Child’s pose- Balasana: from hands and knees, bring your big toes together, separate the knees slightly, and draw the hips back to the heels. The knees can be as wide as the shoulders, so that the side ribs may rest on the thighs, and there is space for the belly to breathe. If the forehead cannot rest on the floor comfortably, use a block or stack your hands under the forehead, so that the neck can relax. This pose, if comfortable for the knees, can be deeply relaxing, especially for the muscles of the back and the hips. I enjoy closing my eyes, and moving the breath into all the areas of my back. Focus on softening deep inside of the hip sockets, relax the shoulders, the neck and the face.
Child’s pose can be a deeply transformative pose, even in its simplicity. We use this pose to rest, and it can be soothing, nurturing and deeply introspective. We place the head slightly below the heart, which is different from the typical position we find ourselves… standing upright, with the head (and in particular, the mind), placed well above the heart. With many elements of our 21 century culture depending largely on the mind’s intelligence, the capacity of our brain to understand who we think we are, our IQ, SAT and GRE scores: “i think, therefore i am”… the mind suspends physically above the heart, in the upright hierarchy, as the organ that determines most of our life choices. But in child’s pose, this subtle inversion, we kneel and we bow, humbly resting the forehead passively on the earth. The heart then sits slightly above the head, and we breathe space into the back of our body, into the space behind the heart. Especially when we close the eyes in this position, we turn all the senses within, and the focus draws softly toward the heart.
Is this why we call this pose child’s pose? Because we shift our gaze toward that sweet innocence, deep wisdom, and compassionate one, we understand as the heart? The purity of the heart that as children, knows only kindness, generosity, compassion and unhesitant love.
Sometimes we call child’s pose Biijasana, the seed, the original being before the child… where in the womb, we entered this life at the very beginning. That mysterious beginning created from love. We return to that seed, that original moment of life, as we fold our body into a soft fetal position.
I do have a fondness for the name my teacher Max Strom calls child’s pose- Warrior 4. Warrior 1, 2 and 3 are complex, vigorous standing poses, that require stamina, determination and balance. Max calls child’s pose Warrior 4. I’m sure he would describe it differently in his own beautiful way, but the way i understand this name is that when we understand that it’s not how physically demanding the poses are, how much we sweat, how vigorous the posture… but when we make the conscious decision to rest- to take pause in stillness- to place the heart above the mind- that is the true Warrior’s practice. The content, peaceful warrior that bows to the earth and to the Ultimate One… in gratitude… that is the essence of this pose.