Fact Check

Video Shows Woman Torturing a Baby?

Rumor: Video shows a woman wanted by the FBI for torturing a baby.

Published Oct 8, 2013

Claim:   Video shows a woman wanted by the FBI for torturing a baby.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2013]



Origins:   Although what's depicted in this video is real and strikes most viewers as highly disturbing and dangerous, it isn't a unique circumstance nor is it illegal, and the woman shown in the video isn't "torturing a baby for fun" nor is she wanted by the FBI or other U.S. law enforcement agencies.

What's shown in this video is the controversial (but legal) Russian "dynastic gymnastics" or "baby yoga" practice, which was previously popularized in the U.S. through the circulation of a similar video (with similar outcry) back in January 2011. The video embedded at the head of this page is more of the same, showing another instance of an infant's being put through a "dynamic gymnastics" routine.

As CBS News reported of the original video in 2011:

Yes, the yoga baby video is real and really terrifying, at least to watch. But is it safe for baby?

If you haven't seen it yet, the video, which comes out of Russia, shows a woman tossing, twisting and spinning a baby in midair. She never lets go of the child's arm, but the images of a child being tossed around like that are pretty jarring to an American eye.

The baby yoga guru is Lena Fokina, a 50-year-old Russian who lives in Egypt teaching yoga, free-diving and "dynastic gymnastics" (read baby yoga).

Fokina said baby yoga helps children have more mobility, freedom and independence and has been practiced in Russia for three decades. "They are early readers, singers, talkers, swimmers. You haven't seen anything like it anywhere!"

The DadWagon blog also wrote of that video:

The baby, it turns out, is a girl named Platona Goryun, who lives in Khorol, Ukraine, about three hours outside of Kiev. She was just two weeks old when she was subjected to what Fokina calls "dynamic gymnastics" for newborns in the video above. Her father, Sashka Goryun, uploaded the video just a month ago, but apparently it was filmed almost two years ago. Little Platona is, by all appearances, a healthy toddler, albeit one who still gets swung in the air quite a bit.

DadWagon also managed to track down Lena Fokina, the Baby Yoga guru from the original video. Fokina Skype-chatted with us from her home in Dahab, Egypt, in the Sinai Peninsula, where she lives with her daughters (who not only survived baby-swinging but also grew up to be ridiculously attractive freedive instructors). Fokina was generous with her time and spoke at length about family freediving, slothful Americans, and the salutary effects of being swung over your mother's head.

In Russia, parents pay to bring their children to Lena Fokina and have her put them through "baby yoga" routines:

According to Lena, baby yoga was first practiced by ancient African tribes — but the modern incarnation was developed by fellow Russian Dr Igor Charkovsky.

Lena, a mother-of-five and grandmother, does sessions that can last up to five minutes, during which babies are spun, swung and flipped, often by a single limb.

The actions are performed on babies from a few weeks old up to around age two.

Lena added: '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.

However, although the practice may be legal in Russia (if not certified or approved), it has its detractors who warn that it may be unsafe and harmful:

Parents smiled and chatted as the infants were left dangling for long periods by their arms or legs. But in almost every case 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.

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.

Dynamic baby gymnastics is not part of mainstream medicine in Russia.

It is not something you can arrange on the health service here. It is performed in private practices.

And, although it is legal, it is highly controversial.

"I think this is potentially dangerous. I would never recommend it," says American general practitioner Robert Young.

"Russian parents are no different from any parents in the world. They want their babies to grow up the best they possibly can. And here is a technique purported to advance their children developmentally, socially, in every way. That's enticing. I'm just not sure it does any of that and I think the potential for injuries is there.

"The baby can slip, the baby can accidentally move when he's being twisted around and hit somebody's leg or furniture. That would be harmful in all cases."

Last updated:   2 June 2015


    Baker, David.   "It's the Hurly Learning Centre!"

    Daily Mail.   27 February 2012.

    Katz, Neil.   "Baby Yoga Video Is Real and Real Scary, But Safe?"

    CBSNews.com.   20 January 2011.

    Rosenberg, Steve.   "Baby Gymnastics: Russia's 'Potentially Dangerous' Therapy."

    BBC News.   14 February 2011.

    Thornburgh, Nathan.   "Exclusive Interview with Baby Yoga's Lena Fokina."

    DadWagon.   18 January 2011.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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