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Baby Yoga: Definition, History and Benefits

One of the latest activities that’s taking the spotlight is baby yoga: a type of yoga specially designed for you to do with your baby. The world of parent-baby classes is constantly growing, and it can feel like there is always a new parenting trend to keep up with. 

Baby yoga is becoming increasingly popular all over the world, although is it worth all that popularity?

Whether you’re a new parent or a mum-to-be, we’re here to tell you all you need to know about this latest branch of yoga. We’ll discuss its origins, baby yoga benefits, what you can expect from a class, safety precautions and our recommended resources to help you on your mother and baby yoga journey.

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What is Baby Yoga?

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As the name suggests, it is simply a type of yoga class for babies. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that your little one will be doing a headstand anytime soon! 

The movements are extremely gentle and slow (even slower than yin) and it is completely safe if practiced correctly. Baby yoga uses various poses and small movements to help develop your baby’s general health and wellbeing.

Also known as mum and baby yoga, there are plenty of mental and physical benefits for new mothers too. Mental health benefits are one of the things we really emphasise at OriGym - read more in our guide to the mental health benefits of running.

It is a great way to ease yourself back into exercise after birth, and is a perfect opportunity to socialise with other parents, which we know can be difficult after giving birth.

First, let’s learn where this mix of exercise and mother-baby bonding comes from!

What Are The Origins of Baby Yoga?

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The basic principles of baby yoga are largely based on the idea that gentle movement and touch is an important part of a baby’s physical, social and emotional development. 

This concept comes from the practice of baby massage, which dates back to over 3000 years ago in Asia. In countries like India in particular, baby massage was a standard part of childcare. 

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that it came over to the West. Before then, the idea of massaging your baby was unheard of!

Whilst working in an orphanage in northern India, baby yoga pioneer Vimala McClure witnessed first-hand the practice of baby massage and decided to bring it over to the USA. 

And for massages for the adults, we’ve picked out our best massage guns so you and your baby can be as relaxed as possible.

Inspired by her experiences, she founded the International Association of Infant Massage in 1978. She developed her own baby yoga training programme which combined the Indian practices she had learnt with Swedish reflexology methods. This then developed into what’s now referred to as baby yoga.

“But what about Russian baby yoga?”

You may have heard of Russian baby yoga, or ‘baby swinging yoga’. This an extreme, highly controversial method that involves swinging the baby in a vigorous way. It sparked controversy when a video of a Russian baby yoga exercise went viral in 2011. 

The video (which has now been blocked) showed a woman swinging a baby around her head and shoulders. Health professionals have since condemned the practice, labelling it unsafe and highly dangerous for babies. 

Although not illegal, Russian baby yoga has not been approved by the Russian Ministry of Health. Baby yoga is completely different; it is gentle, safe and certified by medical professionals.

What Age Is Suitable To Practice Baby Yoga?

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It is generally recommended that you wait until your 6 week check-up with your GP before starting baby yoga. This means your baby will have more control of their neck muscles, and can therefore be more involved in the poses and movements.

Waiting for this length of time is especially important if you’ve had a C-section or any birth complications that could put you at risk. Waiting for this six week period means your body can have the time it needs to recover, and be more receptive to the yoga poses. 

It is also more likely that as a mother, you will be more well-rested and feel confident enough with your baby to attend a mum and baby yoga class. The main point of yoga is to feel comfortable and relaxed, and so it’s important to only do it when you feel ready.

Once you’re comfortable with exercise again, we’d suggest taking your baby out with you if you’re a keen runner - OriGym’s report on the best running buggies has prams for all surfaces!

What Will My Baby Do As Part of Baby Yoga?

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Like any yoga practice, baby yoga is all about combining movement with relaxation. A typical class will involve gentle stretches, holds and massages that you perform on your baby. You are with your baby at all times and your instructor will guide you through every exercise.

