By Karen James Certified Infant Massage Instructor
When the country was sent into lockdown in March 2020, it meant a lot of indoor classes were forced to close. Teaching my baby yoga and baby massage as face-to-face classes was no longer an option. The word zoom which has become a popular word now, but at the time for a person like myself who isn’t very tech savvy, it seemed like a very alien high tech video communications tool, but has become a wonderful way of staying connected.
However, classes are designed to be face to face and in my many years of teaching classes I had always liked the idea of taking the classes from the confines of inside to teaching outside. In the past I had done the odd class in the park and it was great. So, when lockdown finally eased a little in June 2020, I jumped at the opportunity to take my classes outdoors. Also, there were still many restrictions in place so setting up classes outside meant they worked really well as we could maintain social distancing. I ran the classes in 3 different parks throughout the summer and they were well received, all were really well attended and they were great fun.
Fast forward to January 2021 and we were facing our third lockdown and again the zoom classes, which I was much more confident with, was great for keeping the classes going. Then towards the end of March after what seemed like a very long winter, we all started to feel the fatigue from doing classes online. So, it was a no brainer after the success of holding classes outdoors the previous year that classes would return in the park once the restrictions eased again. Being in lockdown has made us appreciate being outside and the classes have given us the excuse for spending more time outside.
Research makes a strong case for taking your practice to the outdoors as the weather warms.
One of yoga’s (many) beauties is it can literally be done anywhere. And it turns out nature enhances it and there are many health benefits of nature for very young babies. Enchanted with the vivid colours, perfume of blooming flowers, and cool breeze. It’s clear to me there is something about that fresh air that is so soothing — even to an infant.
Here are five more science-backed reasons why a little time in nature goes a long way for babies’ development.
- From the wind to the sunshine to smells good and bad, babies simply have more sensory information to take in and process outside than when they are in a controlled, indoor environment. That, in turn, promotes early language development, according to a 2014 study published in the European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research
- Studies have shown that children acquire most of their basic motor skills before the age of five — with much of the progress occurring within the first couple months of life. The same 2014 study found time outdoors helps facilitate the development of many of those skills even for babies, who benefit from observing others running around and playing
- Regular bouts of time in the natural sunlight aid the establishment of good sleep patterns for little ones. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of Sleep Research, babies younger than 13 weeks who slept well at night spent twice as much time in the sunlight than their wakeful peers. The lead researcher hypothesized that’s because the outdoorsy infants established their circadian rhythms sooner.
- Research shows young children who spend more time outdoors are actually less likely to come down with illnesses — possibly because early exposure to the non-sterile outdoors boosts babies’ immune systems
- For those dealing with postpartum blues, it is recommended taking exercise outdoors, which has been found to “improve self-esteem and negative mood subscales, such as tension, anger and depression.” Using it as bonding time with baby just makes it a win-win situation. If health and safety concerns still give pause, rest assured that pediatricians agree most Newborns can benefit from time outside. The key is to take a few precautions for young outdoor adventurers, including staying out of direct sunlight, dressing in appropriate layers, and avoiding places where people are known to be ill.
This is definitely the way forward for my classes to ditch being inside during the summer and absorb the delights of nature.