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Let’s Put This Swinging Baby Yoga Business Down to Rest (It’s Not Yoga)

in World News, YD News

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.



33 comments… add one
  • sandra

    sorry, the babies in that video were definitely quite upset with the whole thing. and the risks to developing joints? why on earth would any parent in his/her right mind want to risk dislocations, tears….
    this nutjob needs to be arrested….

  • David

    Why is she “teaching” in Dahab???

    I’ve spent some time there and it is a great for diving and “other” activities that might be frowned upon in other countries where the legal authorities are not so wiling to look the other direction …

    • She is teaching in Dahab because there are yoga schools and retreat centers there who run yoga! Yoga and Diving, yes many do this all over the world and in Dahab.

      Just because yoga is practiced all over the world it does NOT mean the only legitimate yoga is in the US Europe or India…. for some it may do and those are the ones needing more any education than most.

      • Teo

        Do u maybe know where and how to contact this woman, Lena?

  • Chris

    Absolutely horrifying video. Why not have them practice agility/acrobatic nonsense on the ground on their feet/hands/knees!!

    Humans were not designed to fly twirling through the air! Especially infants.

  • Thank you. I see abused and neglected children every single day. This frightens me more than I can possibly tell you. My yoga training, my brother’s anatomy lessons (he’s a massage therapist/chiropractor/energy healer), and my knowledge from countless child abuse seminars has me fairly well convinced this is a REALLY bad idea. I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong, but why risk it? Thanks for posting this. Your way of bringing information into the open is wonderful.

  • I’ve seen the video a couple of days back and was absolutely shocked to see the parents entrust her with their children in the first place! The babies are crying not laughing!! Thank you for a great informative post.

  • Missy

    I have seen references to this woman elsewhere and, as a mom of 2 young kids, cannot bring myself to watch the videos or read any further about her. Can someone *please* make her stop?

  • Embee

    I’m not a medical professional but I AM a lifelong athlete, and my experience tells me that this is all kinds of wrong. I was a gymnast as a child, then a runner/swimmer/rower and my orthopedic surgeon told me I have the knees, hips and shoulders of an 80 year old. You know who I have this in common with? My childhood gymnastics buddies, but not the ladies I ran/rowed with in college. My sister (who came to running in her late 20s) runs pain-free and is without the deterioration of joints. I’m convinced it was the pounding I tool as a child.

    I hope this woman is stopped. I really do.

  • Sam

    If this woman were here in Canada, I’d call Child Protective Services and have her charged with child abuse. I feel nauseous after watching the video.

  • Those babies are crying the whole time! What in the world?

    • simply yoga

      Yeah, I can’t bring myself to watch the vid. The photo alone is really upsetting. I hope these babies make it through without lifelong damage. The woman needs to be stopped immediately.

  • Sarah Ongiri

    First of all how the heck is this yoga? Secondly I a really not judgmental about other people’ parenting but I really can’t see how someone could watch their baby be winged around like that and find it terrifying! And finally those babies are definitely crying I really wish they would stop calling this baby yoga-it is so not!

    • Sarah Ongiri

      sorry find it not terrifying is what I meant above- it is very very scary!

  • Diane Pfautz

    This woman is a moron! The baby is not crying with joy. It’s tendons and bones may be flexible, but they are not meant to be manupalted like this. Please, someone, stop her!

  • Tom

    I really want to learn more about this woman and her techniques, unfortunately I am finding it very difficult because of the language barrier. I am shocked so many supposedly “enlightened” people are having such extreme reactions to this video, calling for her to be stopped, on youtube people are calling for her children to be removed, for her to be arrested, deported, physically assaulted and they call her very nasty names… look again at the video, carefully analyse what is happening, the baby is not being “thrown around like a rag doll” it is being carefully manipulated, some of the movements are dangerous, but like anything dangerous, it is clear that the very obvious risk is being negated by her skill in the techniques… you simply don’t understand what is happening, and instead of seeking more information so you can make an informed decision, you stick your head in the sand… lol… enlightened beings indeed

  • Tom, you are right – the truth is there are many people taking to yoga, becoming teachers of yoga who remain in so much judgment they would not be able to see it for their own intransigence. Babies are an emotive area for sure, so hop on the bandwagon and cuss comes automatically for some. Because of attitude few if any would take the path to connect with this lady, ask salient questions and be eager to learn EXACTLY what goes on. Far easier to be in upstate NY or CA, UK or anywhere ‘civilised’ and throw one’s own proclivities around. Yoga DOES NOT equal enlightened. Never has – just thinking makes it so. Easier to throw stones rather than offer empathic response or enquiry….