The poses are regressions of regular ‘adult’ yoga poses. Each one is specifically designed for babies and targets a specific physical benefit. For example, a pose where you gently move your baby’s legs will target their leg muscles, joints and hip flexors. 

The exercises are also often practiced to familiar songs, to help further stimulate your baby’s senses. Music is often integral to exercise - we’ve explored whether running with music aids performance in another of our comprehensive articles.

Most mum and baby classes end with relaxation where your baby can completely wind down and relax.

What Are The Benefits Of Baby Yoga?

 #1 - Strengthens The Parent-Child Bond

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One of the most significant baby yoga benefits is that it cultivates a strong parent-child bond. This is essential for the baby’s social and emotional development.

Doing yoga with your baby is a chance to spend precious one-on-one time with your baby without any distractions. It involves lots of eye contact to increase emotional intimacy between you both, as well as being physically close to your baby.

It is a great way to learn about each other’s bodies and how your baby reacts to sensory stimuli. This all helps to build up your baby’s trust in you, which will have a huge impact on your relationship later in life.

  

#2 - Promotes Relaxation For Both Parent and Baby

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Just like any form of yoga, the combination of gentle movements and breathing exercises in baby yoga promotes instant relaxation. For your baby, it teaches them to be in tune with their body and how to truly wind-down.

But mums need to relax too! Childbirth can be an exhausting and stressful time, and baby yoga is a great way to integrate some much-needed me-time into your week. 

Although it is mostly the baby who is doing the movement, most teachers will include breathing exercises for you to do throughout the class too. These breathing exercises are called “pranayama”, and are an integral part of almost all yoga - we’ve compiled a list of the best free yoga apps so you can practice your relaxation techniques on the go! 

#3 - Improves Sleep

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Getting your baby to sleep is notoriously one of the most difficult aspects of being a new mother. By promoting relaxation, baby yoga naturally leads to better sleep for both mother and baby! 

The exercises are designed to gently engage and release the baby’s muscles, which stimulates relaxation. This prepares the baby for sleep, making it much easier for them to drop off. 

A 2001 study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, found that massaging babies for just 15 minutes a day improved the quality and quantity of babies’ sleep. So, it’s no wonder that your baby will sleep soundly after a baby yoga session!

But if you’re still struggling with your energy levels, OriGym’s guide to the best vitamins to combat tiredness and fatigue has supplements to boost your get up and go!

#4 - Helps You Ease Back Into Exercise After Pregnancy

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Being a new mother can be a tiring experience, so being active might be the last thing on your mind. But the NHS advocates gentle, regular activity as a way to actually increase energy levels and to even prevent postnatal depression. 

If you had a ‘normal’ birth without any complications, you should consider gradually restarting exercise as soon as you feel up to it. And baby yoga is an easy way to do this!

Although your baby is the focus, most mom and baby yoga classes will give exercises for the parents to do too. These are specifically focused on areas that may have become weaker after childbirth, such as posture, pelvic floor and abdominal strength.

#5 - Offers A Way To Meet Other Parents

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One of the most overlooked benefits of baby yoga is that as well as helping you get back into physical shape, baby yoga can positively impact your mental health too.

At the end of most mom and baby yoga classes, there will be time where your baby is free to play with toys whilst you have a chat with the other parents over a cup of tea. 

According to the NCT, having a support network of other parents to talk to can help with postnatal depression, which affects around 20% of women after birth. The value of forming social connections with other parents and being part of a parenting community should not be underestimated!

You could also explore other avenues of yoga with your newfound friends - we’d recommend laughter yoga to get you chuckling as you stretch!

#6 - Improves Your Baby’s Flexibility And Muscle Strength 

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One of the most significant baby yoga benefits is that it improves your child’s physical strength and flexibility. Through carefully controlled exercises, it helps boost the two main systems that play a part in developing movement and strength: the vestibular and proprioceptive systems.

It widely acknowledged that the gentle movements in baby yoga help regulate the vestibular system. This is the sensory system that contributes to our sense of balance and spatial awareness. Improving your baby’s balance will help with things like crawling, walking and general motor skills.

