Russia, What Is This Baby Yoga Thing?

There is one thing that disturbs me about Dahab, Egypt. If you’ve read my blog for even a short amount of time, you know that I love the laid back people of this little town in the Sinai, its exotic Egyptian and Bedouin cultures, the awesome views of Saudi Arabia across the blue waters of the Red Sea and the craggy desert mountains in the background every which way you look. What could possibly bother me about this setting? Nothing in and of itself except that, for some reason, it attracts Russian people who practice baby yoga.

Baby yoga? What is that?

Photo courtesy of

Baby yoga is a practice engaged in by some Russians, who hire a so-called baby yoga expert who takes a usually naked infant in their arms then strongly swings them by their wrists and/or ankles in up and down and side to side motions as well as various other maneuvers for the purported purpose of somehow making them healthy and strengthening them for their future lives.

Photo courtesy of

I’d never seen or heard of baby yoga in my life, before the day I ran into an Egyptian friend on the corniche in Dahab and he said to me, Have you seen what the Russians are doing to their babies? He pointed at a man on the other side of the walkway, standing in one of Dahab’s dozens of open air waterfront restaurants. The man, in his thirties or forties, was wearing a Speedo and cradling and rocking a naked baby boy in his arms. Suddenly, the man grabbed the baby by his ankles, turned him upside down and began hurling him to and fro.

Photo courtesy of Barcroft Media

I was horrified.

But what I was seeing, I learned from my friend, is actually a common practice amongst Russian expats and tourists in Dahab. I’ve, of course, since googled this extensively and learned that Lena Fokina, the woman you see in the above photos, performs yoga on babies and says that it gives “children a boost in life.” Some Russian parents agree, stating that as a result of baby yoga, their children “walked and swam earlier” than those who didn’t undergo these gyrations. Doctors, of course, vehemently disagree with the practice, pointing out that it can within seconds lead to shaken baby syndrome, in which the brain hits the skull, causing bruising, swelling and/or bleeding, often resulting in brain damage or death.

Why is baby yoga practiced in Dahab of all places? I really don’t know. I do know that this little town is a very popular vacation spot for Russians. My Egyptian friend told me that the Russian man he’d pointed out to me also used to perform baby yoga in Israel. There he ended up killing three infants through the practice and was subsequently kicked out of the country, at which point he fled to Egypt. Perhaps Dahab is a safe haven for advocates of baby yoga, as no one seems to be stopping anyone from doing it.

It was impossible for me to get up-close photos or videos of baby yoga in Dahab, as the adults who are with the babies undergoing the yoga apparently don’t want outsiders to document it. I once indicated to a Russian woman that I would like to take photos of her baby who was being hurled about and she said no. So, later, I shot the following video through a glass door, looking onto a waterfront restaurant where this practice is very common. This is not the best view of baby yoga you might ever see, but watching this video you’ll get the idea.

Have you watched my baby yoga video or any like it? What do you think of the practice, now that you know about it?

35 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Melissa says:

    I’ve heard about this before but never seen it in person. It’s still horrifying. The risk of shaken baby syndrome seems way too high plus, what if the person performing it ever lost their grip? Too scary.
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  2. I don’t know enough about yoga, baby brain or Russian culture, so I might be way off in feeling it as violent, yet it was challenging for me to get through this post due to the photos, because, indeed, it reminded me of a story that made the news about a couple of parents who were accused of shaking their twin babies so much, the babies had brain damage and they died (no baby yoga was mentioned, though). To me, it’s not worth risking babies’ lives so that they will walk and swim faster than other babies (or for any reason, really). They hopefully have many decades to live and master these skills. I think I would get dizzy and get a headache and nausea if someone held me by my legs and twisted me around in the air, so I wonder how a tiny baby’s body would react to it. Never heard of it before this post, this is what came up for me as I read it.
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  3. Sabina says:

    It is so disturbing to see, Melissa. Baby yoga is done right in public in Dahab, but I really would like to never see it again.

  4. Sabina says:

    Ayelet – you make a great point that people have decades to master the fast walking and swimming skills that baby yoga supposedly creates. It does seem like quite a violent activity, and I know there is no way this would be legal in the U.S. One Russian woman told me that the babies sometimes vomit and lose control of their bowels while they’re being tossed around, and the baby yoga guru will say it’s healthy and just part of the cleansing that their body goes through while being hurled about. I wonder how many infants die from this.

  5. Audrey says:

    Whoa! I have never heard of this in my life. Is this a new Russian trend? I too would be just as horrified as the locals upon seeing the tourists practice baby yoga on their newborns…
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  6. Oh.My.Word….I truly cannot believe that something this awful actually exists..those poor babies..their brains have barely started developing! I’ll be interested to see 10 years from now the percentage of these “yoga babies” that suffer from irreparable brain damage….

  7. This is nauseating…Those poor babies!

  8. Sabina says:

    Audrey, I don’t know how new it is. I thought yoga was supposed to be gentle, though…

  9. Sabina says:

    Tiffany, I know. I too wonder what long-term effects this has. Surely it does more harm than good.

