Child’s pose is a common position in yoga for people of all flexibility and fitness levels. It’s a pose meant to stretch your muscles and promote relaxation and restoration. You’ll find child’s pose in many yoga practices as it helps reset the body before more difficult moves. Here, we’ll explain the benefits of child’s pose and how to do it.
What Is Child’s Pose in Yoga?
In yoga, child’s pose is classified as a restorative pose. These poses are meant to slow down your parasympathetic nervous system by relaxing your body and allowing you to focus on your breathing.
Child’s pose is a forward bend pose. It’s meant to relax your body and allow you to focus on your breathing. It offers numerous health benefits and stretches many tight areas of the body, especially in your back, neck, shoulders, and ankles.
Although child’s pose is the more common name in the Western world, you may also hear people refer to the pose as “shishuasana” or “balasana.” This is because yoga originated in India, so the poses have names in Sanskrit. “Asana” means “pose” in Sanskrit, “shishu” means baby, and “bala” means child.
What Muscles Does Child’s Pose Work?
Child’s pose is not a move that strengthens your muscles. This means that it’s not meant to push or build any muscles. Instead, it’s a stretch that focuses on lengthening your spine, opening your hips, and stretching your thighs.
Trapezius muscles. The trapezius muscles are the two large muscles in your back. Together, these two muscles form a diamond shape, stretching from the nape of your neck to your mid-back and across your shoulder blades. The trapezius muscles help you move and rotate your shoulders and neck.
Erector spinae muscles. These deep, intrinsic back muscles include the iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis. The erector spinae muscles run along your spine, and their job is to help straighten your back and allow it to rotate.
Latissimus dorsi muscles. These muscles branch out from your spine over the back of your ribs. They help you extend and move your shoulders and arms.
Teres major muscles. The teres major muscles run from your shoulder blades to your underarms. They work together with the latissimus dorsi muscles to help you move your shoulders and arms.
Oblique muscles. The oblique muscles are made up of the internal and external obliques. These muscles run along your sides from the middle of your ribs to your pelvis. They allow your body to twist from side to side.
Gluteus muscles. These muscles, which include the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus, have several jobs in your body, including moving your thighs. The child’s pose stretch helps alleviate tension from your hips in the gluteus muscle group.
Hip flexor muscles. Your hip flexors are a muscle group at the front of your thighs. This group includes the iliacus, psoas major, rectus femoris, and sartorius muscles. This group of muscles can easily get tight, especially if you sit at a desk for a lot of your day.
How to Do Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a very simple stretch. Just follow these steps:
- Kneel on the floor or on a yoga mat and sit back on your heels with your arms at your sides.
- Slowly bend forward so your stomach touches your thighs. Try to keep your buttocks against your heels, but don’t stress if that’s not possible.
- Extend your hands out in front of you with your palms down and rest them on the mat or the floor.
- Relax your neck and let your forehead gently rest against the ground or mat.
- Allow your entire body to relax as you close your eyes and breathe. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel is necessary.
- Slowly return to the seated position.
Child’s pose is meant to promote relaxation, so don’t push yourself beyond the point where you’re comfortable. If something hurts or doesn’t feel quite right, take a break or modify the stretch using one of the adaptations below.
The most important part of child’s pose is taking the time to breathe. Because your stomach is resting on your thighs, you’ll be distinctly aware of the rhythm of your breath. This allows you to really focus on your breathing and practice good, mindful breathwork. Controlling your breath in this way has been shown to have its own positive health benefits, such as reducing stress.
Child’s Pose Adaptations
Although child’s pose is a simple stretch, there are ways to adjust the pose to accommodate an injury or adjust for your fitness level:
Adjust your arm position. If you have any kind of injury to your shoulder or arms and aren’t comfortable stretching them out in front of you, you can adjust the position of your arms to make the pose more comfortable. Try folding your arms in front of your head instead of stretching them out. You can also try stretching your arms in front of you but letting your elbows and forearms rest on the ground.
If you have a significant injury, another option is to let your arms rest by your sides, with the tops of your hands lying against the ground and your fingers pointing behind you.
Use a cushion. If you have any pain in your knees or ankles, you can place a small pillow, cushion, or a folded-up towel or blanket under those areas to reduce the pressure that comes from pressing your legs directly against the ground.
Space your knees out. In a typical child’s pose, your knees should softly touch each other as you hold the pose. However, you may be more comfortable keeping your knees slightly separated, especially if you’re a beginner.
On the other hand, if you want to step things up a little, you can try slowly but actively moving your knees away from each other while you're in child’s pose. This increases the level of difficulty by requiring you to activate your abdominal muscles to provide stability.
Lateral child’s pose. Lateral child’s pose is also slightly more difficult than child’s pose and focuses on your latissimus dorsi muscles.
To perform a lateral child’s pose, sit back on your heels with your knees spread wider than hip-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you as you would for a standard child’s pose, and keep your elbows off the floor. Walk your hands to the right side until your torso lines up with your right knee. Drop your left hip down toward your heel.
Stay here, feeling the stretch for as long as you need, then slowly return to center and repeat on the left side. To intensify the move even further, use blocks under your hands.
Benefits of Child’s Pose
Child’s pose offers many benefits aside from stretching your body. These benefits include:
- Opening your hips
- Lengthening your spine
- Stretching out your ankles
- Relaxing your back muscles
- Relieving any tension in your pelvis
- Increasing blood flow to your head and neck
- Stimulating your digestive system
- Potentially relieving constipation
Restorative yoga, including child’s pose, has many benefits, including:
- Calming the nervous system and possibly reducing blood pressure
- Promoting relaxation
- Setting you up for better sleep
- Reducing pain
- Improving your mental well-being
Child’s pose is a great option for stress management because it draws attention to your breath and relaxes your body. A great follow-up to child’s pose is corpse pose. This is another restorative pose that involves laying flat on your back and completely relaxing your body.
Child’s pose is a good move to use during yoga sessions to help reset the body between difficult moves. It allows your muscles to relax and your breathing to stabilize before moving on to your next pose.
Child’s Pose Mistakes to Avoid
There aren’t many mistakes you can make when doing child’s pose as it’s less intense pose meant for relaxation. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep your neck relaxed so as not to cause strain
- Relax your jaw and shoulders
- If you begin to get a headache while you're in child’s pose, lift your head slightly to relieve pressure
- Avoid doing child’s pose just after eating, as it may upset your stomach
- Avoid doing child’s pose if you’ve been vomiting or if you've had diarrhea
Don't perform child’s pose if you have injuries to your back, shoulders, or knees. If you have a shoulder injury, such as a rotator cuff injury, adjust your arm position using one of the methods above.
If you’re pregnant, you may still be able to stretch in child’s pose if you separate your knees and avoid putting too much pressure on your abdomen. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.