Russian TV Reduces Baby Yoga’s Lena Fokina to Tears

March 2nd, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  32 Comments

Photomontage, Lena at center, from the show's website

A high-profile Russian talk show–Channel 1’s пусть говорят (Let Them Talk) with host Andrei Malakhov–dove yesterday into the (still!) ongoing Russian baby yoga controversy. Their star guest? None other than former DadWagon interviewee Lena Fokina herself, freshly escaped from the revolution in Egypt and, I have to say, still looking ridiculously fit for a 50-year-old.

I’m not sure what Lena thought this show was going to be, but Malakhov brought together a distinguished panel of writers, psychologists and cranky grandmothers, paired the panel with a somewhat irritated audience, and spent nearly the entire 45 minutes letting everyone rip into her and her unorthodox yoga. (Follow DadWagon on Facebook or at the Twitters)

This is fascinating to me, because when I was calling around–maybe all my friends in Russia are hippies?–I found a pretty deep level of tolerance and understanding for tossing babies around. Even those that didn’t support her outright at least got all defensive and attacked Americans for being fat (a conversation I never tire of having with foreigners!).

But on this show, with new videos of Lena and her acolytes at work and priceless cutaways to horrified audience members, Lena was attacked in large part for being the foreigner, for having an un-Russian style of exercise. She had her supporters, but for the last 20 minutes of the show, she is completely stonefaced, sometimes on the brink of tears or past it.

In the end, I felt sorry for her. She had that same stubbornness that came through in our interview, that sense of genuine injury and disbelief that someone would question her practice. But I do have to wonder: if the Russians turn on her, where will she go from here?

Below the video I’ve offered a few highlights, by timestamp

1:30 Lena starts things out with a somewhat muted live baby yoga demonstration–a new 6-week-old baby, not Platona! She’s smiling, confident, but the cutaways to audience members portend the shitstorm headed her way.

4:00 Malakhov asks Lena how she reacted to the “shock” of the western media (that’d be us and Gawker’s baby-yoga-sleuth Maureen O’Connor). “There’s no time to react,” says Lena dismissively. “We had training, swimming, diving, to do.”

5:20 Lena gets the biggest applause she’s gonna get the whole show. Why? She said she has five children. In a country that has been reduced to offering cash and cars for having babies, that is worth applauding.

7:30 One of the experts tells Lena, “I just don’t see what’s useful.” She shoots him the same look that I felt like she was shooting me through Skype when I made similar points. The look says: just because I’m into yoga doesn’t mean I won’t tear your head off.

10:40 An angry woman in the audience says, “The baby can’t say anything [against baby yoga]. Go ahead, try. Ask him.” Another rough look from Lena, who waves off the woman.

11:20 Another big expert walks on, and tears into Lena again. “As a doctor, as a pediatrician,” he says, “I ask, ‘Why?’ Tell me, why is this necessary?”

14:20 Malakhov shows the YouTube parody, Baby Yoga with Cats. Lena looks humiliated. I think she’s going to cry, but she doesn’t.

16:00 Irina Danilova, a pleasant friend of Fokina’s who helped me set up the original interview, brought out her older kids to show that kids do survive daily Baby Yoga. With Lena dazed on the couch, it’s Irina who does the bulk of the defending from here on out.

29:22 Lena’s not without her defenders. Another mom/ally comes on and chides the critics: “Our babies all swim. They’re never sick. We never go to the clinic,” she says. “We never give them medicine.”

32:37 Evgeny Volkov, a “member of the International Association for the Study of Cults,” has an odd critique of baby yoga. He calls it a “deception” multiple times. I don’t know Volkov, but in my 2007 Time article from Russia, I describe the peculiar role of anti-cultists, who are essentially pro-Kremlin propagandists who are trotted out from time to time to attack anything that isn’t Russian Orthodox. Like, apparently, baby yoga.

35:50 A little girl speaks up in defense of baby yoga. Lena finally loses it. Tears.

38:00 Yelling. At this point I’m rooting for Irina and Lena to hit back, just to even things out.