  • Rebecca Foose

    The baby IS crying in the video…….

  • Jodie

    This woman should have her kids removed from her care… if someone threw my daughter around like that I would throw them off a bridge!

    • Tom

      Interestingly Jodie, if you threw somebody off a bridge, YOU would have your children removed from your care. It is an incredibly violent threat, and violent people can be expected to raise violent children, we need less violence in this world, not more. Please, just because you don’t understand what is happening in this video or don’t agree with this woman’s knowledge, opinions, beliefs or philosophy, don’t resort to violence, raise peaceful, happy, and content children who don’t resort to violence.

  • Which Yoga Sutra suggests throwing people off bridges?
    Which one encourages us call people morons?
    Feeling nauseous? A headstand is recommended
    Which yoga encourages one to call someone a nutjob?

    All yoga is encouraging the individual towards a higher self education – seems many here are practicing something else or are rank beginners.

    Want change? Be the change – and how many of you have spoken to this woman and made an in depth enquiry as to the way yoga is imparted? Or is the judgment just too forged in steel to make the effort to investigate WITHOUT JUDGMENT.

  • Rebecca Foose

    Uhhhh…… that baby does not want to be throw around. Plain and simple. That is NOT what you are supposed to do with a baby…. Seriously people if you think otherwise, you should NEVER be parents.

  • Rebecca Foose


  • Tom

    Still with the judging people. In the western world we think nothing of criticising another culture for “female genital mutilation” but ignore the fact that we routinely mutilate infant males genitals, often at or shortly after birth. Infants and young children often do not want to eat unfamiliar foods, by your reasoning Rebecca, parents who feed their children unfamiliar foods should not be allowed to have children. Maybe people who would raise their children to be just as close minded and judgemental as they are should not be allowed to have children? Within a generation we would all live in a better world, would we not? I don’t really believe this, everybody, despite the amount of negativity they willingly put out into the world, should know the joy of raising children, besides, it is likely they will eventually see the folly of their parents judgement as thanks to the internet, which will become ever more ubiquitous, our children will be exposed more and more to other cultures. These movements, from what little English language information I was able to find and piece together several months ago when I was interested, are designed to stimulate the child’s innate reflexes, which are neurologically based, and the theory and anecdotal reports are that this is beneficial for neurological development and bonding and the movements are really no more dangerous than the kinds of rough play uncles and fathers universally engage in with young children, although it looks dangerous, it has been practiced by large communities in eastern Europe for decades and have not had injuries associated with it. I studied the videos carefully and practiced some of the movements with my son, using my knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics from my previous training in sports and personal training, as well as my knowledge of child development from my professional experience as a social worker to judge the safety. He definitely enjoyed the movements and we only stopped as over a few weeks it seemed to be aggravating my herniated disks. So, sometimes babies do want to be thrown around, I know I remember loving my uncles and older cousins (huge family) throwing me around as a child. If you do some research, there are interviews in English with her and her children, apart from being stunningly beautiful young women, they are extraordinarily accomplished in their personal and professional lives, so the practices certainly doesn’t seem to have injured their development at all. Sorry for the lengthy spiel, I have a free morning today.

  • I would like to just say to ~~Tom – Bang on sir! This instant communicating tool we call the Internet has a nasty way of becoming a reaction weapon rather than a response mechanism.

    Yoga of all practices is supposed to cultivate a balanced system and that most definitely deserves to be mind/thought inclusive. It saddens me when I see ignorance inaction where people shoot their opinions off without due investigation.

    They might as well have never started on their yoga path – or at least researched what is meant by cleaning up one’s life act.

    Grow and Grow up or SHUT UP!

  • Denise

    Judging the judgers; still judging. Oddly challenging that one isn’t it?

    Opinions are just that. It’s OK and good to think different things.

    To me it seems like the kid is crying. So I wouldn’t personally toss this baby that way. Maybe if I was seeing this first hand and learning more about it I would eventually think different. But the baby I saw wasn’t having it. I’d stop.

  • Rebecca Foose

    Male circumcision is not acceptable to me either. When a baby is crying, there is something wrong. The baby is crying in the video… Another Mother in the states just left her two babies in the car to go shopping for an hour in 100+ degree weather. The 4 month old died and the 16 month old had to be hospitalized with seizures. Some people think they know what’s best but don’t. My motherly instinct says that swinging a baby around like that is not right. My children are content to be held close and tossed around once in awhile when they have better head control. But never thrown by one arm to that extent. But maybe my kids are different than those babies. No children are the same right?

  • Michael McGhie

    This so called yoga is a boat load of you know what. You can hear the pain and fear in these baby children. I think this form a whatever it is should be banned.

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