Source: Barcroft Media
Lena Fokina flips a baby over her head - proving the video footage of 'baby yoga' that shocked millions around the world is in fact real.
The 51-year-old Russian was filmed spinning and flinging babies above her head and behind her back in such an outlandish fashion that many websites, including YouTube, banned the footage for fear it glorified child abuse.
In fact, the moves were so shocking most believed they were being performed on a doll rather than a baby.
However, we can confirm Lena does subject real babies to her bizarre techniques - and is hoping to introduce them to parents in the UK.
We tracked Lena down at a seminar called "Parenting the Deliberate Way" in Dahab, Egypt, where parents from across Europe were paying her to perform the same moves on their infants, some just months old.
And while most of the babies were left screaming in tears or vomited during or after their session of 'baby dynamics', Lena insists it is for their benefit.
Lena, a qualified PE teacher, said: "It's very good for babies and not dangerous at all. Some babies cry at first, but they begin to enjoy it.
“Most people think young babies can only lie on a bed, eat, and cry. But babies are born with natural reflexes, which we can use to help them develop physically and intellectually.
"I work with parents from across Europe. I hope soon I will be working with a family in England. I think there are a number of open-minded parents there whose babies could benefit from my work."
According to Lena, baby yoga was first practiced by ancient African tribes – but the modern incarnation was developed by fellow Russian Dr Igor Charkovsky, who was also present at the seminar.
Lena, a mother-of-five and grandmother, does sessions that can last up to five minutes, during which babies are spun, swung and flipped by Lena, often by a single limb.
The actions are performed on babies from a few weeks old up to around age two.
Lena said: "The method was originally developed to cure and correct the health of children having muscular or skeletal problems but it is also suitable for healthy children. The movements are designed to improve their muscular abilities and development.
"And the children often turn out to be early readers, singers, talkers, swimmers. It also makes their hands stronger. We are humanists and we don’t do anything wrong."
At the camp the parents, hailing mainly from Russia and the Ukraine, also seemed entirely satisfied as they stood by and watched Lena treat their babies, usually above a gravel floor.
Each day at 8am, parents would bring their tots to the Mirage Village Hotel in Dahab.
Around twenty parents had signed up for Lena’s latest 12-day seminar, which costs £255 per family.
The mood was casual as Lena encouraged parents to study the moves before giving it a go themselves.
Parents smiled and chatted as the infants were left dangling for long periods by their arms or legs.
But in almost every case our investigators watched as the babies began crying just seconds into the bizarre routine.
And another vomited mid-air after undergoing several minutes of swinging.
Yet Lena refused to acknowledge any dangers.
She said: “From the moment of its birth a child can grasp, step, support itself and swim.
“The Charkovsky method uses these natural reflexes for child training. The amount of time it takes to train an adult to do it on a child depends on the sensibility of the child’s parent. Sometimes it only takes one training session."
For years doctors around the world have warned that 'dramatic and unnatural movements' inflicted on a young baby can lead to brain bleeding, retinal hemorrhaging and brain swelling - commonly known as Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).
And some researchers have suggested that SBS can occur at much lower levels of head movement than had been previously thought.
But Lena, who has been practicing baby yoga for more than 30 years, tells clients it is harmless even for newborn babies, as long as a child is eased into the movements gradually.
She is also not worried about any strain on the babies' joints and limbs.
She said: "Even a tiny baby’s body can adapt to the process easily if you take it gradually.
“As long as the parent or instructor has practiced and studied the teachings of Dr Charkovsky the child will be fine.
“People tend to get upset when they see it because they are not aware of children’s real abilities - but these abilities are much wider than it is traditionally thought.”
The Dahab seminar offered participants the opportunity to “learn the method of Igor Charkovsky and techniques for working with pregnant women, newborns and children”.
As well as morning seminars in ‘baby dynamics’ parents were also instructed in ‘water rebirthing’, which involves repeatedly dunking children's heads underwater.
The practice is designed to address "repressed trauma from birth."
According to literature about the practice on Lena’s website, rebirthing “allows the mind and body to gently restructure itself so as to increase the feeling of happiness, efficiency, be healthy and to feel the inner harmony of the individual.”
However, there seemed to be little of this on display in the children being forced under the water by Dr Charkovsky, a Russian midwife whose research includes the effect dolphins can have on a mother's calm during childbirth.
Again, many ended up in tears.
Also on offer at the seminar were more traditional pursuits such as baby massage, swimming lessons and gymnastics.
Lena has also conducted workshops in Thailand and India where she has worked on children from all over the world.
She said: “Baby dynamics is quite well known Russia but up to now all the literature about it has only been in Russian.
“However, it is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world and we want to teach parents by bringing our methods to where they live.
“Although I don’t know anybody practicing in the UK yet I will be very proud when I see my methods applied there.”
Lena studied physical education at the University of Physcial Culture in Moscow, achieving a Master's degree.
She later went on to study under Dr Charkovsky.
Now divorced Lena has five children, Alexandra, 30, Tatyana, 27, Timur, 23, Maria, 16 and 13-year-old Pavel.
She is also grandmother to Christian, three, and Petrik, four.
She said: “I first tried baby dynamics 30 years ago after my oldest daughter Alexandra was born.
"At first I was worried, but then I realised how my children enjoyed it and it inspired me.
"People criticise our methods out of ignorance - if only they tried to understand what we were doing, they would change their attitudes.
"If by doing it I give children an advantage, why wouldn't I?
“I was aware of the practices but it was only later when I was introduced to Dr Charkovsky that I became a teacher in it.
"It's something I am very proud of and have believed in for a very long time."
Lena lives in Russia but frequently visits Dahab where her two eldest daughters live.
She works full-time giving seminars all over the world, but insists her work is not done for profit.
She said: “What I do is not a commercial project. I earn enough money just to live here and work with children.
“What I do is not part of my life, it is my life.”
Despite being relatively common in Russia, Lena says she prefers to hold her seminars in Egypt.
She said: “I love Egypt for many reasons.
“The climate is favourable with lots of sun and warm sea.
“There’s also good conditions for freediving, yoga and sports and the people here have a good attitude to what I am doing.
“All my children have grown up according to the Charkovsky method and they have all gone on to achieve outstanding results in life - they are Russian champions in parachuting, freediving and horse riding.
“Now my children are practicing those same methods on their own children. It’s the best proof.”
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