38:26 A new psychologist comes on, with the worst attempt at a smile I’ve ever seen, even for a Russian. More yelling. The show ends with an anemic monologue from the host, and with Lena, moist-eyed, still looking quite shocked and wounded. Sigh.

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  1. john cave osborne says:

    March 2nd, 2011at 8:11 pm(#)

    you’re an animal, Nathan. This thing has more legs than a spider on acid.

  2. Charlotte Fairchild says:

    March 3rd, 2011at 9:10 am(#)

    I know many people who throw their babies in the air. This was not what I saw. This was scary because a child could be dropped. Otherwise, I see people doing this kind of movement with children often. The tamed down version. Babies swimming is old. It was in Life, and other magazines in the 1970’s.

  3. Julie K says:

    March 3rd, 2011at 11:17 pm(#)

    I watched the entire show. Wow. Besides giving my rusty Russian skills a nice workout, it boggled my mind that my month and half old baby sleeping in the bjorn attached to me could be twirled about like that. Shiver. I do think that babies and children need to use their muscles more than we tend to let them. It is a wonder how simian little kids actually are. So gymnastics seems to be right up their alley and develops their little bodies to keep those skills when they are older. I am a bit doubtful about the health of their joints later, and that was a point brought up in the discussion. I found the overprotective Russian grandmas absolutely hilarious. I have been told about a million times by a certain relative that I should not let my baby put weight on her legs as it will make them completely crooked, that bouncing in a doorway bouncer at four months was dangerous, etc, etc. Thanks for posting the show.

  4. cynccook says:

    March 4th, 2011at 8:35 pm(#)

    The babies are silent and still during these ‘exercises’ because they have an instinct to do so, for self-preservation. Implying that this treatment is harmless or even ‘pleasant’ for the baby is the equivalent of saying that someone who doesn’t cry out when they’re being held at gunpoint is enjoying the experience. It’s stupid. It takes very little jostling to damage a baby’s brain. Why on earth risk it? As some people pointed out during this television show — why?

  5. Leah says:

    March 7th, 2011at 4:14 am(#)

    While the babies may not get shaken baby syndrome, various things could happen during these “classes” or whatever. What happens when an adult swings around like that? (well not exactly like that but sit on a swing and hang upside down to get the idea) you feel all sorts of weird. The force from swinging the baby like that could push the brain up against the skull, which most of us are told is not usually a good thing. (large amounts of sarcasm on “usually”) Not only that, the babies she is doing this with are very young, and they are so fragile at that point in time that she could easily pull a limb out of socket. Especially when she is swinging them by a tiny little hand or foot. Also, aren’t we all taught as parents that the most important thing you can do is support the infants head/neck? That’s what I was always told even before I had children. It was instilled into my brain that you have to always, always, always support the baby’s head and neck.
    I can see how it isn’t as harmful with older children, like 3 years old and up. They are not so “breakable” and they tend to like being thrown and swung around. Why not just wait til then. Why put these tiny little miracles in harms way. Yes, harms way because accidents happen. Just because she has never had one, doesn’t mean it cant happen. I am so disgusted with this “baby yoga” thing, it turns my stomach. I couldn’t imagine someone doing that with my children.

  6. Aleida Andrade says:

    April 13th, 2011at 5:31 pm(#)

    acho um acto insensivel da vossa fazer isso com crianças frageis e indefesas.

  7. Mauro de Almeida says:

    June 8th, 2011at 10:13 pm(#)

    Every parent is right about their own kids.

    From the videos I saw, you can see she has practice and knowledge on what she is doing.

    The baby is not crying, and unlike adults who can hold their crying a baby WILL cry if they perceive danger or are not enjoying something. The instinct is to CRY and not be in silent for self-preservation.

    I have studied child development and in a book called How to make your child physically superb the author recommends some movements like these but way more subtle.

    It appears shocking at first, but the baby is already a children and is well. Of course, accidents can happen, but they can happen anywhere and anytime.

    If she thought it was right for her baby, she had all the right to do it. From the video, you can tell the movements are in harmony and there is not any shaking. The brain will not suffer from these movements.

