How do you massage someone who's wearing a diaper; who can't say, "Higher, please;" and who weighs less than your leg? Very gently. And expect to be paid back in smiles and naps.
Babies enjoy massage and benefit from it as much as people of any other age do, said Oakland child development specialist Kim Lyons, whose Tum E Time classes teach parents and other caregivers techniques for infant yoga, infant massage, and other forms of creative play that strengthen bonds and promote relaxation — not to mention alleviate gas.
Palms gliding down the back and legs, fingertips stroking the cheeks and circling the navel. Quiet songs sung as little knees bend: The techniques are simple, soothing, and healing. "Massage aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, assists circulation and respiration, reduces stress, and offers relaxation and deeper sleep patterns by calming the nervous system," said Lyons, whose next Tum E Time series begins on Thursday, March 11, at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church (1255 1st Ave., Oakland).
"Massage is not a one-way modality," she said. "I had a massage teacher at Esalen tell me, 'When you give a massage, you also receive a massage.' I think about this every time I witness the interaction in class between a baby and its caregiver. It offers time to communicate and connect with your baby in a deep and meaningful way."
After spending more than twenty years working with occupational, physical, speech, and language therapists and working as a program coordinator for an early-intervention center serving special-needs babies, Lyons became a mother herself. She has also received training in doula support, CranioSacral Therapy, and acupressure, and has earned certificates in teaching infant massage and yoga for special-needs children.
"Using these modalities for children with special needs has been particularly rewarding," she reflected. "I will never forget a moment when I was working with an older child with autism. During this particular session, his caretaker, who had been with him for seven years, sat in the corner crying. Afterwards, she told me that she had never seen him so peaceful. From our lessons, he was able to take the breathing exercises and use them when he got stressed in class or in the car."
A two-year-old girl with whom Lyons once worked had left-side paralysis that kept her left hand chronically clenched into a fist. But during sessions with Lyons, she said, massage strokes helped the child unclench her hand and perform fine motor tasks.
"These may not be considered 'traditional' therapies in a typical special-education program, but they definitely have a place and can be very effective," Lyons said. "I think that all humans have a need to be touched and connected with in a deep and meaningful way. We don't need much of the fancy baby equipment that has flooded the market. Instead, we need to go back to spending time, holding, touching, loving our babies." 10:30 a.m., $85 for four classes. TumETime.com