Child’s Pose (Balasana) is a deceivingly simple posture. Usually practiced as a way to return to normal calm breathing after more challenging poses, Child’s Pose is, indeed, a great time-out. But in my kids’ Yoga classes, it offers so much more than a quick rest.
To get into Child’s Pose, start on hands and knees. Bring your hips to your heels and walk your hands as far forward as possible. Allow your belly, heart, and forehead to come to the ground. Become soft and still, sinking into the earth. Observe your breath: feel it moving in and out of your nose, feel your belly and chest fill, pressing into the earth and your legs. Alternately, you can place your arms along your sides, fingers toward your toes, palms up. This is Child’s Pose and it’s just the beginning.
You can use Child’s Pose as a guided meditation. Imagine you are a pebble and you are dropped into a stream. You fall through the gurgling, swirling water with no control of your direction. You just drop down toward the soft riverbed. As you land in the powdery silt at the bottom of the stream, you feel your pebble body sink, creating a little puff of sediment as you settle onto the bottom. Feel the solid riverbed under your legs and forehead, the cool stream running over your back, polishing you smooth. You can hear the stream bubbling and gurgling all around, but you are securely sinking into the stream’s bottom. Use this guided meditation as a way to refocus scattered energy and calm down.
Child’s Pose provides a nice back and side body stretch. From Child’s Pose, walk your fingertips as far forward as you can, lifting your palms off the floor so your hands are like spiders. Walk your spiders as far to the right as is comfortable, feel the stretch along your left side, and breathe as you continue to stretch the left arm longer and longer. Eventually, your spiders walk back to the center and then to the left, this time lengthening the right rib cage, shoulder and armpit.
Several partner poses use Child’s Pose as a starting point. Ladybug Spots is a comforting way to settle down. One person is a ladybug. That person comes into Child’s Pose after telling her partner how many spots she has on her wings (and maybe what color the spots are). The partner then puts on her spots, one by one, by applying deep pressure for five seconds before moving on to the next one. The partner should ask the ladybug if she’d like more or less pressure. Some ladybugs prefer to have their spots placed with a massaging motion, rather than pressing. After the spots have been applied, it’s time to switch.
Another partner activity that uses Child’s Pose is a supported backbend. Again, one child takes Child’s Pose. The partner then gently sits low on the child’s back, facing the opposite direction. Carefully, the partner drapes himself over the child in the pose, so both heads are close together. The child in the backbend brings his arms overhead and lengthens his legs straighter. The child on the floor allows the weight to settle him into the earth more. Stay for a few breaths before the child in the backbend carefully works his way back to standing. Then switch (of course).
Finally, do the Child’s Pose Wave. Either in a long line or a circle, everyone comes into Child’s Pose with arms long in front. The toes of the child in front will be touching the hands of the child behind her. Someone starts the wave by lifting up onto her knees, lifting arms overhead in a backbend, chest raised toward the sky. As she comes back into Child’s Pose, the child behind her starts to lift up tall. Then the next child rises up as the one in front comes back into Child’s Pose. This can go around the circle over and over, or if you use a line the movement can stop at the last person and then move back up to the front. This is fun to do with scarves or ribbons in the hands. You can also encourage even deeper focus and cooperation by having two waves move through the circle at the same time.