The Child’s Pose is a beginner yoga pose that stretches the muscles of the low back, as well as the inner thighs. For those with tight back and hip muscles, this will, of course, feel like work. But get beyond the tension and Child’s Pose is deeply relaxing. It promotes flexibility, stress relief and helps circulation to the muscles, joints and disks of the back.
Stabilize the Spine
Child’s Pose, done after Cobra or other back extension movement, offers an opportunity to stabilize the spine by providing opposing actions. This sequence of poses also works on balancing out the action of trunk muscles, namely the abs and back. By doing Cobra Pose followed by Child’s Pose, you will both stretch and strengthen the abdominal muscles and the back muscles.
Facet Joint Problems
For people with back pain due to facet joint problems, this may be the pose for you! Facet joint problems tend to become irritated when the spine is extended backward, as in Cobra, for example. This is because spinal extension (backward bending) narrows the space created by the facet joints, causing stenosis. This may cause pain, as nerves pass through this space on their way out to every area of the body. Child’s pose brings the spine into the opposite direction of that which causes the irritation, and in general, allows the traversing nerves to have more space. If your facet joint problems cause radiating pain (when you do the pose or otherwise), it is best to skip Child’s Pose. Otherwise, consult your physician first before trying. See the section on pillowing to help you find the support in the pose.
If you have a herniated disk or degenerative disk disease, do this pose with caution. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if Child’s Pose is okay for your back. Each person’s disk problem is individual, so it is important to get specific information from your health care professional before you try this pose. If you are given the okay to do Child’s Pose, remember that there are always options to pillow yourself to the point of comfort. Yoga for back pain is about finding the place of comfort from which to work, and then easing yourself into making more progress.
If you support your Child’s Pose with a pillow or towel between your thighs and lower legs as described in the next section, you may be able to relax tension around the sacroiliac area. If you have sacroiliac instability, be moderate in your approach: pillow well, spend only a few moments at a time in the pose, and listen to your body, allowing your pain to guide you into a comfortable position. Be willing to forgoe Child's Pose if your low back is feeling vulnerable.
Pillowing for Support
Because the weight of the body will pull you deeper into the pose as you relax, it is a good idea to consider supporting the effort with strategic pillowing. You can protect your knees and control how quickly you achieve the full position by placing a rolled towel between your thighs and lower legs. This will provide support and make the position comfortable, allowing you to stay in it for a fair amount of time. Another thing you could do is to place a pillow under your chest and/or stomach. Experimentation is the key to finding the best way to support your Child’s Pose.
Experiment for Shoulder Position
About.com’s Yoga guide, Ann Pizer, offers two ways to place the arms and shoulders in Child’s Pose. Again, experimentation will help you determine which is most comfortable. You might want to spend time in both arm positions, as each affects the upper back slightly differently. If you have a shoulder injury, probably the version with your arms by your side will provide the most support for the pose. Either way, listen to your body and let your pain guide you to the most comfortable position.
Releasing at the Hip
While in Child’s Pose your hips are in flexion. Many of us have very tight hip muscles and don’t know how to release this area. Much of this is due to the predominance of sitting in our daily activities. Again pillow support can start you out from a comfortable position and allow you to develop the ability to relax your hip joints deeply while in the pose. While you are in Child’s Pose you can place your attention on the hip joints and try to work with your breathing to effect relaxation of the muscles in the area. To facilitate relaxation, think of the inside of the hip joint as have a gentle folding action.
Kisner, C., & Colby, L.A. (2002). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.