Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
In a yoga practice with so many asanas strung together, it’s good to have a “home pose” to return to for re-centering yourself. One of the best poses for just that is Balasana, or Child’s Pose. The child is said to be a stress-relieving yoga pose that can help you achieve mental peace.
The Sanskrit name for Child’s Pose is taken from the word bala which means “child.” Although this pose doesn’t appear in ancient yogic scriptures, it’s become a staple for most modern postural yoga practices.
Child’s Pose is a seated asana that helps bring your heart rate down, especially when practiced after more demanding asanas or vinyasa sequences. It works wonders for lower back pain and focuses on opening your hips and lengthening your spine. Depending on the variation you practice, Balasana may also expand your chest and shoulders and relieve your neck of any tension.
The Story Behind the Asana
The three main male deities of the Indian pantheon are Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the preserver, and Shiva – the destroyer. Of the stories of the three divinities, the stories of the childhood of Krishna, one of Vishnu’s Avatars, help us remember the divine nature of maintaining childhood innocence and awe. The image of Bala Krishna or Bal Gopal is one of the earliest existing images of Krishna worship.
Although the image of the Divine Child Krishna does not directly relate to Balasana, it’s helpful to meditate upon the stories of baby Krishna while practicing Child’s Pose so that you can contemplate on how simple it is to embody divinity by remembering what it was like to be a child.
One of the stories of Krishna’s sometimes mischievous ways as a child, was when he was playing in dirt and eating mud. His brother Balaram told their foster mother Yashoda what he was doing and she immediately confronted him about it.
Even though Krishna’s face was smeared with mud, just like that of many children who are caught in the act, he lied and said he wasn’t eating mud. Yashoda ordered him to open his mouth, and when he did, instead of seeing evidence of the mud, she found the entire universe inside her child.
This story reminds us that we all have the capacity to awaken and be the universe that is inside us all.
Basic Alignment for Balasana – Step-by-Step Instructions for Getting into Child’s Pose
- Start in a kneeling position with your knees touching, your sit bones placed on your heels, your spine lengthened, and your arms relaxed by your sides.
- Inhale to expand your chest and reach up through the crown of your head.
- As you exhale, walk your fingers forward with your arms straightened. Keep your sit bones in contact with your heels and your spine long. If your sit bones begin to lift off of your heels, back off from the pose a few inches.
- Aim to rest your forehead on your mat. You may round your spine when you’ve reached your maximum forward fold but keep the engagement in your arms. Press your fingertips into your mat and keep your elbows straightened.
- Maintain long, deep breaths while in Balasana, and allow yourself to relax, re-center, and release any tensions in your system while you’re in this resting pose.
Contraindications for Balasana
Although the Child Pose is a gentle and beginner-friendly yoga pose, there are some cases where this pose should be avoided altogether or practiced with appropriate support and variations.
Those with knee and ankle injuries and those with herniated spinal cord discs or severe spondylitis may want to avoid this pose.
Some say that those with stomach infections or pregnant women should avoid this pose as well, but if you’re mindful of your body, you can still practice a wide-legged or supported variation of this pose, both of which are outlined below.
How to Do Variations of Child’s Pose
1. Wide knee Balasana
This variation is great for pregnant women or anyone who needs a little bit more space around the abdomen area in order to fold forward comfortably.
2. Balasana with arms to the sides
This variation is also called Embryo Pose and can be practiced if you need to give your arms a rest, for example after holding Downward Facing Dog or Chaturanga Dandhasana for a long time. In addition, instead of resting your forehead on the ground, you may also turn your head to the side and simply place your cheek on the ground.
3. Balasana with block to support forehead
Use this variation if you need a bit of help to rest your forehead on the ground without lifting your sit bones off of your heels. Just make sure that your spine doesn’t curve when you place your forehead on the ground and that you don’t cause your cervical spine to compress.
4. Balasana with towel between thighs and abdomen (arms up or down)
In this seemingly simple variation of Child’s Pose, all you do is put a bit of a cushion between your thighs and abdomen. This yoga prop helps you lift up your torso and creates a little bit more space in your hips, which will help you release tension and fold forward more.
5. Balasana with block underneath hands
When you place a block underneath your hands with your arms extended forward, you help open up your shoulders and expand your chest. Either use one block under each hand, or place both hands on one block to create a few inches of lift.
6. Balasana with bolster between heels and sit bones
If you find that you can’t practice Child’s Pose without lifting your sit bones off of your heels, simply place a yoga bolster or as many folded towels as you need on your heels to sit on. This will help you feel grounded while your spine can still lengthen as you reach your arms forward.
7. Balasana with bolster to support entire torso
You can replace Savasana with this restorative version of Child’s Pose, which allows you to drape your entire upper body on a yoga bolster. And yes, in this variation it’s alright if your sit bones lift off of your heels so that you may completely relax and lose yourself in Balasana.
The Child Pose is a go-to pose to rest and recover in many dynamic and even gentle yoga practices. It’s a basic pose that you can use to re-center yourself and which will allow you to stay in the moment and meditate on your breath.
Regularly practicing this asana will help you gain clarity and peace of mind. It’ll even help you get back into a state of childlike innocence and awe that will allow you to remember the divinity that is within all of us.