LAKEVIEW— At the beginning of a recent mom-and-baby yoga class at the Athleta apparel store on Southport Avenue, instructor Yoli Maya Yeh emphasized the "free form" nature of the class.
"At any time in the class, if your baby gets a little fussy, just come back to your breath," said Yoli, while pulling her 9-month-old son Rhodes onto her lap and straightening her spine. "Sometimes when I do these deep belly breaths, our breath syncs up."
Yoli and her partner-in-zen Rhodes led and demonstrated for the five moms and babies in attendance for the free class. Seamlessly, Yoli incorporated Rhodes into modified versions of popular yoga postures — from breath exercises, to light stretching, cat and cow postures, locust pose, pelvic tilts and even baby-style inversions.
One of the moms, Heather Rasowski, said, "It's not just for moms. It's interactive and just a good way to start the morning."
Yoli said that beyond the obvious bonding benefits, a weekly or daily practice helped the baby's development.
"When you stimulate baby's muscles, joints, and nerves, you're stimulating their development," Yoli said. "You're also programming stress-management skills, which will help when they go to school."
Toward the end of class at 3415 Southport Ave., Yoli lay down on her back and brought Rhodes to lay on her chest, stomach to stomach. Instantly, Rhodes' eyes softened and Yoli closed her own.
"This is great," Yoli said. "We do this every day, so now he just comes into relaxation right away."