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Do Not Try This at Home: It Is NOT Baby Yoga

  • russian_woman_swinging_baby.jpg

    This still image, taken from a YouTube video, shows Lena Fokina dangerously swinging an infant over her head in what she refers to as "dynamic gymnastics."

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    Dr. Manny Alvarez

When I saw the viral video of a Russian woman, Lena Fokina, swinging an infant around her head, I said to myself, “this is a spoof.” But recent reports of further investigation into this disturbing video have indeed revealed it’s real, which got me thinking, this lady is nuts.

The video, which first appeared on YouTube, is billed as “baby yoga,” and depicts what Fokina calls "extreme developmental gymnastics." But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am all for baby yoga. It has been around for a long time, and in many cases, it can be quite beneficial for both mommy and baby.

Proper baby yoga improves bonding, motor skills in the infant, and is safe and quite enjoyable for both the mother and child. However, many of the templates utilized in baby yoga are age-specific, and they slowly introduce postures to the developing child. Swinging a kid like a rag doll is just not right. I could only imagine what a copycat seeing this video might think of doing with their six month-old infant.

Reading some of the logic behind the crazy exercise seen in the video has not convinced me one bit that this could be beneficial to anybody – let alone an infant. And as I watched it unfold, it reminded me more of a circus act than an actual exercise routine.

What got me more worried is that it appears that Fokina is mimicking animal physical activity – like that of primates -- and applying it to human beings, especially babies. Yes, babies are more resilient and more flexible than older humans, but nonetheless, their skeletal anatomy is quite human. There are limitations in the articulations of the human body, and even though we are often able to stretch the body past its limits, this can result in severe problems later in life. To force infants into postures prematurely could severely damage their natural evolutionary process down the line.

Parents, I’m begging you, please don’t try this at home. While Fokina has given an interview with the blog Dadwagon claiming her version of baby yoga can speed up and improve the developmental process – and, strangely, she claims it can also strengthen the baby’s hands – this is simply not based in facts. If anything, these prolonged and extreme jerking motions in a very small infant could potentially damage joints and even lead to shaken baby syndrome.

Shaken baby syndrome (SBS), for those who are unfamiliar with the term, occurs as a result of violently shaking the baby in a way that forces the head in back and forth motions in one or more directions resulting in severe acceleration and deceleration of the head, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Symptoms range from irritability to vomiting to seizures, and the long-term consequences of SBS can include learning and physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, behavior disorder, cognitive impairment and death. This happens because the brain is still immature and easily injured, and the baby’s neck muscles are not yet strong enough to support its head, which makes up 25 percent of its body. That means, while the baby is being flung through the air, the neck cannot stabilize the head’s motion.

What’s worse -- the injuries may go unnoticed for years. SBS cases are most commonly reported in children less than two years of age, but the long-term consequences may not be fully apparent in children before age six.

So, if you’re thinking introducing exercise early in life to your child, I’m all for it. But do it the right way and don’t improvise.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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