BY: DANIEL KORN
Before we begin, please observe the video below:
Now, like a television show psychologist, I ask you: how does that make you feel? I, for one, feel anxious, nervous, and a little grossed out. I think of my own limbs contorting in the fashion of the video, shoulders twisting to just before the point of breaking, head dangling until it spins, and feel actually sick to my stomach. It’s a visceral reaction that was shared by many who watched the video on its release a couple years ago. On YouTube, it’s been tagged as inappropriate for young viewers.
This is the practice of “baby yoga,” pioneered by Russian researcher Igor Charkovsky, who also popularized the concepts of water birthing and—I shit you not—dolphin midwifery. Its most visible modern practitioner, though, is Lena Fokina, the jacked woman in the video who also teaches free-diving and regular adult yoga.
So…what’s the deal here? Why are parents in Russia deciding to throw their 5-day-old babies around like a wet towel? According to Fokina, the belief is that children who have been put through it grow up to be “early readers, singers, talkers, and swimmers.” There’s nothing other than Fokina’s testimony that supports this belief. I should also point out—lest I ingrain in you a certain xenophobia towards Russian individuals—that baby yoga is not a mainstream medicine practice in the country and, as relayed by the BBC, has not been certified by the Russian Ministry of Health.
To be fair, there’s nothing that technically says it’s particularly damaging to babies either; there simply hasn’t been any quantifiable research done on the thing. Fokina contends that there have been no accidents in the three decades that people have been performing baby yoga in Russia, and for her part, her daughters have grown up to be healthy, “ridiculously attractive” free-diving instructors.
However, much criticism of the practice comes from very reasonable medical professionals. In the BBC article, American general practitioner Dr. Robert Young points out that the baby’s own movements could cause him to slip, which would cause a lot of damage. Then there’s the problem of Shaken Baby Syndrome—brain bleeding, retinal hemorrhaging and brain swelling caused by a baby being moved suddenly. These all seem to be very, very possible results of baby yoga.
So while there hasn’t been any formal research done, my personal feeling on the subject is: hey, maybe don’t put your child through this. That video sure is fun to horrify people with, though.
Sources: dailymail.co.uk All images by Bancroft media