Are Babies Naturally Born Yogis?

I saw this super cute photo of my friend Gabi doing a yoga pose, and her 10-month old son Rafi attempting the same pose – baby style. It got me thinking if we are born with natural yogic abilities.

Yes, I know babies are more flexible, but there are many specific yoga poses that babies perform naturally on their own without ever being taught.

Before birth
  • The fetus in the mother’s womb can often be observed holding the merudanda mudra (thumbs up)

After birth

  • Infants often hold the the adi mudra (closed fist with thumb enclosed), and chin mudra (thumb & forefinger delicately touching at the tips and the other 3 fingers are opened out)
  • When sleeping, babies naturally tuck into “baby” or “child” pose
  • When learning to crawl, they arch their torsos up into “cobra” or “cat stretch” pose
  • When learning to stand, they spend lots of time in “downward dog” pose before getting on their feet
  • When learning to walk, they often do the “triangle” and “mountain” pose

These unconscious, yet instinctual, poses help babies to build co-ordination and strength as they progress through their developmental stage to becoming ‘vertical’ – as it is, our conscious practice of yoga to becoming ‘self-realized’.

If yoga is a natural state of being, then why do people lose flexibility when they grow up?

According to Dinesh Kashikar, an international yogi from Sri Sri Yoga & the Art of Living Foundation, he says, 

“The main reason is that their interactions with their environment, namely parents and peers, have a bigger influence on them. So they don’t get to interact much with nature. Secondly, the pace of life is different these days, and parents don’t really encourage their kids to do yoga. Thirdly, the ego starts developing and does not allow the child to be natural.”

While yoga for tots (or commonly known as Baby Yoga) is a relatively new concept in the US, many cultures have been practicing this for hundreds of years. Baby Yoga is now becoming more and more popular.

Some even take it to the extreme. Last year, TIME magazine reported the internet craze of Baby Yoga that saw Russian babies being swung by their extremities (read the report & watch the video here).

Baby-Swinging Yoga Guru Lena Fokina is famous for her controversial practice

If dandling your tot upside down by his/her ankles, and swinging him/her in full circles like a chunk of meat is not your idea of yoga fun, FEAR NOT! Mainstream baby yoga is – NOTHING – like what Lena is doing. It is much less intense. It usually involves getting into simple yoga poses together, and gentle baby massage.

The fact is babies receive many benefits from yoga. From better digestion, physical stimulation to stress relief. One of the biggest benefit is the bonding between mother and child. For some, the bonding happens naturally. For others, it is a developed relationship.

These are some amazing yoga poses by mom & baby that I found online.

Mother & Baby going into Happy Baby pose (Sanskrit: Ananda Balasana)

Mother & Baby in Butterfly pose (Sanskrit: Baddha Konasana)

Mother & Baby in Downward Dog pose (Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Now, this is more like it. PHEW. If you are new mom and would like to try baby yoga, I found some places in Singapore that offer these sessions.

Inspire Mum & Baby
Absolute Yoga (available at Tanglin studio only)
Mother & Child