Stability (noun): the state or quality of being stable / firmness in position.
This is an image of my favourite baby toy – it perfectly represents the subtle balance of alignment, strength and tone required to keep a body in good shape. If one of the elastic bands (muscles and ligaments) gets too tight or too relaxed, the whole structure loses its integrity (or tensegrity as the engineers call it!)
In the first few weeks and months after having a baby the body is often just as “soft” and mobile as in the last weeks of pregnancy. Our ligaments remain relaxed, compromising stability in our joints, and our spinal alignment has adjusted in the latter stages of pregnancy. Primarily the body simple needs time to rest and heal, but here we are with a small person to care for and so we are lacking in sleep, carrying our babies (they only get heavier!) and endlessly sitting in awkward positions. “Time” is not a commodity we feel we have a lot of.
Here are some stabilising practices to try at home – they can all be done with babies nearby. They focus on aligning the body first and then working gently gently with transverse abdominus – the band of muscle that supports the lower abdomen.
Practices on All-fours
Fit these in while playing on the floor with your baby. How about keeping your changing mat on the floor so each time you have to change your baby you also do a round of these stabilising exercises?
Practices Lying Down
Baby Yoga & Massage Games
“Cross-patterning” means working with the left and right side of the body at the same time. We do this for ourselves when we practice the “tiger stretch” explained above. Babies also do it when they learn to crawl. Here is a cross-patterning game for babies and children of all ages.
Hold your baby’s left hand and right leg and gently stretch them apart, then bring them in together – don’t worry about whether or not they meet – just follow your baby’s natural movement. Now swap sides and work with their right hand and left leg together. The following song works nicely with this movement – nice and slowly!
“In and out, in and out, don’t get in a muddle.
Out and in, out and in, give yourself a cuddle!”
Spots and Stripes
This massage game works nicely when you have been doing “tiger stretches” for yourself. Use the pads of your fingers to make “spots” on your baby’s tummy or back. Slide your hands down your baby’s front or back to make “stripes”.
“A leopard has lots of spots, what a lot of spots he’s got!
Tigers have stripes, like long thin pipes, but a leopard has lots of spots!”