Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Most of the time you’ll hear your yoga teacher give cues like “rest in child’s pose. Feel free to come back to this pose anytime you need a break from our sequence today.”
Child’s pose is included in many asana sequences. May it be in a beginner’s level or advanced class, Vinyasa or Yin. Sometimes at the very beginning to get the students centered, present in the moment, and a time to set their intentions. Other times, in the middle, to remind them to take a pause and rest. Also after a peak pose when you have exerted all your focus and strength.
Child’s pose can be a restorative, resting pose and it can also be an active pose.
In an Iyengar yoga class, Child’s Pose can be experienced differently. In its active variation, you will noticeably feel challenged, bringing great awareness on the whole back body and core. In Sanskrit: Balasana (pronounced as bah-lahs-anna) “bala” meaning child and “asana” meaning posture, and Utthita Balasana for Extended Child’s pose.
How to get into the resting pose:
Start from Tabletop Pose with your hands and knees on the mat. Untuck your toes. Bring the big toes together. Place your knees together or separate them wider than hips-distance. Lower the sitting bones down to your heels. Rest the forehead on the mat. Shins, tops of the feet, all ten toes, and forehead on the floor. Position the arms alongside the body, face the palms up.
Start from Tabletop Pose with your hands and knees on the mat. Untuck your toes. Bring the big toes together. Place your knees together or separate them wider than hips-distance. Lower the sitting bones down to your heels. Rest the forehead on the mat. Shins, tops of the feet, all ten toes, and forehead on the floor. This time, extend the arms forward alongside the ears with the palms facing down, forearms also touching the mat.
How to get into the active pose:
Begin in Tabletop Pose with your hands and knees on the mat. Untuck your toes. Bring the big toes together. Place your knees together or separate them wider than hips-distance. Lower the sitting bones down to your heels. Rest the forehead on the mat. Shins, tops of the feet, all ten toes, and forehead on the floor. Extend the arms forward alongside the ears with the palms facing down, forearms lifted off from the mat. Straighten the arms. Keep pressing the palms down. Draw the belly in. Spin the biceps out and firm the triceps in. If you feel the sitting bones lifting up, lower them down towards your heels. Your palms can be flat on the mat or lifted with your fingertips only touching the mat.
- Restores lost energy in any dynamic yoga sequence. It reminds us that resting is a good thing.
- Finding balance and slowing down in your practice. To be still and to surrender to the pose, to gravity, and to your body’s natural alignment.
Calming for the mind and centering
- Imagine yourself exerting effort in other poses in a vinyasa flow, making sure you’re breathing right, following your teacher’s instructions and executing them on your body, child’s pose calms down your nerves and the muscles that you’re working out. In its resting variation, with your head on the ground, it relaxes the entire body especially your muscles and your mind.
- Also, a reminder to be in the moment, to get centered, to focus on your practice and to not allow your mind to wander.
Lengthens and stretches the spine and the lower back
- When you reach the hips towards the heels and lengthen from the sides of the body out through the arms and hands, it stretches and creates space in the whole torso.
Transitional and neutralizing pose after doing backbends. and relaxes the shoulders
- Following a deep backbend, you can neutralize the spine by resting in Child’s pose, which lengthens and relaxes the spine. Then followed by a twisting pose before doing a counterpose like a forward bend. This way the back muscles won’t be strained.
Opens the hips
- Child’s pose gives the quadriceps a good stretch.
Opens the shoulders
- In its extended and active variation, it creates space in the shoulder area. You can even have a deeper shoulder opening by holding onto a block while your hands are extended forward. Bend the elbows and lower the elbows down on the mat while you gently move the block closer to your upper back.
Gentle compression of stomach and chest
- As you rest your chest and stomach on your thighs, the compression from the weight of your body, and your inhalations and exhalations give a bit of a massage to your organs.
Relieves head and back pain when the head is supported
- Place a block underneath the forehead or stack your fists on top of each other and rest your forehead down.
Relaxes the shoulders
- In its resting variation where the arms are alongside the body and the palms are facing up. It relieves any strain or pressure on the shoulders, creates space between the ears and the shoulder muscles, and lengthens the neck.
- Place a block or bolster beneath the forehead if the student’s back is really rounded and the throat is compressed.
- Place a neatly folded blanket beneath the shins letting the feet hang off the blanket and another between the shins and hamstrings to support the weight of the body or if you feel any pain in your knees.
- Separate the knees wider when you are pregnant or rounder on the belly.
- Use a bolster in between the thighs as you lower your stomach chest and forehead on it for a more restorative and relaxing variation.
Common Problems and Misalignments:
- Not able to relax onto the floor due to stiff knees, hips, or back or tight quads.
- Diaphragm compressed.
- Throat closed
- Knee problems
- Frail, arthritis (may not be advisable to place that much weight on the knees)
Balasana or Child’s pose is a very beneficial pose that you can easily do at home, after a long day to relax those tired thigh and back muscles. Do yourself a favor and find yourself in complete stillness. Even just for 5 minutes of quietness in your Balasana, let go of your thoughts, let go of your day, and be present in your mind, body and breathe.