Perhaps when your yoga teacher utters the words “Drop into child’s pose,” you cringe and await the next cue, hoping to get to the so-called “real” asanas. Not me. I relish my time in this delightful pose. In fact, if you asked me to strike my favorite yoga pose, chances are you would be unimpressed. You would presumably envision a dramatic feat of acrobatics à la Instagram. Instead you would be treated to the sight of me gently dropping to my knees and curling up into the blessed ball called balasana, or child’s pose. You might think I was either making a joke or being openly defiant to your request. On the contrary, child’s pose is indeed my favorite pose.
Perhaps this leads you to assume I am a lazy yogi. While I do enjoy the comfort child's pose provides, I also fancy the feeling of vitality and lifeforce that runs through my body during a challenging practice. I delight in building tapas (self-discipline) and pushing my edge, as well as moving my body into tangled, twisted, bound poses. Yet no asana quite compares to the sweet retreat that is child’s pose. If you don’t harbor the same enduring love for balasana that I do, let me share with you some of the glories of child’s pose. If you’re already a devoted balasana practitioner, these tips will certainly deepen or rejuvenate your experience in this little gem of an asana.
1. Use balasana to connect with yourself and your breath.
When practicing at home, more often than not child’s pose is where I begin. It’s the ultimate self-check-in. For most of us, the majority of the day is spent in a state of external awareness. Much of our time is devoted to interacting with others and taking in immense amounts of stimuli. Child’s pose allows us a chance to reconnect with our own inner guidance system. It’s an opportunity to shift to an internal state of awareness where we allow ourselves to check in with our breath, body, emotions, and mind. What better space to do this than curled up in a ball with your forehead on the floor, chest to knees, in a bear cave of your own making.
When practicing at home, more often than not child’s pose is where I begin. It’s the ultimate self-check-in.
Balasana is also a powerful opportunity to connect with your back body. As we are frontally oriented beings, we rarely have the opportunity to focus our awareness in the back body. In child’s pose, your back body is the only exposed part of your anatomy and therefore receives the spotlight. Next time you are in balasana, experiment with the following exercise to expand your awareness of your back body:
Become aware of your breath. Feel your back body rise with your inhale and draw in with the exhale. After several breaths, focus your awareness on the inhale traveling down the spine and the exhale traveling back up. Finally, expand your awareness laterally by feeling the ribs open and expand with your inhale and contract with the exhale.
2. Let child’s pose become your instant personal retreat.
Feeling overwhelmed, frazzled, or simply in need of some alone time? Treat yourself to a little self-care by indulging in an escape to child’s pose. Think of your mat as your own personal island and allow yourself a brief reset in child’s pose. This simple act of sweet surrender can be a refuge from turmoil and can have a profoundly positive influence on your emotional state. Try balasana next time you find yourself in need of a little support or a quick reset. A few deep breaths in child’s pose after a confrontation or when you’re feeling stuck can shift your perspective in a snap.
3. Design your own child’s pose to give it that authentic feel.
While balasana may seem pretty straightforward as far as asanas go, you can add your own flavor to the pose to suit your needs.
Hips feeling particularly tight? Take your knees wide and bring your big toes together. This variation is also great if you feel confined in traditional child’s pose. It allows your chest to melt toward the mat and your hips to receive a deeper opening.
Are your hips still uncomfortably tight or are you experiencing knee pain? Slide a blanket between your calves and hamstrings. You can also roll the blanket for extra support.
In need of some rooting or grounding energy? Bring your arms out in front of you, palms down, and press your hands into the mat. Focus your awareness on your hands, forehead, and feet pressing into the earth.
Feeling particularly devotional? Bring your arms out in front of you, turn your palms toward one another and press them together in prayer. Stay here or bend your elbows and bring your hands behind your head, maybe resting on your upper back if you have the flexibility.
Looking for a delightful side-body stretch? Walk your hands over to the right and press your left palm into the mat while rooting your left sitting bone down. Repeat on your left side with your right palm pressing down and right sitting bone rooting.
If you were not a child’s pose devotee before reading this, hopefully I have left you with some fresh enthusiasm to explore balasana further, or at least a reason to show this asana some deep pranams (bows of gratitude) next time your teacher instructs you to shift to child’s pose.