It also targets the proprioceptive system, which controls self-awareness and how we react to sensory stimuli. You may not have thought about it, but babies are born completely unaware of how to move their bodies! They can be surprised by how their body moves and this awareness is developed over several months.

Baby yoga can help this process by moving the body in a controlled way and encouraging self-awareness. This is so important for both your baby’s motor skills and social development.

#7 - Stimulates The Baby’s Senses

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Another internal system that baby yoga helps is the somatosensory system. This essentially means that it stimulates your baby’s awareness of their senses (touch, smell, sight and hearing). 

As well as movement exercises, it often involves sensory activities such as listening to songs, playing instruments and touching different textures. 

These activities are all crucial for a child’s development and progress, and by incorporating these into a baby yoga session, it can become a great way for your child to become aware of the world around them!

It’ll also help your child build their self-awareness, too, which will help them significantly later in life. Being aware of your own body and your movement is crucial to how we move, and by building that awareness with baby yoga, you can give your baby the extra opportunity to develop and grow!

This self-awareness and introspectivity is a key element of all yoga - OriGym’s report on the many different types of yoga styles explores this in much greater depth!

#8 - Helps With Crawling and Walking

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Just like traditional yoga, baby yoga improves balance and stability. Although they won’t be doing a tree pose or standing on their head any time soon, the gentle exercises all work to improve your baby’s centre of gravity. This means that when they start learning to crawl and walk, they will be more stable and most likely learn faster!

‘Tummy-time’ is also a great benefit of baby yoga. This helps your baby become familiar with the sensation of being on their tummy, which in turn allows them to feel more comfortable with the feeling of crawling.

As well as balance, being aware of their body and its limits will give your baby confidence when it comes to crawling and walking. They will already be used to bearing weight on their arms and legs, so crawling will be a breeze!

#9 - Aids Baby’s Digestion 

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The gentle massaging and movements involved in baby yoga can aid your baby’s delicate digestive system. Your baby is still developing, of course, and any assistance you can give them is always incredibly helpful!

Exercises such as cycling your baby’s legs or massaging their tummy are great for this. Any form of massage in the abdomen area will help stimulate digestion and bowel movements, which is so important for your baby’s overall health and wellbeing!

Activities such as the “tummy time” that we mentioned in our previous section can also be beneficial for digestion, as the baby’s movements will stimulate the stomach and promote good tummy health!

Digestive and metabolic health is important, regardless of age, though - we’ve compiled a guide to the best metabolism boosting foods so you can pack your diet with helpful options!

#10 - Eases Colic

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Colic is when a baby cries a lot but there is no obvious cause; it is a fairly common problem and usually gets better on its own. But as a new mother, colic can be one of the main causes of your exhaustion and stress. So, any possible solution is not to be sniffed at!

Babies can cry for a number of reasons, but one common cause is trapped wind. When they cry, babies take in a lot of air which can get trapped in the bowl. This is very uncomfortable for them and can make them cry more - and so the cycle continues! 

Certain moves in baby yoga are especially designed for relieving gas and trapped wind. By making your baby more relaxed and helping their digestion, doing yoga with your baby can therefore ease colic!

#11 - Encourages Your Child To Be Active In The Long-Term

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Most parents are aware that what children do and are exposed to in their early years has a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Whether that’s how you talk to your baby, or the things that go on around them, all of these things shape how we develop.

The same goes for exercise and movement - by introducing gentle activity such as baby yoga at an early age, your child may be more likely to be healthy and active in adulthood. The baby will become more accustomed to the movements and flexibility of the joints, and therefore be more capable when it comes to future exercise.

Considering that one in three adults in America are obese, introducing your child to exercise even as a baby could have a significant impact on their future health!

Is Baby Yoga Safe For My Child?

