Russian guru returns with more frightening “baby yoga”

Frances McInnis
Shine On

Last year, millions were shocked by a viral video of Russian "baby yoga" guru Lena Fokina swinging babies around by their wrists and ankles.

Now Fokina is back in a new video showcasing a seminar she runs in Dahab, Egypt, where parents from across Europe pay to learn her techniques.

The practice is supposed to help babies become physically courageous and walk and swim earlier, though many say her methods are tantamount to child abuse.

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With no downward-facing dogs or warrior poses, baby yoga bears no resemblance to adult yoga practice, or even the mom-and-baby yoga classes offered at many Canadian yoga studios. Instead, it involves flipping and twirling a baby, sometimes by only one arm or leg, for minutes at a time.

After their turn being flung around Fokina's head, many babies were screaming, in tears or vomiting, reports the Daily Mail. The 12-day seminar, called "Parenting the Deliberate Way," costs £255 per family

Check out the new video released by Lena Fokina.

Crescence Krueger, a doula and yoga teacher based in Toronto, says that even though Fokina's methods have been dubbed "baby yoga," they are actually a form of gymnastics.

"There is a Russian focus on physical gymnastics and culture that starts with babies, and that's part of the confusion," she says.

"Dynamic baby gymnastics," as it is called in Russia, has not been subject to official studies and is not accepted by mainstream medicine in Russia, reports BBC. Pioneered by  Igor Charkovsky, proponents say the procedure helps baby to adapt to their new surroundings, making them more sociable, relaxed and physically adept.

That practice contrasts with the North American version of baby yoga, says Krueger, where the focus is on the bond between mother and child.

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When Fokina's first video came out, Dr. Manny Alvarez, a medical consultant for Fox News, wrote, "Proper baby yoga improves bonding, motor skills in the infant, and is safe and quite enjoyable for both the mother and child."

"However," he continues, "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."

Alvarez worries that the practice could damage joints or even result in Shaken Baby Syndrome, the brain bleeding and swelling that results from violently shaking babies, forcing their heads back and forth.

Shaking a baby in such a way can have long-term consequences, including intellectual and physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, and even death.

While Platona Goryon, the two-week old baby in the 2011 video is now a healthy toddler, the long-term effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome may not fully manifest until age six.

"If I have critics on the internet, I will not read it. I don't have time," Fokina says in the most recent video.