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Child’s Pose: The Complete Guide

Take a break. Balasana is a restful pose that can be sequenced between more challenging asanas.


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Child’s Pose (Balasana) is meant to be a restful and nourishing posture—a brief respite where the body can be still and small. But this pose isn’t totally inactive. It still engages and stretches your back muscles, as well as your arms if you have them outstretched.

Balasana takes us back both mentally and physically to a feeling of being a child, says Peter Sterios, a yoga teacher and author of Gravity & Grace: How to Awaken Your Subtle Body and the Healing Power of Yoga. “The shape of the pose forces you to confront your attitudes and patterns of breathing, the health of your organs, and your level of awareness in moving from the abdomen,” says Sterios. “It is a very simple pose to begin with physically, yet it requires patience and the ability to surrender to gravity and a state of non-doing.”

In Child’s Pose, your breath can become somewhat constricted, since your rib cage is compressed in a forward fold. However, once you adjust to this posture, breathing here can feel quite calming and nurturing. Cultivating ujjayi pranayama (Conquerer Breath) can help you deepen your experience of the pose. “Child’s Pose will help you develop a broader understanding of the breath,” adds Sterios. “While it may not be a physically challenging posture, Balasana will help you cultivate the attitude necessary for deeper practice.”

“I am always surprised at how taking Child’s Pose can almost immediately calm me down in moments of stress,” says Yoga Journal contributing editor Gina Tomaine. “It’s such a simple pose, but it feels like an act of surrender—and sometimes embracing that feeling of vulnerability and expressing it outwardly can be exactly what you need to get through to the next moment and move forward.”

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Child’s Pose basics

Sanskrit: Balasana (bah-LAHS-anna)

bala = child

Pose type: Forward Fold

Target area: Full Body

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Benefits

Child’s Pose can be calming and relaxing, helping to manage stress. This pose activates the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and deactivates the stress response (sympathetic nervous system). This may help lower or regulate blood pressure.

Other Child’s Pose perks:

  • Stretches your back muscles, buttocks/gluteal muscles, front of your thighs/quadriceps, shins, and ankles.
  • For some, this pose may ease symptoms of headaches, migraines, and PMS.
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Step-by-step instructions

  1. Come to all fours, opening your knees to the width of your mat.
  2. Bring your big toes together and slowly exhale, reaching your hips toward your heels and ankles as you fold forward from your hips so that your torso rests on your thighs.
  3. Reach your arms forward. Place them shoulder-width apart on the mat in front of you with your palms down and fingers gently fanned open.
  4. Relax your back and rest the center of your forehead on the mat. Take a few breaths to center yourself. As you inhale, allow your ribcage to expand. As you exhale, soften through the heart and ground through your hips.
  5. Press down firmly with your knuckles and fingertips. Root down with the base of each index finger.
  6. Use inhalations to crawl your fingertips forward, pulling length along your spine and side body.
  7. Use exhalations to emphasize the release of your tailbone toward your heels, anchoring the pose.
  8. Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a few minutes, then release.
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Explore the pose

Beginner’s tips

  • Don’t be afraid to play with different iterations! You can spread your knees slightly wider or stretch your arms slightly further on the mat. See what these modifications bring up for you and which version of the pose feels most connected to your body.
  • If you wish, instead of extending your arms on the floor, reach them back alongside your feet, palms facing up.
  • Don’t shy away from using blocks, blankets, or bolsters. Child’s Pose is meant to be restful and soothing. Whatever your best experience of the pose is, you should strive to create and lean into that posture. 

Be mindful!

  • If your head cannot reach the floor, rest it on a folded blanket instead to take the tension out of your neck.
  • If you have a knee injury, place a folded blanket in the crease of your knees and then move your seat toward your heels. Let your legs rest on the blanket. Your seat won’t touch your heels because of the blanket, which will lessen the compression in your knees.
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Child’s Pose variations

Photo: Christopher Dougherty

Child’s Pose with a bolster

Begin on your hands and knees. Place a bolster vertically between your inner thighs and slowly release down onto it. A rolled blanket or pillow placed between the backside of your thighs and calves may provide further support.

Bring your forehead or cheek to the bolster. If you rest a cheek on the bolster, be sure to flip to the opposite cheek after a few breaths to maintain an even stretch across both sides of your neck. If you have a longer torso, you may need to place block under your forehead or cheek to keep your neck in line with your spine.

Take at least 8–10 deep breaths, or remain in the pose as long as you like.

Photo: Christopher Dougherty

Child’s Pose with a block

Begin on your forearms and knees. Rest your forehead on a block or bolster for support. Your toes can be tucked under or released down to the floor. Take at least 8–10 deep breaths, or remain in the pose as long as you like.

Photo: Christopher Dougherty

Child’s Pose with a bolster and blocks

This variation can be more supportive if you have knee pain, hip pain, or limited flexibility.

Begin on your hands and knees. Place a rolled blanket, pillow, or bolster between the backside of your thighs and calves. Come to your forearms and place your forehead on a block or two. Take at least 8–10 deep breaths, or remain in the pose as long as you like.

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Preparatory and counter poses

Balasana can appear at the beginning of class or near the end. The pose doesn’t necessarily require warm-up, although it can help you to settle into relaxation when you first stretch your hips and shoulders.

Because it’s a neutral pose in terms of lengthening the back, it can be sequenced at almost any time. Child’s Pose is often used in sequences not just as a resting pose but as a counter pose to backbends.

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Your body in Child’s Pose | Anatomy

Balasana is a resting pose that gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while passively stretching the muscles of the back. You may feel the stretch in certain muscles and joints, yet overall it should be a passive and not active or forced stretch.

In the drawings below, the pink muscles are stretching.

Child's Pose: Balasana
Illustration: Chris Macivor

In this pose, ease is brought into all muscles in the body. On the upper back, this includes the rhomboids, connecting the spine and the shoulder blades, as well as the middle trapezius, which spans the back, and the posterior deltoids (at the back of the shoulders).

Child's Pose: Balasana
Illustration: Chris Macivor

You may also feel a slight stretch in your quadriceps and hips.

Excerpted with permission from The Key Poses of Yogaby Ray Long.

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Put Child’s Pose into practice


About our contributors 

Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.

Ray Long is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a popular series of yoga anatomy books, and the Daily Bandha, which provides tips and techniques for teaching and practicing safe alignment. Ray graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and pursued post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over 20 years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters, and teaches anatomy workshops at yoga studios around the country.