Letting the Child (Pose) Be the Teacher
If someone handed out awards for “most unappreciated asana,” the winner might be Balasana (Child’s Pose). In many yoga classes, this basic pose is used only for transition or rest. Often dismissed as “babyish” by asana enthusiasts, Balasana almost never gets the spotlight. And yet, it’s one of the most powerful poses in the yogi’s tool kit. Here’s why:
Balasana is adaptable. Though considered a beginner’s pose, many bodies don’t fold easily into Balasana. Knee injuries, tight hips or ankles, and round bellies are obstacles that can be easily overcome by using folded blankets, bolsters, or other props, and by separating the knees. There’s a Balasana for everyone—find yours.
Balasana is versatile. It can be a passive restorative pose, an active stretch, or something in between. Instead of flopping forward like a ragdoll, spend several breaths moving into Balasana with awareness, expanding and lengthening the torso. Pause on the inhalations, letting the breath nurture you, then use the exhalations to lengthen, adjust, and create more space for the next incoming breath.
Balasana is therapeutic. Insomnia, anxiety, dysmenorrhea, and lumbar pain are among conditions eased by Child’s Pose. Gravity creates gentle traction in the lumbar vertebrae, releasing posterior spinal compression and relaxing the muscles, which is why Balasana is often sequenced after backbends. The sympathetic “fight or flight” response is calmed, and the parasympathic “rest and digest” response is increased. Making fists and placing them in the hip creases massages the pelvic organs, relieving menstrual cramps. With deep breathing, Balasana encourages downward energy flow, apana prana, for a grounding effect.
Balasana is revealing. Look to the breath for clues to your mental and emotional state. Are you impatient? Distracted? If you feel physical discomfort, adjust the pose until the breath is long, deep, and regular, or move on. If your pain is emotional, can you be present with the pain long enough to unravel the cause? There was a time when I dreaded spending more than a few moments in Balasana because of painful pinching at the front of my hips. Even after learning ways to eliminate the physical pain, I still felt trapped. Eventually, I realized this stemmed from excessive pitta dosha and my need for busy-ness. Underlying that was fear…of poverty, loss of control, and so on. Deeper and deeper we go, as the layers of ego (“small self”) are peeled away.
Balasana is devotional. Touching the forehead to earth humbles the ego, and the asana resembles the pose of prayer or worship common to many cultures. As you draw in earth energy through Ajna Chakra, the center of insight, you may experience deep awareness and a feeling of connectivity. When you offer the pose in the spirit of devotion or worship, you are practicing the fifth niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana.
By allowing us to revert to the sense of safety we felt in the womb or crib, Balasana can nurture the feeling of peace and renewal within, even during troubled times. Isn’t that the sort of “babying” we can all benefit from?
What is typically your experience with Balasana? Do you find that quiet, nurturing sense of security?