Child’s pose (balasana) is a posture in yoga that is often mentioned as a “resting pose” but for those of us in larger bodies, it can be anything but restful. Without enhancements or modifications to the pose, you can end up short of breath, with too much pressure in the face, or even a serious strain or injury to the neck.

I got a question on the Body Positive Yoga Facebook page a few days ago about child’s pose, so I decided to make a quick video to address it. Here was the question:

I have a question regarding an exercise that has been hard for me. It is balasana. Issue one: My butt will not touch my feet when I sit on my knees. Two problems: If I have hands backwards (which you should), or have hands beside my head, I get a strain on the neck that does not feel right. tried to put a blanket or a yoga block under my head but neck strain remains.

We are going to cover all those points, but first I want to address one thing in this question which is the part that says, “If I have hands backwards (which you should).”

No doubt at some point, a yoga teacher told this person that she should have her hands at her sides in child’s pose. There are plenty of hot debates in the wider yoga community about when we’re doing “real yoga” or what the ancient “real yoga postures” really are, or even if you use props, is it still the “full expression of the pose”. I think all that is a bunch of bull crap. Yoga is for all bodies, not just healthy, bendy, slim bodies that can easily find “the full expression of the pose.” So I think when we get into semantics around what a real Warrior 3 pose looks like, or where our hands should be in a pose, we are stepping onto a slippery slope.

Are the hands traditionally at the sides in the classically described form of balasana? Yes.

Should your hands be at your side when you practice balasana? Well, that depends. Can you rest the full weight of your torso onto the mat (usually this happens when your hips can easily touch your heels)? If not, then your weight is coming forward and guess where it’s going to land? Your neck. We never want to rest the full body weight into the neck, especially in a weird position like child’s pose! So should your hands be at your side in balasana? Only if you can find safe alignment, which for many of us means using props to enhance the pose. I show you how to do that in the video below.

A note on the word “should”

I try my hardest to keep “should” out of my yoga classes (like telling students, “this stretch should feel really good” or “your head should touch the mat”) because every body is different. I care more about safe alignment and mindful movement to capture the benefits of yoga asana rather than what a pose looks like. It will look different for all of us, and you have permission to take YOUR child’s pose in class, no matter what the teacher says it “should” look like.

Modifications for child’s pose (balasana)

Now, onto the video! Here are some modifications for child’s pose (balasana) for those of us in larger bodies or folks that have trouble resting weight on their knees.