“And when you walk in that room, it’s just amazing; the energy is just so sweet,” he said.
By Cathy Kelly
(The Santa Cruz Sentinel (MCT))