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As with any form of exercise - and particularly one involving a baby, there are some potential risks to consider. Baby yoga is completely safe if practiced correctly, but here are some tips to help make your experience as safe as possible.

  • Get your 6-week check up first. It generally advised that you wait until after your 6-week check-up with your GP before doing baby yoga. If your baby has any physical health conditions, you may be advised against it.
  • Check your instructor. It may sound obvious, but when you sign up for a class, make sure that it is with a qualified instructor. They should have completed a special baby yoga training course as well as standard yoga teacher training. You can even do some of your own research online about the instructor beforehand, to give you a better piece of mind.
  • Don’t force anything. You should never force any movements with your baby; listen and respond to their reactions by keeping eye contact with them at all times. Stop if they cry or seem uncomfortable with something. Remember that every baby is different and don’t rush just to keep up with other mums and babies in the class. Go at your own pace!
  • Know when not to do it. Don’t do baby yoga if your child is hungry, if they are full, upset, or tired.
  • Consider how your baby is feeling. Remember that if your baby is teething or has recently had injections, they could be particularly sensitive to touch and movement. Some babies may not want to take part at all if they are feeling this way. But for other babies, it can be a welcome distraction from the experience. Listen to your baby and see what works best for you.
  • Never swing your baby! This may sound obvious, but this has been a concern after videos of ‘Russian baby yoga’ and ‘baby swinging yoga’ went viral around five years ago. As we have said, swinging your baby is not a part of baby yoga and is not advocated by professionals. Mum and baby yoga is completely safe and the exercises are specially adapted for a baby.

Where Can I Find a Baby Yoga Class?

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Due to its rise in popularity in recent years, it is generally easy to find a mum and baby yoga class near you.

NCT (or the National Childbirth Trust) offers mother and baby yoga classes and workshops all across the country. You can also find Baby Yoga classes using the search tool on Happity.

Facebook and other social media groups for new mums in your area are also a great way to find local baby yoga groups. If you’re feeling nervous, you can even find a fellow mum to go along to your first class with to make it that bit less daunting!

Attending classes together even comes with its own set of benefits - we’ve performed a comprehensive case study on the benefits of group exercise classes, and found some surprising results.

How Much Does It Cost?

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Classes are generally around £5-10 for 30 minutes to an hour. However, this is completely dependent on your location and the length of the class. The NCT offer a comprehensive search tool, meaning you can find classes that are local to you, and that work around your schedule, which is especially important if you’re a working parent.

Many organisations also offer courses, such as this 4-week course for £40 from Baby Connexions. This will allow you to plan out a routine for you and your baby, and ensure that the benefits of baby yoga. 

Enjoying this article? We’ve got 3 more we think you might find interesting!

What Happens In A Class?

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It is always a good idea to arrive at least 20 minutes before your baby yoga class starts. This gives you time to relax, talk to the instructor, meet the other parents and to sort out any last-minute nappy changes!

If mats are provided, put your own blanket from home at the top of the yoga mat and place your baby down on it. The class will begin with a warm-up involving small movements, often to songs or rhymes.

If mats aren’t handed out as part of the class, OriGym has you covered with an array of the best yoga mats.

When you move on to the main part of the class, the instructor will demonstrate each exercise, sometimes with a model baby. They should also walk around the class to check how you are doing.

The class will always end with a relaxation, where the instructor may give the parents some breathing exercises to do while your baby lies down. This relaxation period is important as it is when your baby can fully wind-down, which often sends them into a blissful sleep! The end of the class is also a perfect time to chat to the other parents and form those all-important connections with fellow mums.

Throughout the class, you are always free to pick your baby up, rock them, change their nappy or walk around the room. It is therefore definitely not as calm and quiet as a typical yoga class, simply because babies are unpredictable!

Do not be disheartened if the first class doesn’t go well for you. Your baby might cry or sleep through the whole thing and this is completely normal! Remember that every baby will react differently to the practice. It can take some babies a bit of time to get used to it, so whilst you should never force your baby to do anything, we recommend giving it a few goes before making up your mind.

