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Wednesday, June 19

Gapers Block

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Editor's note: This column originally ran on September 19, 2004.

It was time, I decided, to stop using my baby as an excuse not to exercise ("I'm too busy," "I'm too tired," "My uterus might fall out!"). After focusing so much attention on my prenatal health and labor preparation, I felt that my postpartum body deserved some attention as well, seeing as it would now be doing more work than ever.

I was hesitant to begin anything too strenuous or taxing. Being tired from working part-time and caring for my son, I needed something to help me tone up, but not kill myself in the process. Remembering my prenatal yoga class and the hatha yoga I did before I became pregnant, more yoga seemed like the logical thing. So I looked into a mother and baby postpartum yoga class.

While yoga has been around forever, mother and baby classes are a somewhat new thing. The majority of the classes focus on strengthening the pelvic muscles, as well as the abdominals, legs, back and posture; all this while incorporating your baby in some way.

One of the great things about the classes is that they cater to yoga veterans as well as beginners. With several classes in the Chicagoland area, I found two that fit my schedule.

Bubbles Academy:
The minute you walk in, the paper butterflies and bubbles along with the lush purples, greens and pinks of the academy décor instantly make you smile. The place is just so giggle-worthy that you can't help but feel happy.

Upon arrival, yoga mats and pillows (which are furry and inviting for the babies) are already placed out for you in circular formation. Once class begins, gauzy scarves are passed out which are used during the class to play a quick game of singing peek-a-boo with your baby. This also serves as time to introduce yourself and your baby to the other mothers in the group. Even though there were eight mothers and babies in the class, the circular formation in which we were placed, gave the group an intimate feel.

During the class, several modified poses are presented and the babies are incorporated into them. Songs and games give the babies a chance to laugh and notice the each other, which they really do. The babies actually make eye contact and smile together! And not only do they laugh together, the also get a big kick out of the poses they are a part of. Even though I was ready to sit down and take a breather, my son was giddy with every squat I did while holding him against my chest. The baby-knee-balance during a Warrior Pose was also a big hit. I got a work-out and Vincent was happy.

Global Yoga Wellness Center:
The atmosphere is a more traditional yoga one -- a studio with wood floors, comfortable lighting and a great sense of serenity. With only two other moms in the class, it also made for a quieter environment. Once you have gathered your pillow, mat and blankets, the babies are placed on the blankets next to you, and the class begins.

The class geared towards the moms, first and foremost. Poses which emphasize stretching and abdominal strengthening are used. Theoretically, the babies are to lie quietly on the floor and watch their mamas work out. If your child cries, however, you can stop and comfort him/her or the instructor will do so. It is common for the instructor to give classes and call poses with a baby in her arms.

My son gets bored very quickly, so having him on a pillow watching me sweat, swear and "relax" wasn't cutting it for him. Between Downward Dogs and Boat poses, it was difficult to calm a fussy baby, so I felt as though I spent more time tending to him rather than the poses. The instructor did have bubbles and toys to occupy the children, but that was just it; the key word was "occupy" them and not involve them.

Although the relaxation period at the end of the class, holding him, was enjoyable, I really felt that I didn't share the experience with him but rather tended to him as an interruption instead of a participant. But if you have an older baby who can entertain him- or herself, or a baby who is a good napper, this class will work well for you.

Both classes give moms an opportunity to combine yoga and movement with their babies. The word yoga means "union" and indeed, it is a most agreeable one. With baby attuned to their mother's breathing and sensing their relaxation, along with the benefit of her touch, a special union isformed.

It is recommended that you wait at least 6 weeks before you begin a postpartum yoga class, so check with your doctor before you start. Namaste, baby!

Studios in the Chicagoland area which offer Mother and Child yoga:

Bubbles Academy
1504 N. Fremont
Tuesdays, 3-4pm

Global Yoga Center
1823 W. North Ave.
Sundays, 2:30-3:30pm
Thursdays, 12:30-1:30pm

Heart Center Yoga
744 Judson Ave.
Highland Park
Wednesdays, 10:45-11:30am

Priya Yoga
1 East Oak Street
Tuesdays, 11am

Sweet Pea's Studio
3717 North Ravenswood, Suite 213
Mondays, 11:00am-12:00pm
Fridays, 1:30-2:30pm

Universal Spirit Yoga
127 Aurora Ave., Naperville
Tuesdays, 11:00-11:45am

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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