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Child’s Pose (Balasana) centers on creating a moment of rest or respite. It is a foundational yoga posture that reminds us that inaction and “non-doing” can be just as valuable as action and doing.
Because it involves bending forward over the knees and compressing the body on the mat or floor, it can be challenging—physically and emotionally. But there are variations that can help different bodies relax into the pose. And learning to surrender into the pose is an important part of the practice.
“When I begin a yoga flow with Child’s Pose, I appreciate that this posture gives me a moment to collect myself,” says Yoga Journal contributing editor Gina Tomaine. “Every time I get into the pose, I can’t help but feel a sense of peace and quiet. It’s a physical expression of mental calmness and a childlike ‘timeout.’ It’s one of my favorite poses because it’s always where I set an intention for my practice—and where I remember to come back to as much calmness and focus as I can muster, even on busy days.”
Child’s Pose basics
Sanskrit: Balasana (bah-LAH-sah-nah)
Pose type: Forward Fold
Target area: Full Body
Why we love it: “I didn’t understand Child’s Pose for the longest time. That is, I understood the mechanics of the pose, but I misunderstood its intent,” says Renee Marie Schettler, Yoga Journal‘s senior editor. “In my early years of practicing yoga, Child’s Pose was something the teacher told us to do when we were exhausted. I took it to be something that was an alternative option, something ‘less than’ the more challenging poses. While in Child’s Pose, I remained tensed and ready to pounce on the pose that followed. Only in recent years, after practicing more Yin, have I started to comprehend the innate and exquisite value in quiet and stillness and surrender, as well as the release and strength that proceeds from that.”
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Child’s Pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. It relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported. Balasana also calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue.
Child’s Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. (For more of a massage along the front of the body, keep your knees closer together.)
- Exhale and fold forward; lay your torso down between your thighs. Narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Broaden across the back of your pelvis at the sacrum and lengthen your tailbone away from the back. Tuck your chin slightly to lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
- Walk your hands out toward the front of your mat for Extended Child’s pose. Or reach back toward your feet and rest the arms on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, releasing the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Allow the weight of the shoulders to pull the shoulder blades wide across your back.
- Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
- To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Give breathing cues to your students. Suggest that they try to sink a bit deeper into the pose as they exhale. Bring awareness to your body through gently rolling your forehead back and forth on the mat, or coming up on tented fingertips to deepen the stretch of Extended Child’s Pose.
- Remember that for some, Balasana is not a comfortable resting pose. Suggest using blocks, bolsters, or blankets to bring the floor up to their forehead and body. Taking a wide-legged posture can better accommodate the belly or breasts. Remind the class they can find a suitable alternative—perhaps curled up on one side or even on the back—that works for their body and makes them feel comforted.
- Offer a moment for students to set an intention or call a mantra to mind. Balasana is meant to be a period of intentional rest and quiet, and this is an ideal time to remind students to steady their focus or cultivate their gratitude practice.
Variation: Child’s Pose with a bolster
- Begin on your hands and knees.
- Place the bolster vertically between your inner thighs and slowly release down onto it for support. A rolled blanket or pillow placed between the back of your thighs and calves may provide further support.
- Bring your forehead or cheek to the bolster. If resting a cheek on the bolster, be sure to switch to the opposite cheek to maintain an even stretch across both sides of the neck.
- Those with a longer torso may need to utilize a block under their forehead or cheek to ensure their neck is in line with their spine.
- Take at least 8–10 deep breaths, or remain in the pose as long as you like.