How to do Child’s Pose in Yoga – Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Childs pose

Sneak back in time to a stress-free youth with this peaceful resting pose that relaxes the mind and muscles. One of our favorite resting asanas, Child’s Pose (Balasana) is the perfect place to pause between any posture in a yoga flow.

Child’s Pose gently stretches your hip joints, lower back, and uppers shoulders. It is often at the beginning or end of sequences to help yogis set an intention and harness the power of silence and stillness.

But you may be surprised that Child’s Pose is a whole lot more than just slumping back over your heels. This posture has ancient roots and a whole array of surprising benefits.

Here is everything you need to know about how to teach and practice Child’s Pose (Balasana), ensure proper form, and the best variations for students at any level of their yoga practice.

Pose Benefits

The name Balasana comes from Sanskrit terms bala, meaning “child-like and youthful” and asana, meaning “seated posture”. The benefits of Child’s Pose are undoubtedly linked back to that limber, care-free inner child that hides within all of us.

Benefits of Child’s Pose for Body, Mind, and Spirit

  • Reduced Back and Neck Pain: Child’s Pose is one of many yoga asanas that is scientifically-proven to reduce back pain and improve quality of life for people with spinal issues. As you fold your torso over your thighs and reach out in front of you, the spine lengthens into a soothing lower back release and deep shoulder stretch.
  • Mental Centering: Placing the forehead on the floor and folding the upper body over the legs is a humbling and grounding experience. This physical process is accompanied by a mental centering that allows the practitioner to go deeper within themselves to set an intention, quiet their thoughts, and focus on the present moment. When used at the beginning or end of a yoga flow, Balasana is like a calming mental reset.
  • Restorative Hip, Thigh, and Ankle Stretching: Child’s Pose gently stretches the entire lower body through targeted compression and extension.
  • Improved Blood Circulation: Child’s Pose is excellent for improving circulation throughout the upper body, particularly to the head. One scientific study even found that Balasana significantly reduced blood pressure and pulse for a healthier cardiovascular system.
  • Better Digestion: Child’s Pose is linked to improved digestion and can be exceptionally helpful after a heavy meal. The light compression on the stomach can help activate peristalsis (the wave-like muscle movements that move food through your digestive tract).
  • Anxiety and Tension Relief: As its name implies, this posture takes us back to a soothing, stress-free state of mind that we experienced as little kids. The slight inversion of the head toward the floor and gentle release of the hips help to relieve physical tension and mental stress or anxiety.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Getting into Balasana is simple, safe, and beginner-friendly.

  1. Begin in a table pose on your hands and knees with wrists stacked under shoulders and knees stacked under your hips.
  2. Bring your feet together with your big toes touching behind you. The tops of the feet can rest on the mat.
  3. Separate your knees slightly wider than your hips.
  4. On an exhale, sit back onto your heels and adjust the width of your knees as needed. Slowly walk your hands backwards as needed.
  5. On the next exhale, bow forward to bring your front torso down between your thighs. Rest your forehead on the mat and breathe.
  6. For Passive Child’s Pose, allow your arms to lay back on the floor along your torso with your palms up and shoulders released toward the floor.
  7. For a more active Extended Child’s Pose, reach out in front of you with your arms alongside your ears. Press the palms lightly into the floor and roll the shoulder blades down your back.
  8. Lengthen the tailbone toward the back of the room as you nestle your upper body further down onto the inner thighs. Shimmy your hips around as needed.

Tips for mastering the pose

Mastering Child’s Pose is truly a matter of finding what works best for your body. This posture is designed to be rejuvenating and restorative, so adjustments are essential for finding that place of peaceful rest that you can hold for a minute or longer.

Keep your arms lengthened and hands active for a deeper stretch

Maintaining flexion in the arms will create a deeper Child’s Pose stretch. Elongate the arms in front of you, keeping your shoulders away from the ears, fingers wide, and lower arm muscles activated.

Use your hands to press the floor away from you and allow your hips to sink deeper behind you. This creates a light resistance that can be used to sink deeper into the posture.

Press your tailbone back and down

Imagine your tailbone lengthening away from the back of your pelvis. Use your arms to create leverage that can gently push your hips toward the back of the mat and down toward the floor.

For tight hips, bring the knees and thighs together

If your hips feel extremely tight, bringing your thighs closer together underneath the torso can help alleviate some pressure on the hips. Keeping the knees together also changes the angle of the lower back stretch, for more targeting of the sacrum and coccyx region.

For a deeper stretch, keep the knees wide

In general, bringing the knees wider results in a deeper inner thigh and hip opening, whereas keeping them together will lighten the stretch intensity. This is also a more ideal variation for pregnant yogis or those with a larger top or midsection that may feel uncomfortable pressing against the top of the thighs.

Breathe consciously

Child’s Pose is all about release, so it is vital to use your exhales to melt deeper into this pose. Let your lungs expand on each inhale as you lightly dome your spine toward the ceiling, then exhale and release it all as you fall deeper into the space between your thighs and hips.

Common Mistakes

As far as yoga poses go, Balasana is designed to be simple and straightforward. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get your form perfect right away. Every yogi body is different and that means you have to experiment with what works best for your unique body structure and mental state.

Here are the most common mistakes in Child’s Pose and how to fix ’em quick:

Mistake: Tension in the neck

A neutral neck position in any posture is crucial for maintaining a happy spine. If your neck is cocked at a weird angle, or you find yourself trying to look up during Child’s Pose, you could wind up feeling more pain than relief.

How to Fix It: Be sure that your neck remains long, neutral and completely loose. Don’t try to look up or forward, instead close your eyes and look only down at the floor. Use a folded blanket or yoga block for added support beneath your forehead.

