Child's Pose (or Balasana) is perhaps the best all-round relaxation asana - a versatile, centering pose that can be done as a stand-alone posture at the beginning or end of the class, or as a resting posture in between more dynamic asanas.
This most comforting of poses emulates an unborn child's natural position in the womb. It is a great opportunity to tune in with both mind and breath.
* Restores balance to the body and rests the mind, encouraging it into an open, receptive state.
* Beginners can think of this pose as a taste of a deep forward bend, except this pose is far more passive and less crunching on the lower back.
* Child's pose offers a wonderful opportunity for us to explore our breath. As you inhale, feel the back of the torso widen and soften outwards, all the way down the spine, to the sacrum.
* The hips, thighs and ankles are gently stretched. For a deeper hip stretch, widen the legs so your knees touch the mat, big toes together.
* This pose can also be a good stretch for the shoulders, if the arms are stretched out in front of the body, palms facing down.
* Child's pose can be a good back and neck pain reliever; at the same time, the head and torso are supported.
Pointers to remember
* To find your way into Child's Pose, kneel on the floor and sit on your heels. Exhale, and lay your torso down so that your forehead is resting on the floor.
* The knees can be either together, or as wide as the mat (for an extra hip stretch). If the knees are together, bring the arms down beside you. If they are wide apart, lay them straight out in front of you, palms facing the floor. Alternatively, make a pillow with your hads and rest your head on them.
* This is a lovely releasing pose. The main thing to remember is the opportunity Balasana brings to breathe consciously into the back of the torso, expanding the rib cage. As you breathe in, visualise the back rising towards the ceiling. At the same time, the spine lengthens.
* A relaxing variation is to use a bolster. Lay the bolster length ways, so that it supports as much of the the front of your torso as possible. Lay your torso softly down along the length of the bolster, letting it take your weight.
* Stay in Child's Pose for at least 30 seconds - but up to a few minutes.
Anyone who is pregnant or suffering from a knee injury should speak to an experienced teacher before trying Balasana.