The main participants in Joanne Cox's yoga classes don't know a sun salutation from a tree pose. But they certainly enjoy themselves. Suzanne Savill sees a baby yoga class in action. Pictures: Jon Kent
Performing the tree position can be a challenge for any yoga novice.
But there is an extra challenge for the women taking part in Joanne Cox's yoga class.
Not only do they have to focus on maintaining their balance, they often have to do so with a baby clutching at their legs, or attempting to crawl away.
For this is not yoga as most people know it. The 'Chill Baby Chill' yoga - a class at which both mums and babies can chill out, and stretch out.
Each class starts much like a meeting of a mum and baby social group, with each mum talking about things that have been happening to them and their babies.
The atmosphere is lively and friendly as mums talk about milestones such as a baby moving to its own cot, a first birthday party, a baby getting a first pair of shoes, or simply a trip to visit grandparents.
Then, after everyone has had their say, Joanne gets the assembled mums to start breathing in through their noses and out through their mouths.
Suddenly a calm descends, and even the babies all quieten down.
Then come the movements, with mums singing songs like 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat' while doing yoga actions with their babies, and also doing stretches themselves.
Throughout it all, Joanne, 33, who is mum to Charlie, aged five, and Harry, aged two, is chatting informatively to the class.
"This can be good for dealing with wind and ensuring healthy tummies," she says, as the babies' knees are brought towards their tummies for one yoga-style pose.
She adds: "Traditionally boys aren't as flexible as girls because of our childbearing hips!"
Joanne holds baby yoga classes in Chipping Sodbury, Emersons Green Village, Neals Yard Therapy Rooms in Bristol, and at an Osteopathy clinic in Patchway.
She trained to be a baby yoga instructor after first studying baby massage five years ago to obtain a qualification with the International Association of Infant Massage.
At that time, she was getting made redundant from her job in sales, and had seen how much Charlie had enjoyed the baby massage classes she took him to when she was on maternity leave.
"They offered me onward training as part of my redundancy package," she says.
"I really wanted to do the course, but it was very hard leaving Charlie.
"My husband, Adrian, was brilliant. He was very supportive of me and looked after Charlie, but I was still crying as I drove up the M4."
After initially doing baby massage classes, Joanne decide to train for qualifications in baby yoga and soft stretching.
She explains: "I felt the babies needed something else to go on to after the massage classes as they got bigger.
"The massage is lovely, but I realised that as the babies got older they needed something more active.
"It's a natural progression from baby massage, although you don't have to have done it to enrol in baby yoga."
Joanne's baby yoga classes each class each last for around 40 minutes, and are suitable for babies who aged 12 weeks and over, until they start walking.
Although baby yoga classes follow the principles of adult yoga including breathing, poses, stretching and relaxation for both mums and babies, Joanne emphasises: "I don't claim to be a yoga teacher - I've trained in baby yoga instruction.
"The yoga poses are adapted for babies. It's a fun class, we don't take ourselves too seriously.
"Baby yoga is very different from your average baby class, there are lots of baby music groups but the idea of yoga for babies usually gets people to think a bit more as it's a bit unusual!
"Its all good fun and babies do enjoy a stretch. With many babies spending lots of time in car seats and buggies is great way to get them out and get them moving."
According to Joanne, baby yoga can help to develop balance and co-ordination, help the digestive system, improve body awareness and also assist better sleep.
"It helps develop the proprioceptive system which involves awareness of arms and legs and vestibular system which relates to the inner ear and balance," she says.
After the baby yoga session has finished, mums relax together and have tea and coffee and a chat.
"I try to make it a mums' group as well," says Joanne.
"One of the things I pride myself on about my groups is that there are no cliques. They're all very supportive of each other. It's brilliant.
"I get to meet such wonderful ladies. I have one group of mums who came to me last year and still meet up regularly.
"If I won the lottery I'd still want to continue doing what I'm doing!"
For further information on Baby Yoga go to www.chillbaby chill.co.uk or call 01454 323331.