  10. Doc Wends says:

    I am shocked to the see the video and even on the first photo, it disturbed me as much as I was reading through. Nowhere in the Philippines can u see activities like this and the parents or the “expert” will not be hauled off to jail for child abuse.

    practices though differ from each country and peoples but I hope the baby will indeed be fine growing up with an attached ankle or wrist after he/she being tossed up and down, to and fro.
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  11. Sabina says:

    Hi Doc, in the U.S. people doing this would also be put in jail. I too hope the short-term and long-term effects are somehow good. I don’t know for how many years baby yoga has been going on, but maybe if the yoga babies grow up with problems someday this practice will be stopped.

  12. Andrea says:

    Talk about controversial! I’ve never heard of this. Why would anyone take the risk?
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  13. Sabina says:

    Andrea, I don’t understand it myself. They think the benefits outweigh the risks, apparently. I hope this doesn’t spread to other cultures.

  14. Steve says:

    I’m trying to think of something to say about this, but words aren’t coming out. I guess I’ll have to first say that I never knew about this until now. It doesn’t even seem real, but I know it is. I can’t see this being really all that good for the baby. I’d think that the potential danger to the baby would outweigh any possible benefits (I’m extremely doubtful there are any).

    I think that if you did that in the US, you’d have the police on you right away. This definitely doesn’t seem like something that will catch on to the rest of the world.
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  15. Sabina says:

    Steve, I know – what can you say? It’s horrifying. I too doubt that there are any actual benefits to this. Surely only harm can be done. I wonder who ever invented this and why. I also wonder how it caught on so well with Russians.

  16. This is completely and utterly bizarre. What I find even worse is that people still practice it knowing full well of the dangers that it can cause to babies. For me, this just sounds like a bunch of wealthy people with no brains latching on to a monstrously dangerous fad. So what if your kid is a bit slower to develop? Deal with it.

  17. Sabina says:

    Tom, it really is bizarre. I’m under the impression that the people who do this don’t know any better. Maybe shaken baby syndrome isn’t a known entity in Russia. Although with their babies being shaken up badly for baby yoga, I think it will be in the future.

  18. What the heck? This looks so wrong. I just can’t imagine that it’s OK. Are the babys’ arms and legs strong enough to handle this? And how dizzy they must feel when it’s over. Yikes for so many reasons.
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  19. Sabina says:

    Lisa, I know. It is so wrong. I don’t know the genesis of this or why people think it’s a good practice to continue. It is very disturbing to witness. It really needs to stop.

  20. Diane says:

    That just doesn’t look right. Did anyone approach the woman asking WTF she was doing? No clue why it’s called baby yoga. Yoga principles seem to be severely lacking… Loved the post!
    Diane recently posted..Restaurants in France: Things you might not know about dining outMy Profile

  21. Sabina says:

    Hi, Diane – yes, yoga principles do seem to be lacking, don’t they? This is so common, people don’t ask them what they’re doing. Most people just sit there or walk by as if they don’t notice.

  22. Suzy says:

    This is utterly horrifying! I have never heard of baby yoga. You wonder what kind of parent thinks that this is a good idea.
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  23. Sabina says:

    Isn’t it, Suzy? Apparently a lot of Russian parents think this is a good idea, because there sure are a lot of them making their babies undergo this practice.

  24. Sabrina says:

    That is absolutely crazy! I had never heard of this before. It’s only a matter of time until some poor baby gets hurt in Dahab – hopefully they’ll kick so called experts out then too.
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  25. Sabina says:

    Hi, Sabrina. I know. It’s only a matter of time, unfortunately.

  26. Jay says:

    Wow – I cannot believe what I’m seeing and I imagine I would have been horrified had I witnessed it in person!

    I do question the relation to yoga. As someone who practises yoga, it seems strange that throwing a baby in the air would even correlate to a practise that is known to be a gentle and smooth movement through poses… poses.
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  27. Sabina says:

    Hi, Jay. Right. I think the word yoga is used very loosely in this case. Perhaps a poor translation of the Russian term for the practice? I’d love to know the origin of baby yoga. Maybe it started out gentle and morphed over time.

  28. To be it looks controversial and scary. How can you do something like this to your kids? Is it safe at all? Never heard of it before, but I would be afraid of dropping my baby on the ground.
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  29. It can happen only in Russia hehe
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  30. A local Bedouin friend of mine said he was so horrified he threw them out of his cafe. He said “They make the babies hate life”. One Russian walked into the cafe and the baby started crying hysterically when it saw the water, becase they often chuck them into the sea and let them sink or swim too, as part of the yoga!

  31. Sabina says:

    That’s so funny – they make the babies hate life :) I’m glad your Bedouin friend threw them out of his cafe. Baby yoga is just so horrifying to witness.

  32. Samantha says:

    The babies are terrified! This is horrible. I don’t like this at all. This is cruelty and I am glad this wouldn’t be allow in the US. Poor babies. Breaks my heart for them.

  33. Sabina says:

    Samantha, I know – it is just horrible. The fact that they think they’re helping the babies by doing this to them is bizarre. I wonder what the babies turn out like as children, teens and adults. They probably have a unique set of problems.

  34. amber snow says:

    oh my i couldn’t believe my eyes. I just hope this isn’t true.Poor babies :(
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