Have you ever thought about the meaning behind "Child's Pose" aka Balasana? The meaning of this pose lies in the our spine's very first Primary Curve.
This pose is called child’s pose because it shapes the spine back into its first primary curve, which is the curve we have when we are a fetus. This first primary curve is a ‘C’-shaped or concave curve that is associated with our primal movement of crawling on all fours. Architecturally, try to visualize an archway supported by pillars. This image should give you a pretty good idea on how strong an arch can be compared to a flat line.
Child’s pose is actually my favourite morning wake-up pose. I often do this pose while I am still in bed. However, it is best to do this pose on a firm surface. Let’s get into the pose and it’s wonderful variations.
This passive version is probably the most popular one (pictured) - arms extended but resting on the ground
1. Relax the arms but let the elbow open to the side. Allow the shoulders to melt away from the ears.
2. Relax the hands and fingers so that the fingers curl naturally
3. Let the knees be wide so that the belly rests on the inner thighs
4. Point your toes behind you and let the big toes touch (touching the big toes completes an energy circuit and help with grounding - can also connect the hands in namaste/prayer for the full circuit)
5. Your third eye (ajna chakra) should be grounded on the floor. If it doesn’t reach, use a pillow or yoga block between your arms
6. Chest is open and melting towards the earth (anahata chakra)
7. Tail bone is tucked (svadhisthana chakra)
1. Follow the same as above except
2. Wrap your arms around the sides or your legs with your palms facing up and knuckles facing down the fingers should point back towards your toes
3. Let the knees come towards each other a little closer so that you round your back more; your head will come up more too so that it is grounded higher on your forehead and your chin closer to your collar bones (added benefits: nice abdominal and throat massage - manipura and vissudha chakras)
This is an active version.
1. Follow the same instructions as the first but now
2. Curl your toes under (stretching the soles of your feet)
3. Activate your arms so now the elbows lift off the floor
4. Come up on your finger tips (tent hands) the wrists are the top of the tents
5. The shoulders should be relaxed like in the passive version. Allow the shoulders to roll away from the ears.
6. Side stretch add-ons: try walking your hands over to the left then right for 2-3 breaths each. It’s okay to lift and adjust the head to deepen the side-stretch. Try these add-ons in the first version too (remember arms will be relaxed in the passive version).
Hold each version to begin with for 3-5 full belly breaths (for Yin Yoga 1, 3, or 5 minutes). Let your inhales go into the belly then into the ribs then chest. Exhale the opposite direction: chest > ribs > belly. Try to focus your mind on lengthening the entire backside of your spine, especially the base of your spine. create space between your pelvis and spine by expanding that area as you breath in. Then release all tension when you breath out.
There are many benefits for this pose. For me, I feel opening mostly in my shoulders and spine. I also love how it opens my chest, side-body, quads, shins, and ankles. The pressure on my third eye center helps me clear my sinuses as well as my thoughts. Lastly, child’s pose is a prostration. Therefore, it invokes humility and gratitude. So maybe you might sink in just a little deeper in your next balasana.
Follow-up balasana with back-bends such as sphinx or cobra (ardha/half bhujangasana or regular bhujangasana).
Architecturally, try to visualize an archway supported by pillars.
Photos: Balasana by Chetan on location in the North Malé Atoll, The Maldives. Arch by mark l chaves on location in Cebu Philippines
Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, Yoga Anatomy, 2nd Edition, (Human Kinetics, 2011).