    I wish she had a site posting the growth of her baby, including emotional and intellectual development. I am almost sure this child would exceed compared to “normal” kids, but beliefs from the majority of the people who are not seeing the facts and what is really happening between mother and son made this mother vanish.

  8. Katie says:

    July 3rd, 2011at 12:41 pm(#)

    Is there a video with subtitles

  9. Mrs. T says:

    August 1st, 2011at 7:38 pm(#)

    Wow, that was mild compared to the baby tossing next to the rock pile video.

  10. Samantha says:

    August 8th, 2011at 10:51 pm(#)

    She’s a dumb bitch and she deserves all the negativity that she can get. Whats the whole point of tossing a defensiveness baby around? I can imagine myself being pulled around by my arms and that will sure hurt like hell. I think her old ass needs to retire and just never show her face to the media again. Silly woman shouldn’t even have the right to have babies. That my gentlemen and ladies is a DUMB BITCH.

  11. pheonix clare says:

    February 25th, 2012at 6:49 am(#)

    disgusting, you lena fokina and your followers are just sick, you should be hung for child abuse, you are a complete disgrace.

  12. Taylar says:

    February 26th, 2012at 6:07 am(#)

    i think its completely fu**ed up, these babies dont know what the f**k is going on, they’re weak dont you think swinging them around by there ankles n arms might dislocate either of them i cant believe iv seen this the baby should be taken away from her n she should not be aloud near her. people are obviously going to disagree but think if a woman was at your local shops or in the street swinging a baby round over her head and what not, then im sure people would go mad! trying to get the baby from her and to safety. yeah i know your probably thinking but she’s not a random woman she’s a professional, well it dont matter the fact is she is still swinging a baby around over her head upside down and whatever. this is my opinion and i think everyone should see were im coming from, its a 26 week old baby for f**k sake.

  13. anom says:

    February 27th, 2012at 2:17 pm(#)

    Well.. why the babies dont cry when swung? Maybe it is fysicaly hard for them to do so. When we fall very fast, the lunges cant breathe in, because the air is pressed out of our lunges in a fast movement.So when the baby get swinged around maby it´s just trying to breathe, and regain breath in the small pauses, in the air. Also, when you swing a baby fast, the brain presses against the upper head. You can also see that the eyes roll up, because of the centrifugal force. There are so many things happening to the body and brain of hte baby. Why don´t they just put measure aquipment on a swining baby to se what really happens. Someone should just give that women, cold, hard proof. Also, weird, i have looked around. There MUST be SOME babies out there with damages? Were are they? Speek out!!

  14. anom says:

    February 27th, 2012at 2:21 pm(#)

    One more thing. What makes her think SHE is right? Not many years ago, medical professionals said lobotomy against strong willed women was the anwser. Why do they let her go in with the yoga. Must we wait 30 yeast until someone proves her wrong? should´t be to hard to do.

  15. Dickheaded Opions says:

    February 27th, 2012at 3:21 pm(#)


  16. cherylpetro says:

    March 3rd, 2012at 6:33 am(#)

    I see “Nathan” didn’t even have the guts to put his (?) last name on the story! He flet sorry for the baby torturer? I suppose Hitler shed some tears at some point too; would that make you feel sorry for him? She is an awful excuse of a human being! Any of the babies could slip from the grasp of the person flinging it around! Arms broken, shoulders dislocated! The babies were screaming in a video I saw! People in this country go to prison for doing less! STOP THIS CHILD ABUSER!

  17. cherylpetro says:

    March 3rd, 2012at 6:38 am(#)

    That is not yoga! I fail to see how it would benefit the baby! Swing a sack of potatoes around, lift weights, leave the baby alone! Also, what is with the jab at Americans and their weight? I recall seeing pictures of plenty of pretty porky Russians! I’d rather be a fat American, than a fit (but hatchet faced) Russian child abuser!

