Fitness Magazine

Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Baxter
Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)For many of us, Child’s Pose (Balasana) is the ultimate resting pose. I, myself, saw firsthand how even the uninitiated will take this position when rest is suggested. One summer day, when the whistle for adult swim sounded, my young nieces, 8 and 4, hunkered down side by side into classic Child’s pose, pulled beach towels over their turtle-like backs, and only re-emerged when they heard the “all-swim” 15 minutes later!

In addition to being a potential resting pose (not all people find this pose easy to assume or restful to sustain), Child’s pose takes your hips and knees into a deep folded position, and stretches the fronts of your ankles and feet. And many of you will find it a nice stretch for your lower back muscles.

I prescribe this pose for:

  • Quieting your nervous system
  • Resting your body
  • Stretching your lower back, hips, knees and ankles
  • Releasing the tightness between your shoulder blades and training yourself to move your shoulder blades away from your spine
  • Counter-pose for backbends, forward bends, and twists 
  • Calming pose for anxiety
  • Calming pose for insomnia, especially the supported version
  • Possible relief from back pain, especially the supported version
Cautions: Those of you with tight or painful knees, hips, ankles, or lower backs will likely need to do versions 3 and 4 in order avoid aggravating those areas. Although many people with lower back pain find this pose helpful, not all do; so, avoid the pose if it worsens your pain. Those with neck pain may also need to be careful with the placement of your neck and head to avoid worsening your symptoms.
1. Classic Child’s Pose
Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
If your knees are sensitive, place a thin blanket on top of your mat to cushion your knees and shins. Then, start by coming into a basic hands and knees position.
Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
Keeping your knees about hips distance apart, with the tops of your feet resting on the floor, slide your feet closer together so your big toes touch. Then slowly lower your hips back and down towards your heels. Allow them to drop slowly and don’t force your buttocks down, especially if your hips, knees or ankles are tight. As you gently round your back to come forward, lower your chest towards or onto your thighs and release your head towards the floor, resting your forehead on the floor in front of the knees. Sweep your arms back alongside your body, resting your hands on the floor near the feet. Release your shoulder blades away from your spine and toward the floor. You can close your eyes or keep them softly open.

If you’re comfortable in the pose, stay for 2-5 minutes. However, if you feel intense stretching, start with 30-60 seconds and work you way up to longer holds. To come out of the pose, place your palms on the floor next to your knees and use your arms to help you roll up and sit back on your heels (if you knees allow) or come back into a hands and knees position.

You can vary the effects of the pose by changing your leg position. If you want to feel more stretch in your lower back, try keeping your thighs closer together. If you want less stretch your lower back, try widening your knees further apart, up to 2 feet or so,

Arms Forward Version
Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
This version is excellent for helping to open your chest and upper back in preparation for poses like Downward-Facing Dog pose or even backbends. 

Come into the pose as in the classic version, but instead of taking your arms back, stretch your arms forward, as far forward as you can. With your arms parallel and elbows straight, press your hands into the floor. This initial arm position is much more active than the classic version and may not feel very restful to many of you. 

Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
After 6-8 breaths in the active position, relax your elbows to the floor, decreasing the stretch of your arms. For some of you, this relaxed arm version may even feel more restorative than having your hands by the feet. 
Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
You can stay in the relaxed version for 2-5 minutes. Exit the pose as in the classic version.Ankle and/or Knee Support
Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
This version of Child’s Pose is helpful for those with tight ankles or knee joints. If only your ankles are tight, roll a blanket or towel into a 2-3 inch thick roll and place the roll under your ankle joints before you fold into Child’s pose. This support should allow you to come into the pose without triggering pain or muscle cramps in your feet. (Sorry we don't have a photo of this.)

For those with tight knees, arthritis pain, or general knee pain when deeply folding your knees, use the roll behind your knees. While you are in the hands and knees position, place the roll behind both knees (even if only one side is painful) while you are in the hands and knees position. Then slowly lower your hips back and down as in the classic version. When your thighs reach the support check to make sure your knees feel good. If so, proceed as with the classic version. If you have problems in both your ankles and knees, use both supports.Restorative Child's Pose

Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
For most of us, the restorative version of Child’s pose is deeply restful, and comfortable enough to stay in for several minutes. And because the restorative version requires less bending of your hips, knees, and ankles, it is a good alternative for those with tightness or pain in those areas.

Start by positioning your bolster lengthwise on the mat in front of you. Then come into Child’s pose from your hands and knees as with the classic version, but as you lower your hips towards your heels, sit upright for a moment and widen your knees about two feet apart. Then, slide the end of your bolster lengthwise towards your hips, right up against your lower belly—do not slide it under your hips, just up to the front of you. 

Featured Pose: Child's Pose (Balasana)
Then lower your belly, chest, and head onto the bolster, turning your head to one side and resting your cheek on the bolster, as you release your buttocks gently toward the floor (do not force them). Rest your forearms on the floor along the sides of the bolster. Make sure that your entire front belly and chest rest on the bolster. If any part of you is lifted off the support, try adding a blanket folded into a thin rectangle on top of the bolster or placing a block under the far end of the bolster to raise the bolster, or ask your teacher to help you modify your props. Always turn your head in the opposite direction mid-way through the pose.

Stay in the pose for 2-3 minutes on each side at first, though you should, of course, come out of the pose if you experience any discomfort. With experience, you can work your way up to even longer holds. As you relax onto the support of the bolster, focus your attention on the sound of your breath. When you are ready to come up, use your hands and arms to slowly roll up to sitting.

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