Last winter, before we knew about the pandemic, I was inspired to run 5 workshops for movement and somatic enthusiasts to take a deep dive into aspects of developmental movement that are foundations from our earliest time…birth and the first year after birth. Happily these workshops all took place before we had to shelter in place. For 3 hours each meeting we explored:
THE FEET: Humans are the only mammal that walk on two feet consistently. We are unable to walk at birth like all other land mammals. Ignition from birth out to the world, developing the bones of the feet (did you know we are born with only 1 bone in the foot?), and how we work to find the connection of the feet to the earth so that we can be “grounded.” This term, “grounded” is used so often in yoga practice but what does that mean? As babies we push with our feet out of the womb (ideally)and we have been able to use our feet in utero as we are snugged into the tight space of the womb with boundaries containing us. Once born our feet float and it takes many months for us to find the feet with our hands (Happy Baby Pose) or have them descend to the ground after rolling over into a baby or full cobra pose. It is only then do we begin to actually push from the ground and use our feet to stabilize our center or move in space. Our feet on the ground and sound alignment in our spine is what allows us to “stand up for what matters” instead of being a “pushover!”
OPENING & CLOSING: Babies have been in a closed space for their entire in utero life, but inside that small space they have been exploring push, pull, & reach movements as they develop. These “micro movements” are the beginning of opening and closing. Hands, mouth, feet, etc. We open and close ourselves all throughout the day both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Hands, mouths, breathing, etc.. Babies learn about the vast new outer world by opening and come back to safety and security when pulling back into center/ closed. We open for Joy and Delight and Curiosity. We close to ground and center, rest, or protect again and again.
ROLLING: Rolling for babies takes time. They are exploring the vestibular system (balance) and senses of reach,push, pull through the eyes, ears, nose, and more when doing so. They are becoming curious, motivated, and more fully embodied as they experiment with centering and gravity in side lying and (side plank) and eventually rolling over into baby or full cobra, and then perhaps locust pose. Rolling practice both engages one fully in action as well as in repose (sivasana) as one yields to gravity and rest after exertion. It develops the senses of Vestibular and Proprioception.
HAPPY BABY: While this pose strongly influences rolling because of its strong opposition of push and pull from hands & feet, it worth exploring in depth on its own as it combines homologous (tail/head) and homolateral (same side) movement. Happy baby pose is a forward bend in a different orientation. It is a grounded version of fetal position but highly active and alert as opposed to yielding and resting. It encourages so much play and delight and is one of the first movements that engages the east/west & north/south aspects of alignment. This pose awakens babies to body awareness and sense of self in a new way which is why it is so much fun.
THE CENTERLINE of the SPINE: Once a baby has developed the spinal curves from fetal “C” curve to defined cervical, thoracic, lumbar, & tailbone cantilevers that allow for verticality with integrity, a baby discovers its CENTER! We use the term “centering” in yoga as often as we use the term “Ground!” Without our center, navigation of our bodies in movement, and life in general, is challenging. We learn to ebb & flow with what life brings us more easily when we can find our Center. The Centerline is so much fun to explore and take for a dance. In fact, when in a deep place of somatic exploration it is the spine that moves us and we just follow and enjoy. As the spine does this release in joints and muscles occur helping us to re align and restore our inner selves anatomically, and emotionally.
While I teach a training that will have you ready to work with babies, these movements babies are naturally compelled to explore if given the space and time to do so apply to all aged people seeking health through yoga. To this day I feel that yoga evolved from people watching babies as the developmental blueprint of movement milestones are all basic yoga poses!
Foundational Movements of Life ALIGN, CENTER, GROUND, and RESTORE!!!