  18. Eva says:

    March 3rd, 2012at 10:14 am(#)

    Because in the “New Russia,” conditioning those joints and muscles is more important in making the new Ape Race than is mental development, emotional bonding, and letting a new infant imprint on a peaceful environment.

    Just imagine the emotional horror of someone taking you by force unexpectedly, for an amount of time outside your control, onto an effing roller coaster of all roller coasters–no matter how dizzy, nauseated, or near to passing out you get, you don’t have a choice you must continue.

    B*tches like Fokina are the reason why eastern Europe has an epidemic of children with disturbed emotional problems, and the reason why several of my friends volunteer in Ukrainian and Russian orphanages…helping children who were psychologically abused as infants and toddlers.

    This lady is a stupid pig without a shred of scientific or medical training. The worthless “Old Wife” of the most worthless “Old Wives’ tales.”

  19. cherylpetro says:

    March 3rd, 2012at 6:03 pm(#)

    So how do we go about putting this monster in prison?

  20. Shannon says:

    March 7th, 2012at 12:29 pm(#)

    cherylpetro Your last comment on Mar 3rd at 6:03 pm is the best and all of the others need to be erased as you have sucessfully said in one sentence 98% of everyone here is saying. Personally I think prison is too good for her.

  21. pwedz says:

    March 10th, 2012at 3:59 pm(#)

    great exercise …..if you want braindead babies. JESUS !!!

    this is ridiculous. unfathomable. have you ever heard of shaken baby syndrome

  22. Tom says:

    April 11th, 2012at 3:09 am(#)

    I know this is an old article, but, if the author sees this I would like to get in touch with Lena or her followers if that is possible? I am very interested in whether or not she has a book or video out? I want to learn more about the thought processes behind these movements and learn the movements as well.


  23. Peta says:

    May 20th, 2012at 9:21 pm(#)

    Don’t shake the baby!

  24. jessica says:

    June 26th, 2012at 10:02 pm(#)

    this woman should be sentenced to prison for life in this country she would maybe we should invite her over sometime im sure us lazy American aren’t so stupid to think that what she is doing isn’t child abuse, well give her a nice welcome, promise! (not) this woman is a lunatic and should be tortured for the rest of her life for what she is doing to the most innocent creatures on this earth.she should be brought to the deepest darkest depths of the earth and left there to rot how can the rest of the world be so blind why isnt any action been taken to prevent this psycho devil woman from trying to kill the baby angels, shes nuts and should be treated as such! apparently when you openly abuse children in public it makes it ok .

  25. jessica says:

    June 26th, 2012at 11:09 pm(#)

    who ever compared this woman to Hitler was right on the money ,he was a mentally disturbed man who had no human emotions and who had a way with words good enough to brain wash mindless Germans who couldn’t think for themselves and this is what she is doing to young and dumb impressionable mothers and fathers who cant think for them selves this also reminds me of the polygamy compound , there a cult and so were hitlers men and so are Lena folkina followers. lena is mentally ill , has no human emotion and needs to be evaluated

  26. jessica says:

    June 26th, 2012at 11:11 pm(#)

    tom you should be sent to prison just for saying that!!!!!!

  27. Patrick says:

    July 31st, 2012at 1:08 am(#)

    This is highly contemptible. It is beyond me how so many credulous commenters like Mauro de Almeida could say things like “I am almost sure this child would exceed compared to “normal” kids, but “. How on EARTH did you come to that conclusion? A 2 week year old baby is not nearly developed enough to have its head RATTLED around like that. Furthermore, what do you mean that baby’s not crying? In practically every video I’ve seen featuring her barbaric baby yoga techniques the baby being manhandled is crying incessantly throughout the entire routine. And OF COURSE the book you read suggests that exercises for an infant should be considerably more subtle. Additionally, the conspicuous fact that accidents happen all the time in NO WAY legitimizes this abhorrent act of tossing/flipping/spinning a new-born child around. What a ridiculous comment @ Mauro de Almeida. Shame on you. It’s inevitable that the world will produce insane individuals like Lena Fokina however the true tragedy is the fact that people like you will actually heed the advice of these lunatics.


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