  

What Should You Wear?

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We recommend that you wear comfy clothes that you can move in, such as joggers, leggings and a loose t-shirt. Or if you’re exercising on a chilly winter day, we’d suggest a pair of leggings from our list of the best fleece-lined leggings.

While yoga is a calming, gentle string of movements and poses, it is important to be able to move freely, so comfortable and breathable clothes are a must.

As for your baby, something like a short-sleeved sleepsuit is ideal. Babies are all different, however, so it’s important for you to dress your baby in something you know they’ll be comfortable moving and exploring in.

You should also make sure that they are wearing a well-fitting nappy that will keep them dry no matter how much they move. A nappy disaster is the last thing you need during a class!

What Should You Bring?

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Check with the instructor beforehand if yoga mats are provided at the venue or not. You should definitely bring a blanket for the baby to lie on, which will go on top of the mat. 

A change of clothes, nappies and a few snacks are also essential, as well as snacks for yourself (OriGym’s buyers’ guide to the best high protein vegan snacks has some excellent ideas!). Although baby yoga is not an intense class, it’s important to make your baby feel as comfortable as possible so that they can explore and enjoy themselves. 

Some of your baby’s favourite toys are also useful for the end of the class when they have free time to play. 

Are There Classes With Different Difficulty Levels?

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With yoga’s accessibility and adaptability, it’s natural that you might wonder whether there’s scope to expand or add challenge to your baby yoga. However, we wouldn’t recommend that.

The nature of baby yoga is that it is a gentle practice that is accessible for all, and one that should be focused on bonding and your baby’s exploration. Our recommendation would be to put an emphasis on comfort and easing your baby (and yourself) into exercise and healthy habits.

But even within the class, you can take it to whatever level you are comfortable with. You should take everything slowly and never force your baby to do any movements, especially as they are still developing and growing.

Although, if you’re seeking a more intense yoga experience, OriGym's exploration of power yoga has a much bigger challenge available.

What Are Some Baby Yoga Exercises?

So, you think that you’re ready to start your baby yoga journey? Whether you’re doing it at home or in a class, here are some common mother and baby yoga exercises that you can practice. 

  • The Bee

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 Start by lying your baby down onto a soft surface such as a blanket. Bend over them and gently lift up their arm and ‘hum’ softly onto their hand. Then do the same with their feet. If your baby enjoys the sensations of the vibrations, try ‘humming’ on their tummy or forehead too! This is a great sensory experience for your baby and helps to heighten their reception to stimuli. 

  • Cycling

 Start by lying your baby down onto a soft surface such as a blanket. Gently take hold of each of their legs and move them slowly in a cycling motion. Make sure to only use a small range of motion so as not to overstretch their hip flexors. This is not only a good exercise for their joints and muscles, but also helps aid digestion. 

  • The Fish

Sit on the floor and stretch your legs out in front of you. Carefully lie your baby across your thighs and rock them gently from side to side. If they are enjoying this, guide them down your legs and then back towards you again. This gives your baby a very gentle massage on their muscles due to the gentle rolling motion of their body against your legs. Your legs act almost like a foam roller to them! Make sure to support your child’s weight the whole time during this exercise and always move slowly.

  • The Flying Baby 

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Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, holding your baby facing forwards. Exhale and bend your knees. As you inhale, straighten your legs and place your weight onto your left foot, coming on the tip toes of your right foot. Repeat on the other side, keeping your baby close to you at all times.

This is not only great for your own core strength, but it also helps strengthen your baby’s muscles in their head, neck and shoulders as they learn to support their own weight.

  • Tummy Time

Simply lie your baby on their stomach on a soft blanket or mat. Even if your baby can only lift their head up slightly, this pose is one of the best for strengthening their neck muscles. Learning to support their own head weight will help them when they come to learning to crawl and walk. 

