Want to learn more about Balasana, aka Child’s Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Balasana, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, myths, a step-by-step how-to video, modifications and more.
The thing I say mostly often about Balasana is, “Child’s Pose is your friend.” And it really is.* Child’s Pose is the perfect pose if you need a break, if you’ve lost your focus, or if your breath gets away from you, if you need a moment of reflection.
Balasana is there for you. In Adventure Yoga classes it is always an option. This is your practice after all. I am here to encourage you, educate you, invite you to go further, but it is for you, and it’s yours. What you do and when you do it, that’s your call.
*Balasana is a friend for most of us, that is. If you have knee, ankle, or hip injuries you will likely want to modify the pose with props to make it “friendly”. Don’t worry — I’ve got ya covered in the Modification section below.
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|Sanskrit||Balasana / Adho Mukha Virasana|
|English||Child’s Pose / Downward Facing Hero’s Pose|
|Pronunciation||bahl-AHS-ah-nuh / aah-doh MOO-kah shwah-NAHS-ah-nuh|
|Meaning||Bala means young, childish, or child.|
Asana means pose or posture.
Balasana means Child’s Pose.
Adho means downward.
Mukha means face.
Vira means hero.
Adho Mukha Virasana means Downward Facing Hero’s Pose.
This is the commonly used name in Iyengar Yoga.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported Balasana benefits here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
The main physical benefits of Balasana include:
- Stretches back muscles including erector spinae, trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.
- Restricts the movement at the front of your ribs which encourages you to shift your breath pattern. This can help make you more aware of using your abdomen and diaphragm to breathe.
- Helps tone your pelvic muscles.
- Creates space for your sciatic nerves and can help relieve SI joint / lower back pain.
- The shape of the pose encourages introspection and contemplation.
- Is a passive opening for your hips.
- Stretches your quadriceps, knees, and the fronts of your shins and ankles.
- Elongates your lower back.
- Helps calm your nervous system which can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
- When you practice Balasana as a more active pose you will increase the stretch in your hips and and ankles and the strength in your arms, shoulders, and back.
- When practicing Child’s Pose in a passive way, you can relax muscles across the front of your body (like your abdominals and chest), which can get tight because of sitting and working.
- Surrendering to gravity in Balasana supports the lengthening of your quads, glutes, and the front of your ankles and shins.
If you want more on the benefits of yoga, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people!
- If you have knee or ankle injuries, you may prefer to substitute a different resting pose such as Savasana. I offer modifications below so that you can learn to modify if you have some movement limitations.
- If you have high blood pressure, you can use props to support your head so that it doesn’t go below your heart.
- If you are pregnant, take your knees wide enough to make room for your baby bump. You may have to use a bolster in the late stages of your pregnancy.
- You may wish to avoid Balasana if you have arthritis in your knees.
- If you have a knee injury of any kind, approach the pose with caution. See the Modifications section below for prop options.
- People with very weak hips or lower back muscles may wish to practice Virasana to help build strength before attempting Balasana.
- The shape of the pose encourages your pelvic floor to relax. If you have incontinence or diarrhoea it is advisable to avoid this pose.
Misconceptions & Myths About Child’s Pose
The Origins of Balasana
Balasana, while a fairly natural and simple pose for many of use to take, is not described in yoga texts until the 20th century. There is similar pose described in Primary Gymnastics, Niels Bukh’s 1924 text that likely influenced the evolution of asana in India.
The closest we get to anything close to Balasana is when Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose) appears in the 19th century text Sritattvanidhi (attributed to the Maharaja of the Mysore Palace) as Kandukasana (or Ball Pose).
Child’s Pose When With Child
I have read countless times that pregnant women should never do Balasana. The thing is, I have seen plenty of pregnant women practice Balasana, and go on to have healthy babies.
In the Modifications section below I offer some modifications you might want to try out if you’d like to do Child’s Pose and you are pregnant. And this article from Toronto Yoga Mamas has great descriptions and pictures of several pose modifications for third-trimester moms-to-be, including Child’s Pose.
As with anything that impacts your health, listen to your body and talk to your doctor before deciding what you should and shouldn’t do.
Balasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Balasana / Child’s Pose
While Balasana one of the most common poses in yoga class, and is usually used as a resting pose, it can be quite challenging for some students. If you have knee, ankle, hip, or spinal injuries, you will need to learn how to modify child’s pose with props (see the Modifications section below). Take it slow and learn what will help you be able to settle into the pose.
- Come down onto your hands and knees to start in a Table Top / All 4s position.
- Bring your knees as wide as your yoga mat, and with the tops of your feet on your mat, bring your big toes together to touch.
- Move your hips back and lower them down onto, or towards, your feet. If possible, sit on your heels. See Modifications section below if you cannot sit on your heels.
- Walk your hands forward some and fold forward over your legs. Depending on the size of your legs, the size of your chest, your ability to flex at your hips, and other considerations, you may need to adjust the width of your knees, or placement of your arms.
