Ack! For crying out loud, literally. Firstly, for the unfamiliar, this is absolutely NOT what you would expect to find at a standard baby yoga class, plain and simple. 5o-year-old Russian PE teacher Lena Fokina was made infamous last year when her “baby yoga” video of swinging and twirling babies around by their limbs caused YouTube to remove the clip and many to claim child abuse.
Her videos may have been removed, but Lena is still going strong teaching her version of “baby yoga” and “extreme developmental gymnastics” in Dahab, Egypt. She is back in the news again, giving her first American interview.
Nathan Thornburgh of DadWagon interviewed Lena in her native language to get to the bottom of this disturbing baby dangling method.
Tell me about the courses you run in Egypt.
Our courses in Dahab are a regime of daily exercise for children and adults of different ages: yoga, extreme developmental gymnastics, freediving, getting adapted to the water, rebirthing, lectures, discussions and much more.
Um, what exactly are “extreme developmental gymnastics”
That’s what we call it when it gets scary for the parents and children and me
(just kidding). It’s actually skipping rope, climbing, all sorts of flips, trampoline, stretching…
I do Ashtanga yoga, but I’ve never heard of anything like this Baby Yoga. Is this traditional or did you invent it?
Life invented it; it was conveyed to us by the teacher and author of all these ideas, Igor Borisovich Charkovsky.
So this is a uniquely Russian form of yoga.
This yoga is for all young children.
While it’s being called yoga (again, like we need more confusion here!) it’s really “dynamic gymnastics” that all of this is based on. The mastermind behind it all? Igor Borisovich Charkovsky, famous for his methods popular in Russia for the past 30 years, which also include baby water dunking (he’s referred to Russia’s “God Father of Water Birth”).
Could baby swinging possibly be healthy?
I have two small children and I was, you know, careful with them when they were newborns. So it was hard for me to watch your video. It looks like it has to injure the child. Their hands? The cartilage in the joints? Their brains?
No. It makes the hands stronger.
Did you know that YouTube took the video down because it was in violation of their policy on “shocking and disgusting” content? What is your response to that?
Did they notice that the babies aren’t crying—they’re even laughing—and that this system has been used for over thirty years in Russia and the children are all alive and healthy? If you need more proof, the best thing is to come see us.
For what it’s worth, the kids seem to be ok, and we don’t have scientific evidence to prove this is troublesome, only our own eyeballs, which we can hardly believe watching Lena flip babies over her head. But another frustrating aspect to all this, is that it’s stirring up stories in mainstream media questioning the safety of baby yoga, and/or mommy and baby yoga classes.
That people are asking about it isn’t troublesome, but the fact that images of spinning babies around like rag dolls may spring to mind and freak everyone out is frustrating in a time when yoga has already seen its share of controversies (some needless). We’ll say it again, this is NOT normal baby yoga. Most baby yoga classes you’ll find in the states are closer to gentle movements, nuzzling and bonding. Ask Beyonce. We recommend all parents use their best judgement when attempting any baby yoganess, but that should go without saying.
Warning: the video may be horrifying to watch for some.
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