How Young Is Too Young?

Russian yoga instructor Lena Fokina would, and a video of her "baby yoga" routine has gone viral -- making many American parents cringe in horror. In the clip, Fokina takes a 2-week-old infant through exercises she calls "dynamic gymnastics."

Parenting blog DadWagon caught up with Fokina, who explained that these exercises are not considered shocking in Russia, where some parents believe that swinging newborns in the air helps develop their strength, reflexes and sense of independence.

But is that claim true?

According to pediatrician David Geller, babies are perfectly capable of developing motor skills without special classes: "Babies get enough exercise as it is doing what they do all day: crawling, walking and playing," he writes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics concurs that stimulation is necessary for newborns but disagrees with Fokina's assertions that physical conditioning exercises will affect future development. The academy also warns that infant exercise may be dangerous for developing bones:

Providing a stimulating environment for an infant's development is extremely important. Environmental deprivation will impede the developmental progress of an infant. There is some evidence that conditioned responses can be elicited in the newborn period. However, there have been no data to suggest that structured programs or the promotion of conditioned responses will advance skills or provide any long-term benefit to normal infants.

The bones of infants are more susceptible to trauma than those of older children and adults. The skeletal system of the child in the first year of life is less than optimally ossified. Infants do not have the strength or reflexes necessary to protect themselves from external forces. The possibility exists that adults may inadvertently exceed the infant's physical limitations by using structured exercise programs.
Moms-to-be in the United States may be familiar with prenatal yoga, which -- if done correctly, after consultation with a doctor -- can be beneficial for health and childbirth preparation. The Prenatal Yoga Center in New York says women can participate in prenatal yoga through the third trimester.

As for newborns, remember that Fokina isn't demonstrating real yoga; her video shows "dynamic gymnastics." Actual baby yoga classes, involving far less strenuous activity, are offered throughout the United States. And it's important to note the minimum age recommendations, which vary by program. At the Prenatal Yoga Center, "Mommy & Me" yoga classes are not recommended until babies are 4 weeks old. Baby yoga instructor Jackie Long's program is designed for infants who can hold their heads up, which typically happens at three to four months.

Here's a look at calmer, gentler baby yoga:


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