Balasana: Child’s Pose
Coming into the pose, start with your hands and knees on the earth. On an exhale, slowly sit back onto your heels and actively extend the arms. If your heels don’t touch your booty, don’t worry, it’s not necessary to the posture. So long as you’re comfortably seated, with no pain or tension, you’re fine.
Here, I’m extending the arms, keeping my upper-body active. This allows a sweet balance between the relaxed lower body and the alert upper body. If you prefer, you can bring the arms to your feet, with your palms facing up, and this releases all the muscles of the upper back as well. This one’s more of a restorative version of the pose.
The back will fall into a natural curve, and if you feel any pressure on your ankles, knees, or hip joints, feel free to adjust the posture or use props like pillows. No two poses look the same!
Rest the forehead on the earth, or you could bring your hands under the head as a third variation on the pose. Alternatively, face the head to the right or left, being conscious of how this effects the feeling in your neck. Never force an uncomfortable angle, especially when putting weight on the neck.
Once you’re in the pose, you’ll probably feel a sweet sense of relief. This posture is used to center the mind at the beginning of classes, in between poses to balance energies in the midst of a class, or at the end of a class out of gratitude or reverence.
Energetically speaking, malasana is a “complete pose,” balancing all the “chakras,” the energy centers running up along the spine.
The psychological aspect of this pose will probably be different for each practitioner – if you’re in need of a good rest and you’re open to that, this pose will probably put a smile on your weary face. If you’re feeling rushed or are more focused on a physically challenging kind of asana practice, the pose may bring your awareness to mental fluctuations, or even frustration. If this is the case, allow yourself five deep breaths in the pose, to give your mind some time to get in a groove with the stress-reducing benefits of the pose.
On the most basic physiological level, you’ll notice the hamstrings and ankles receive a pleasant pressure massage. The heart rate is gently reduced. Finally, all the back muscles release – and if you’re lucky, your yoga teacher will take this ripe opportunity to give you a lil’ back rub as well!
Around the World in 30 Asanas Stop 2: Ewa Beach, Hawaii
Where I spent most of my youth, swimming, riding my bike, playing dodgeball, and hiding from the heat in the library. It was here, on the south coast of Oahu, where the sun’s as persistent as the petty thieves, I navigated my way as the only white girl in class (even if I am hapa!) with just a few scratches and bruises to prove it. An endearing sense of humor and harmless nerd-status were my only weapons against moke-style racism, and I perfected them like a ninja.
Last week, I finally made it back home, after a few impromptu years of teaching abroad. The ocean in front of my Gramma’s yard is like another mother to me. Sitting at her shores resets any wrongs in the past, calms even the subtlest fluctuations of the mind, and truly puts the heart at ease.
Some of the benefits of Balasana:
- Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
- Relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported
- Supports healthy digestion
- Relieves menstrual cramping
- Knee injury: Avoid Balasana unless you have the supervision of an experienced teacher.