Balasana is the Sanskrit name for Child’s Pose, and you will usually encounter some variation of it in almost any yoga class; and while this pose may be a “resting” one, it still has many benefits and is accessible to almost everyone. This is a great pose to begin a practice with, or it may be practiced entirely on its own for up to several minutes, and is also appropriate to come into before or after any asana, especially if you are becoming fatigued during practice and need to rest and slow down your breathing. Read on to learn how to practice this post, its benefits, as well as some variations and useful props to help you get the most from this yoga asana.
How to Practice Balasana
1. Ideally, place a mat on the floor you will be practicing on, especially if it’s not a carpeted one, to provide cushion for the knees, and to provide even more support for your knees, you may place a blanket down on top of your mat where your knees will be resting (for an optimal experience, be sure the blanket is free of wrinkles and is not folded too thickly; it is not recommended to practice this pose with any type of knee injury, especially without consulting a physician and/or experienced yoga instructor). Kneel onto your mat and/or blanket, bring your big toes to touch, and take your knees as wide as hip distance apart or a little wider.
2. Once your feet and knees are in the proper position, begin to come down slowly, “bringing your seat to your feet”, as I like to say, and your torso will come down between your thighs (somewhat resting on your thighs), rest your forehead onto the mat, and lastly extend your arms out in front of you, allowing them to rest on the mat, fully extended, with fingertips spread wide.
3. Once in this position, begin to lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis, imagining that it’s moving toward your heels. Breathe deeply, utilizing “balloon breaths”, sending the breath into the abdomen, especially low into the belly, into the back body to the small of your back, and into both sides where the ribcage is. With every inhale, feel a sense of expansion into all of these areas of the upper body, and with each exhale, feel everything contracting back into the body. Do this several times, shooting for at least 10 breaths in this manner.
When you first begin to practice Child’s Pose, you may only want to stay here for 5-10 breaths, but it’s fine to stay in this position for up to five minutes, as long as you remain comfortable. With a beginning practice, you may find it beneficial to work your way up in one-minute increments, eventually reaching the point where you are able to rest here and breathe for a full five minutes.
Arm variations – Instead of extending the arms out long in front of you toward the front of your mat, alternatively you may bring your arms back along your sides with the palms face up toward the ceiling or sky, draping your shoulders slightly over your thighs. If you’d like the pose to be somewhat more active, then while extending your arms in front of you, you may activate them, bringing the arms completely off the mat, resting only your hands on the mat, with the fingers still spread wide. Experiment with the different arm variations to find what feels best in your body…remember it may be different from day to day.
(See photos above for the different arm variations. Photo 1: Arm’s extended. Photo 2: Arm’s resting along sides. Photo 3: Arm’s extended & active.)
Other modifications – If your buttocks don’t come down and touch your heels, it’s okay! And if this is the case, you may find it helpful or more comfortable to bring a folded blanket between your calves and thighs, but it isn’t necessary. Again this is something you may experiment with to see how it feels for you. Over time, with a continued yoga practice, it’s likely you will find that there is more depth available to you and you are able to rest your bottom on your heels.
Benefits of Balasana
- Provides a gentle stretch for the hips, thighs, & ankles
- Promotes stress relief, is calming for the nervous system, & reduces fatigue
- It may also be effective with relieving neck and back pain if the torso and head are supported by a medium or large bolster
As stated above, this pose should not be practiced with any active knee injury. It should also be avoided if pregnant or experiencing diarrhea.
Always listen to your body, and do not practice any pose that does not feel right in your body. If you begin experiencing pain in this or any pose, you should back off, coming out of it slowly and gently altogether if backing off does not relieve the pain.
“She had a revolutionary idea…she would make more time for life’s truly important things. First on the list: breathing.” -Amy Rubin Flett
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