Child’s pose, or balasana (bah-lahs-uh-nuh) in Sanskrit, is one of those foundational yoga poses that you’ll encounter in almost every yoga class that you attend. It can be found in a full-on yin class or in a hardcore power vinyasa yoga class. Let’s break down child’s pose, from the mechanics of it to the energetics to the modifications.
Step-By-Step Instructions For Getting Into Child’s Pose
Have you ever been in a yoga class and heard the teacher offer the option to go into child’s pose at any time if you need to rest? Are you one of those that power through because rest is for lesser mortals that can’t keep up? If you are the second person, this is for you. And if you enjoy child’s pose, this is also for you. You never know, you might learn something new and find a way to “deepen your practice” as the yogis say (myself included).
Where to begin? Typically on hands and knees.
You can get into child’s pose in a myriad of ways, but the most common way tends to be moving from tabletop (on all fours with shoulders and hips somewhat stacked over wrists and knees).
Step 1: From this position, “step” your knees out wider than hip-width and bring the big toes together.
Step 2: Sit your hips back towards your feet. If you can, resting your booty on your feet. If this hurts, you can place a rolled-up blanket or a bolster/pillow between your butt and your heels.
Step 3: Walk your hands forward in front of you, allowing your chest to move towards the ground. Your chest doesn’t have to rest on the ground. Your head doesn’t have to rest on the ground. Maybe your head rests on a block or on stacked fists. Or possibly your arms are bent at the elbows to relieve tension in the shoulders. Perhaps your arms are down at your sides with palms facing up. Or maybe you don’t like this kind of shape and want your knees together. See the next step.
Step 4: Another variation/option: Embryo pose.
Like child’s pose, embryo is a “resting” pose. In this case, you don’t spread the knees wide. Instead, knees are together when you sit back and arms are resting at your sides towards your feet with palms facing up. Different lineages of yoga use different names for the same or different poses. Embryo to some might be completely different to this shape, so follow the shape cues if the name throws you off.
What are the benefits of child’s pose?
Personally, I love child’s pose. It feels so good. A deep forward fold that requires very little effort. Effectiveness and efficiency are the name of the game in a busy world. But let’s slow down, literally and figuratively.
The benefits of child’s pose are: Relieves tension and stress. As with most forward folds, especially this one, you are going “within,” which signals to the brain that you are safe. In child’s pose you are blocking your view of everything outside of that little space in front of your face which is metaphoric for quieting the external and internal “noise” around us like an argument you might have had before coming into child’s pose or maybe a busy workday.
Opens the hips, lengthens the back of the body, stretches the ankles. Supported child’s pose can also relieve stress and tension in the neck, head, and shoulders.
Allows you to breathe in a new way. This also relieves tension and stress. When you are in child’s pose, your belly is most likely somewhat pressing into your thighs. There is a gentle compression happening. This compression forces your breath to go to new places, like the back body (i.e. that back of your body, your back, the “back of your heart”).
Can provide a little comfort during menstruation. If you aren’t a menstruating human, pass this on to someone who is. That gentle compression can provide a little relief for someone who may be experiencing cramps or pain. Inviting in a little bit of slow breathing, quieting the mind, mindfulness essentially, it reduces our suffering a little, physically and mentally.
How to breathe in child’s pose:
This warranted its own little section. Yoga is, after all, all about the breath. We often go through so much of our day breathing. You wouldn’t be alive if you weren’t. But how often do you notice your breath? We often take shallow breaths – shallow as in they only make it to the chest area rather than filling the belly.
When you breathe in child’s pose, you can’t really fill the belly all the way because it presses into your legs. Instead, keep breathing that way, but bring your awareness into your back, the space behind your heart. As your belly presses into your thighs, feel you back rising in this space, doming up towards the ceiling. When you breathe this way, you notice your breath in the front of your body and the back of your body, which is super awesome.
You can lay in child’s pose for just a few breaths as a temporary rest in between more intense movements. Or you can breathe there for a few minutes, allowing the back body to dome up for the inhales and sink deeper into the ground for the exhales.
Tips for adding a little variation
- Place a blanket under your knees if you need an extra layer of padding or comfort. Maybe lay on a bolster lengthwise to support the chest and add a rolled blanket between the bum and heels for a super supportive child’s pose (great for anyone needing gentleness on the knees and body).
- Walk the hands to the left side of the mat while remaining in the child’s pose shape to feel a nice opening on the right side of the body. Move to the right side for the counter side. You can make this a little more active by coming onto your fingertips in the stretch rather than palms flat.
- “Thread” the right arm under the outstretched left arm, resting the right shoulder and right cheek/forehead on the mat/block for a variation on Thread the Needle. Do the other side because balance.
- Find breath-to-movement, or rhythmic vinyasa, by inhaling up to tabletop and exhaling right back down to child’s pose. Follow your breath for as many rounds as you like, imagining your breath has a string attached to it that’s pulling your body with it. As opposed to moving quickly up and down like people tend to do in cat-cow. If you are moving quickly and aren’t hyperventilating, it means that you aren’t connected to your breath at all.
Child’s pose is a great pose to incorporate into your daily movement. Even if you do nothing but float from child’s pose to tabletop. Or just lay in child’s pose for a few minutes, that’s a great step for your mind, body, and heart. Child’s pose is a great pose to incorporate into a class or practice focused on the root chakra (grounding, safety, security), the sacral chakra (opening the hips, releasing emotions), and third eye chakra (intuition, thought).
You can practice child’s pose right before bed to help release tension and slow the mind or practice it in the morning as a way to slowly integrate yourself into the day. It’s a wonderful and relatively easy pose to find (unless you have knee injuries or are pregnant – and in that case, modify, listen to your body, and listen to your healthcare provider) that offers a plethora of benefits to all aspects of wellbeing.
As always, listen to your body. Adjust as needed. There is no “right” way to look in this shape. The right way is the way that works for your own body. Everyone’s bone structures are so completely different, especially in the pelvic bone. So walk those knees out, big toes together, and allow your heart to melt towards the Earth as your worries slowly slip away, leaving you with peace and serenity.
Have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment below!