In March, we completed the six movements of the spine with Cat/Cow Tilts. This month, we’ll continue opening up the body with one of my all-time favorite poses that gently stretches the lower back, hips, thighs and ankles. What’s unique about Balasana, otherwise known as Child’s Pose, is that it’s safe to practice any time of day and at any point in class – whether you’re warmed up or not. In fact, most teachers will also encourage you to return to Balasana any time you need a timeout during your practice. Short of breath after a cycle of Sun Salutes? Take Balasana. Hips sore after holding Chair Pose (Utkatasana) for more than 60 seconds? Balasana is your new best friend.
In Bikram yoga, they even say that Balasana (what they call “Half Tortoise Pose”) is the equivalent of eight hours of sleep. Pretty cool, huh? Now while I’ll never encourage you to trade sleep for Balasana, I can confirm that stress relief and reduced fatigue are among its many benefits.
Ready to give it a try?
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
1. From all fours, bring the toes together to touch and take the knees wide apart. How wide your knees must go will depend entirely on how tight your hips are. Feel free to adjust throughout the pose, as needed. A good rule of thumb is that the tighter the hips, the wider the knees.
2. Begin to reach your hips back toward your heels as far as they’ll go. If you have a lot of flexibility in your hips, it will feel as if you are sitting on your heels. If you have tighter hips, there may be space between the hips and heels. Both options are ok.
3. Extend the arms out on the floor in front of you, palms facing down and bring your forehead down onto the mat.
4. Keep the pose active by pressing the floor away from you with all five fingers of both hands as you continuously reach the hips toward the heels. As you do this, feel the active stretch from the hands on the floor all the way through the arms and the length of the spine.
5. Check in again with the hips. If they are feeling tight, take your hips a little farther apart and see if this adjustment allows you to reach the hips toward the heels even more.
6. Now let’s turn the attention toward your breath. As you inhale, feel your back expand. As you exhale, feel the back contract. Continue here for several breaths, breathing into the back of your torso. With every exhale, you may find that you are able to release the hips even farther toward the heels.
7. Modification: If you want to make the pose more passive, bring your arms down by your sides, hands by your hips and allow you palms to face up toward the ceiling. Breathe.
Even the seemingly simplest poses can feel challenging at any given time depending on where you are mentally and physically. If you remember nothing else, remember to be content in whatever position you find yourself today and know that with continued practice you will deepen your postures over time.
Need to catch up on this 2013 Yoga sequence? Here are the links to pose's 1-3
January #1: Sukhasana (easy seat)
February #2: Sukhasana Twist and Lateral Stretch
March #3: Cat/Cow Tilts