To take it further, you can also lie on your stomach facing your baby. This will help cultivate an emotional bond between you both and turns it into a fun mother-baby playtime! 

Can Baby Yoga Be Done At Home?

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Yes! Baby yoga is safe and easy to do at home. All you need is a warm, calm and safe space to do it. Make sure to put a non-slip towel or mat down on the floor and place a soft blanket on top of that.

You can either practice some of the exercises detailed above, or follow a YouTube video. Just make sure that you adhere to the exercises carefully and accurately, and only follow the advice of reputable instructors online. We’ve listed some of the best ones below.

Plus, keep the calming exercises going with our pick of the best yoga DVDs!

What Are Some Recommended Resources For Baby Yoga?

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There are plenty of books out there that are dedicated to helping you get started on baby yoga, but we’ve picked out a couple of our favourites:

Baby Om: Yoga for Mothers and Babies by Laura Stanton and Sarah Perron

Price: £3.40 

This book is a great starting point for all you need to know about yoga with your baby. Laura and Sarah are both yoga instructors and mothers themselves who run their own baby yoga classes. The book is largely based on their own classes and includes step-by-step guides on basic exercises.

Yoga For Mother and Baby by Julie Llewellyn-Thomas

Price: £17.97 

Structured through the first nine months after birth, this book gives you exercise for each stage of your baby’s development. There’s also a specific section for mothers, with movements designed to rebuild strength and to relax.

We’ve also selected a few YouTube channels that we’d recommend, especially if you’re wanting to try baby yoga at home:

Liel Cheri Yoga and Wellness

This yoga and wellness YouTuber is the creator of ‘The Sassy Mommy Lifestyle’ programme, which aims to “help you get flexible, stronger, free and healthier in your own skin”. She has a whole playlist of mom and baby yoga videos. They range from 5 to 35 minutes long, so there’s something for everyone, no matter how busy you are!

Lucy Johns

Lucy’s channel is dedicated to baby massage, reflexology and movement. She has a range of short videos that guide you through individual baby yoga exercises, including everything from massages for trapped wind to yoga for after a long car journey.

Gemma Ford- Love Yoga Online

Although this is a general yoga channel, Gemma has a great 50-minute mother and baby yoga video. This is ideal if you’re a bit further into your baby yoga journey and want to try out a longer practice. Her channel is also great if you want some mother me-time, as she has a range of normal adult yoga videos of varying difficulty levels.

Before you go!

So, what is baby yoga? We hope that you now feel confident about exactly what it involves, its history, how to do it and whether it’s right for you and your child. 

It is gentle, accessible and completely safe, and there are so many amazing health benefits of baby yoga for both you and your little one. It is clear that this isn’t just another throwaway parenting trend; we think that this one is here to stay!

And when it comes to careers in fitness, so are we! OriGym’s REPs and CIMSPA recognised personal training courses are an ideal stepping stone into launching a successful career as a personal trainer.

Or, download our FREE prospectus and learn more about what we offer, and just how it could be right for you!

References

  1. Field, T., & Hernandez-Reif, M., (2001). Sleep problems in infants decrease following massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 168, 95-104.
  2. NCT. Postnatal depression: the questions you really want to ask.
  3. NHS. Keeping fit and healthy with a baby.
  4. Sprouts Child Development Blog - What is the Vestibular System and Why Is It Important? 
  5. Brain Balance - Proprioception Explained 
  6. Yang L, Colditz GA. Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in the United States, 2007-2012. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(8):1412–1413. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2405 

Written by Alice Williams

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Alice is a freelance content writer at OriGym. With a first-class degree in French and Linguistics, she loves all things language, fitness and culture. As part of her degree, she spent a year living in France where she worked for a lifestyle blog, gaining professional experience in both translation and content writing. 

When she’s not writing, you can usually find Alice practicing yoga and she hopes to one day become a yoga instructor herself. She also loves running, tennis and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! It was this passion for health and fitness, combined with her love for writing, that brought Alice to OriGym.

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