Tip: As you rest your forehead on the mat, close your eyes and imagine your Third Eye Chakra (the space just between your eyebrows) contacting the earth directly beneath you. Tuck your chin and envision your spine lengthening long and straight over the top of your bent head.

Mistake: Large breasts impeding your breath

Yogis who are endowed with large breasts may find that Balasana puts a lot of pressure on the chest area. Thankfully, there are props for that!

How to Fix It: Use a yoga block beneath your forehead to bring the earth closer to your head. This creates more space for your chest to fully expand without impeding your breathing or causing discomfort. You can also keep your torso supported by placing a yoga bolster lengthwise beneath your upper body.

Tip: Large-chested yogis may prefer to practice the wide-legged version of Child’s Pose by bringing their knees wide beyond the hips, but still keeping the big toes touching.

Mistake: Butt not touching your heels

Stiff hips thighs and ankles can make for a pretty uncomfortable Child’s Pose. If your butt doesn’t quite touch your heels, don’t worry- there’s a prop for that!

How to Fix It: Grab a yoga bolster or folded blanket and place it beneath the glutes to allow your body to lay back comfortably over the heels.

Tip: You shouldn’t feel any pain in your heels or ankles from sitting on top of them. Experiment with different foot positions by changing the angle of the top of your foot against the mat.

In the true spirit of childhood, Balasana gives us a lot of room to explore what feels best in our bodies. There are many different modifications and Child’s Pose variations for a range of conditions and body types.

Passive Child’s Pose

There is no “right” way to have your arms during Child’s Pose. It’s really a matter of what feels best for you. You can practice Balasana with your arms behind you and palms facing up if you want to relax and fully let go.

Extended Child’s Pose

For a more active version of Balasana, extend both arms out in front of you with the palms facing the floor. Spread your fingers wide and use a little bit of pressure to push the floor away from you and settle your hips deeper into the stretch.

Be sure that you aren’t scrunching your shoulders up towards your ears or creating any unnecessary tension on the neck.

Side Stretch Child’s Pose

To get an extra lateral stretch, walk your left arm to the left corner of the mat and bring your right arm to meet it. Feel the right ribcage expanding and lengthening along your side body. Repeat on the opposite side to get a nice side stretch and improve spinal mobilit

Bolster-Supported Child’s Pose

A yoga bolster or pillow can be tucked beneath your body in a range of different Child’s Pose variations to make you feel more comfortable and supported. If you want to really hone in on that cozy, comforting childlike experience, hug a bolster, melt into the pillow, and let your mind drift away to a peaceful place.

Safety and Precautions

Overall, Child’s Pose is an extremely safe and beginner-friendly posture. However, if you have a knee injury, you may need to modify or avoid this pose.

If you are pregnant, consult with your doctor about practicing yoga. Pregnant women have to be careful to only practice the wide-legged variation of Balasana to avoid pressing the belly on top of the thighs.

Teaching the pose – Help your students with these cues

When teaching a yoga pose, certain cues can help students with better visualization and self-adjustments that feel right for their body. Try your own variation of these tips to encourage proper form:

  • On each inhale, imagine your spine lengthening and tailbone stretching back and down. On the exhale, melt into your mat and feel your whole body release into your hips.
  • Place a block or bolster beneath your forehead to help reduce tension on your neck and forehead.
  • As you lightly press your third eye into the mat and tuck your tailbone to the ground, imagine your spine curving upward like a turtle shell.
  • Relax your shoulders by rolling them back and down.
  • Adjust your knees wider or closer together to explore what feels the most comfortable.
  • If you need a break at any time during this class, you can always return to a soothing Child’s Pose to catch your breath and relax.

Benefits of Child’s Pose in a Yoga Sequence

As a yoga instructor, it’s important to know when and why you are incorporating a pose into your class. Balasana is the perfect addition to a beginner or advanced yoga practice. When cuing this pose, keep in mind how this yoga pose enhances the student experience:

  • Reduced Fatigue: When Childs Pose is incorporated into more intensive yoga sequences like Vinyasa or Ashtanga, it serves as a resting posture that allows you to slow your breath and recalibrate your body before returning to more challenging asanas.
  • Resting Point: Sometimes beginner yogis feel overwhelmed or slightly embarrassed by their inability to keep up in challenging flows. To help them feel more at home, many yoga teachers advise their students to return to Balasana at any point during the class when they need a quick break. Be sure to remind your students that there is absolutely no shame in practicing this slightly active resting pose while others advance to more difficult poses.
  • Counter Pose: In alignment with the classic “yin-yang” philosophy of balancing the opposites, counter poses can be used after difficult postures to help stretch the body in the reverse direction and maintain equilibrium. After an intense backbend or hip-opening asana, put Child’s Pose into your sequence as a countering position to round the back forward or lightly compress the hip joints.

Preparatory poses

Before going into a Child’s Pose, it can help to loosen up the knees, hips, and back with these prep asanas:

  • Hero Pose (Virasana)
  • Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
  • Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Separate Leg Stretching Pose

Counter poses

After Child’s Pose, it helps to lengthen or shake out the hips and back with a few counter yoga postures:

  • Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Conclusion

Balasana is one of the best ways to find stillness, pain relief, and overall well-being. A yoga practice simply wouldn’t be the same without a few rounds of Child’s Pose to remind us that we were all once worry-free kids laying humbly on the Earth.

Namaste!

About Logan Hailey

Logan Hailey is a writer, entrepreneur, and vagabond yogi who lives in an school bus tiny home. She's a regular contributor on The Yoga Nomads. She travels the U.S. teaching about natural living, organic farming & gardening, and wilderness adventure. Keep up with her adventures on Instagram @ramblinfarmers.

Leave a Comment