Child’s Pose, or Balasana, is a foundational pose that has so many interesting variations. If we are tight through the extensor muscles on the top of the foot, then we curl our toes. If our hips are tight, then we can use our elbows or a block to elevate the hips to comfort. We can also leave our knees in line with our shoulders or take our knees to the edges of our mat. Our arm position can be forward … to the side … or to the rear of our mat. With all of these beautiful variables to fit so many unique body types, child’s pose allows for an opportunity to rest, relax and check in with our physical body. Therefore, child’s pose should be our pose in the moment and not one that is predefined as we enter. The guide below from Yoga Journal should be one that we explore rather than submit to. Enjoy learning about our body each time that we sink into child’s pose, balasana.
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 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.
Health Benefits (http://www.yogabasics.com/asana/child/)
Benefits: Child pose calms the body, mind and spirit and stimulates the third eye point. Child pose gently stretches the low back, massages and tones the abdominal organs, and stimulates digestion and elimination.
Contraindications: Recent or chronic injury to the knees. Ask for a modification if pregnant.
Knees to chest, or Apanasana in Sanskrit, took patience for me to realize the benefits. As an athlete turned Yogi, I wanted to feel strength being built in each posture. Warrior 1, Warrior 2 … Warrior YES! It wasn’t until I connected with my breath that I started to feel my erector spinae (long group of muscles traveling down our back) lengthen. In my body, as with most of us in Western society, as we lean forward at a desk, in a car or holding a cell phone, we strengthen our back but become deficient in our core. Knees to chest offers us an opportunity to take our tight back muscles and release tension. This allows for the removal of chronic pain and the chance for us to build a more helpful core.
Start with a sitting position on the ground with your feet flat, spaced at a distance greater than your hips-width. While inhaling, bring your arms forward. While exhaling, let your torso fall slowly to the ground and lie flat on your back.
Now increase the length of your torso by extending your arms further. After that, pull in your knees close to the chest and clasp them with your extended hands. You should look as if you are hugging your knees. Your shoulder blades should be relaxed and collarbones should be spread wide.
Now rock your body from one side to other as your relax your lower back. You should insert your chin in between your knees in order to protect your posterior neck. You may also use a blanket beneath your head if you experience a bit too much discomfort during the rocking portion of the pose.
One modification that can be helpful for those of us with sore knees is to place the hands behind the thigh instead of on the front of the knee. I usually cue this in my classes as it is a safer approach.
Health Benefits (http://www.lovemyyoga.com/knee-to-chest-pose.html)
- Eliminates painful lower back.
- Helps alleviate gastro-intestinal pain and the physical pain associated with menstruation.
- Relieves constipation.
- Reduces tension in the lower back and aids in removing the sciatic nerve pain.
- Helps resolve Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Standing Mountain, or Tadasana in Sanskrit, is one of the five foundational poses that has evolved for me over time. In my first ever Yoga class, I remember standing with my shoulders hunched forward and feeling as if time was being wasted. As I grew in my awareness of my physical body, I began to discover dynamic tension. Dynamic tension asks us to investigate the pulling of our muscles in opposite directions. My Standing Mountain went from letting my shoulders hunch forward and my mind becoming bored to a posture that brought beads of sweat to my forehead.
Challenge ourselves to stand upright, feet hips distance apart and spread our toes wide. Pressing into our mat with our entire foot we begin to activate dynamic tension and disobey gravity here. Soften the knees enough for a tiny bend (no one wants to be that person at a wedding that falls over from our knees being locked out) and let our belly be pulled in toward our spine. As our shoulders roll back, let our fingers become active in reaching toward the floor. The crown of our head reaches skyward allowing our spine to lengthen. Continue to cycle our consciousness through these different points of emphasis. Hold the posture for five full breaths. How do we feel?
Feel free to repeat for fewer or more breaths as we feel necessary. This posture can also be completed in a chair at home, work or even in our car (please keep both hands on the wheel though if driving). Always investigate and ask how we feel :). Who knows what we might learn about our body.
Health Benefits (http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/mountain-pose/)
- Improves posture
- Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
- Firms abdomen and buttocks
- Relieves sciatica
- Reduces flat feet
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