Los Angeles is a special place. In this town we sunbathe in January and wear Ugg boots in summer. If you are really trendy you eat food made in the back of a truck that you located from a Twitter post, and everything you order comes with avocado. The locals talk about June gloom and earthquake weather, and the freeways shut down if it rains. My workout at the gym was interrupted by a film crew who were passing through to scout the location. I seemed to be the only one worried about finding myself on television in stretch pants, as no one else gave the army of tanned, coiffed, latté carrying production assistants a second glance. “What a special, special place,” I thought to myself.
So it was not a huge surprise when I found myself in a baby yoga class with Priscilla. I didn’t know babies were into yoga but I’m new to this childrearing thing so what do I know? Sitting in a circle, the ladies went around the room and introduced themselves and accompanying props, I mean, children. I surveyed the group to see what kind of infants have developed a yoga practice. Lily was screeching like she had just discovered her voice and was excited about sharing the news. Michael was passed out with his limbs sprawled like a drunk on Sunday morning. Yoga was clearly not his thing. Grace was getting a snack from her mother who was not shy about nudity. This was an anything goes kind of deal. Three-month-old Valentina sat quietly in Priscilla’s lap with eyes as wide as saucers. After announcing names and ages, the mothers struck a brass bowl like a gong and held one of their baby’s feet to the metal. None of the babies seemed to react or care about this vibration ritual. Drunk Mike didn’t even stir. “Huh,” I thought. That was it. I was reserving actual judgment for when it got really weird. Priscilla introduced me as her friend and then her face flashed that look that we are both now very familiar with that says, “Everyone here thinks we are lesbians.” In panic she quickly threw in, “We live together.” So glad we cleared that up.
With intros, gong banging, and foot vibrations over, we moved into warm-up stretches. I was the only one who did not bring my own baby barbell, so the teacher produced a stuffed elephant. I was self-conscious for a moment but then I noticed that the room had erupted into chaos. Mike woke up and wasn’t happy about his hangover. Gretchen had escaped her mat and was crawling over the top of Lily’s mom. A kid whose name I didn’t catch had a diaper situation going on and everyone else was crying. Valentina continued to stare in amazement at the spectacle. I closed my eyes and focused on my Ujjayi breathing.
The next move involved holding the babies over our heads, and Priscilla has not developed mommy arms yet. Valentina is still a light weight and her mother has taken a moral stand against pushups. She crapped out half way through the hold and handed her barbell to me in a baby/elephant exchange that worked to her advantage. I did the next set of lunges with a confused child held tightly against my tummy, and then it was her turn. The babies were placed on their own yoga mats while scarves and essential oils were handed around. Every baby calmed down as they were massaged with lavender, tickled with scarves, and stretched into various positions. They seemed to enjoy being the center of attention. What do you know, babies do like yoga! The elephant was the only one who was indifferent. Of course, it would be my kid.
The calm respite of oiling and stretching ended and we set the babies aside for a time-out. We stretched out flat on the ground and followed the instruction to focus on an imaginary bubble of safety around us. While I desperately tried to visualize my bubble and control my gag reflex, the teacher chanted and banged the Gong of Tranquility. I knew this was going to get weird. Good thing I saved up all that judgment. My bubble of cynicism was suddenly pierced by the screaming cries of those who were clearly not enjoying their own bubbles. Or perhaps they were objecting to being awakened from their massage stupor by a gong. Whoever named that thing was seriously misguided.
In any case, I did not waste much time wondering whether this might be the first of many hours to be spent in baby yoga class. Lesson learned is that “baby yoga” is nothing more than regular yoga in a room full of screaming babies—which is as stressful as it sounds. Valentina is not much of a crier and her mellow personality is perfectly suited to imaginary bubble, essential oil, scarf waving activities. But I think her mama and Tia Jo can use her as a barbell in our own living room, without the crying. LA is my home and I want to embrace its scene but I think I am going to have to pass the gong and wish the yoga mommies a heartfelt baby Namaste.