- Place your forehead on the ground. If your head does not come to the ground you can prop it up with your hands or other props. See Modifications below.
- Stretch your arms out in front of you so that they are in a similar shape to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog Pose) — that is, hands roughly shoulder distance apart, arms straight, palms pushing down into the ground.
- You may prefer to place your hands on top of each other and rest your forehead on your hands, or bring your arms back at your sides.
- This is Balasana, or Child’s Pose.
- To come out, sit up and sit in Vajrasana, or come into Adho Mukha Svanasana to stretch out your legs and spine.
Modifications & Variations
Child’s Pose is a great pose to help you work on flexibility. However, if you’re uncomfortable or straining in the pose it’s tough to relax and find that opening. By using props like yoga bolsters, blocks, or blankets, you can modify your pose and find what helps you relax into the pose.
If you can’t sit on your heels
If you can’t bring your forehead to the ground
You can place a bolster between your thighs and fold over that. Depending on how flexible you are at your hips this might be enough, or you may want to add a blanket on the end of the bolster to rest your head on.
Another option is to use yoga blocks. Place one or two (or more as needed) in front of you and fold forward so that you can rest your forehead on the blocks.
You can also simply stack your hands and make what I call a “hand pillow” to rest your head on. Whatever works!
If your ankles hurt
Some people may not be able to bring the front of their ankles to the ground. This can be painful, or just annoying. Roll up a yoga blanket and place it between your ankles and the floor so that your ankles press down into the blanket roll. This will help them open up over time and should relieve any pain you are feeling.
If your neck hurts
It can help to turn your face sideways and rest one cheek on the floor instead of resting on your forehead.
If you neck and shoulders hurt
Placing a yoga bolster or folded blanket between your butt and heels and sit on it, then stack your forearms or hands so that you can fold forward and rest your forehead on them. You may also need to prop your head. See below.
If your knees hurt
It depends. If the front of your knees hurt, place a yoga blanket under your knees for cushioning and that should help relieve the pain.
If the back or inside of your knees hurt this can be more difficult to modify. However the best modification I know is to put a rolled up yoga blanket across your legs. Depending on what sort of knee pain you are dealing with you may want to place the blanket roll close to the back of your knees, or closer to your ankles.
Sit back on the blanket roll. You will also likely need to prop your hips up. Place a couple of yoga blocks, or a bolster or folded blanket under your hips for support as needed.
What do I do with my hands?
- You can place your hands by the feet with your palms turned up.
- You can hold your feet with your hands.
- You can place your hands under your shoulders, palms down.
- You can stack your forearms or hands in front of your and rest your head on them.
- You can stretch your arms out in front of you and relax them.
- You can stretch your arms out in front of you, come up on your fingertips, push down and really activate your arms.
- What other options can you think of?
If you are pregnant or have a larger belly or breasts
Some people find it more comfortable to take their knees even wider than mat width. You may wish to use blankets or bolsters to support your belly on either side.
Many people in their third trimester prefer to do a supported supine or seated with their back to the wall Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose). Place bolsters under your knees to protect your pelvic floor. You can also loop a yoga strap around your hips and the front of your ankles to hold your legs in place, allowing you to relax even more.
This article from Toronto Yoga Mamas has great descriptions and pictures of several pose modifications for third-trimester moms-to-be, including Child’s Pose.
If you have a larger belly or larger breasts
Take your knees wider to create more space. You may also want to support your head with blocks or a bolster.
Yoga Poses Related to Child’s Pose
Vajrasana / Thunderbolt Pose
Uttanasana / Forward Fold
Baddha Konasana / Bound Angle or Cobbler’s Pose
Ashwa Sanchalanasana / Low Lunge Pose
Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana / Down Dog Pose
Ananda Balasana / Happy Baby
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
Related Posts & Videos
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Liforme Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat
- Yoloha Cork Yoga Mat with plant-based foam
- Yoloha Cork Yoga Blocks
- Yoloha Organic Cotton Yoga Straps
- Organic Cotton or Hemp Yoga Bolsters
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
Save 10% on cork yoga gear
- Use our code AYO10 at checkout for 10% off all Yoloha yoga mats & gear.
Good for the planet and great for your practice!
A Final Note About Child’s Pose
We don’t often allow ourselves the space to settle and breathe fully.
Balasana provides you with the opportunity to do just that — place your awareness into your back body, breathe into that space, and imagine that each inhalation expands the back of your torso toward the ceiling, lengthening your spine and widening the back of your ribs. With each exhalation, release your torso a little more deeply into the forward fold.
But don’t forget to settle once you find your way into the pose. Relax into your body and let Child’s Pose help you reset.
See you on (and off) the ice OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has helped you understand the benefits of Balasana. I want these posts to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply and I hope this post helps you see this fairly common pose with new awareness and understanding. The more you understand about each pose, the more it will help you find the strength and clarity needed to live your adventure to the fullest!