As much as we may think we come to yoga for relaxation, in my own experience, it’s easier to get up and do a vigorous morning practice than it is to break the momentum of the day’s to-do list and come to a complete halt.
This week’s yoga challenge asks you to do just that.
As many days as you can this week, try this variation of child’s pose. You’ll be following the dictates of The Happiness Project, in particular, the Secrets of Adulthood that “What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE,” and “By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.”
Don’t be surprised if this supported child’s pose triggers a feeling of withdrawing from the world, and even a memory or two of childhood hiding places – a cupboard or closet, perhaps, or a spot beneath the kitchen table, or, most glorious, a tent made of old sheets draped over some furniture.
But the feeling of retreat from the larger world and a chance to slow down and settle your nervous system isn’t all this pose has to offer.
You might notice that it has some strong connections with last week’s challenge, Malasana (garland pose). In both poses, the torso is between the thighs, and the groins stay soft and receding.
What makes this pose powerful is adding the height under the bolsters to restrict the front ribcage on the inhalation. This moves some of the expansion of the ribcage into the back ribs, a spot that’s usually closed to breathing.
So make sure you have enough height. If your ribcage isn’t well settled on the bolster, then add another blanket or layer of chip foams underneath.
Place a layer of chip foam blocks lengthwise on your mat, and your bolster on top of the blocks.
Kneel on the mat, with the sides of your big toes touching, and your knees wide. Have the bolster about a third of the way between your thighs. Hinge forward and bring your upper body to rest on the bolster.
Check that your ribcage is in contact with the bolster. Turn your head to one side or the other.
Now begin to relax your body onto the bolster, releasing your weight as you exhale.
After a few cycles of breath, gently push your ribs into the bolster as you inhale. Resistance from the bolster will prevent your diaphragm from expanding forward. Instead, your breath will move into your back body and expand the back of your ribcage.
Let your breath be slow and broad. Watch your back ribcage widen. First the lower ribs will expand, then you will feel your whole back gently stretching and expanding. As you exhale, release your body weight into the bolster.
Stay for several cycles of breath, then turn your head to the second side and repeat for an equal number of breath cycles.
Benefits: Supporting the front of your body encourages the sense of slowing down and turning inward. Most of us begin our yoga lives by breathing only into the front of the ribcage. By restricting the front of your ribcage, you can make your back ribs more elastic and expand your ribcage for deeper, easier breath.
Sequence: Use this variation of child’s pose on its own anytime you’d like to take a quiet break and connect with your breath. In a longer practice, consider using it as a transitional pose after a front body opening such as Supta Baddhakonasana. Or follow supported child’s pose with downward do, bringing your head to rest on the bolster – add more bricks if it doesn’t reach – to continue the theme of work that quiets and calms emotions.
Ouch: If the fronts of your ankles hurt, slip a rolled up facecloth directly under the joints. If your knees are not happy with kneeling, try placing a chip foam block or a blanket between your heels and your buttocks.
You can avoid knee issues entirely, and still feel the calming nature of supported child’s pose by using two chairs: sit on one, place the bolster on the seat of the second, and hinge forward onto the bolster.
Sanskrit Corner: Say: AH-doh MOO-kah veer-AH-sanna. Adho means downward, mukha means facing, vira means hero and asana means pose.
Child’s pose is sometimes also called Balasana (bah-LAHS-anna). Bala means child.