(Ananda Balasana): Techniques, Benefits, Variations
Happy Baby Pose Prep & Practice
Come to lie down on your back. Bring one knee into your chest and then the other.
Flex through both feet and grab a hold of the outside of each foot with your hands.
Open your knees a bit wider than your torso and draw them up toward the armpits. Ankles come to stack over the knees.
Push your feet into your hands as you pull your feet toward you to create a gentle resistance.
To come out of this posture, release the feet and draw your knees back into your chest first.
- Hold the shins or ankles
- Bring a blanket or block underneath the neck
- Loop straps around the sole of each foot and hold on to the straps
Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits
- Opens the hips
- Stretches the hamstrings
- Calming, can be used for stress relief
- Releases the lower back
- Knee injury
- Neck Injury
- Shoulder Injury
Seated Spinal Twist/Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana) Left and Right, Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), Plow Pose (Halasana), Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana), Reclined Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana) Left and Right, Corpse Pose (Savasana)
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A Few Notes
As the posture is done whilst laying on your back, it’s normally placed at the beginning or the end of a yoga practice. It’s really great for releasing back pain as your spine is in contact with the floor and if it feels comfortable to do so, you can rock from side to side, massaging your lower back, doing your best impression of a happy baby!
All too often though, people strain to hold onto their feet, causing the neck to arch, the arms to stretch and the tailbone lifts from the floor. Happy baby pose requires a level of mobility in the hips and hip flexors to be able to draw the knees wide and in towards the armpits. If you have tight hips and tight muscles in and around the inner groin and inner thigh, this is when you may start to feel strain in the body. If you can’t comfortably reach for your feet with your hands, then try reaching for your ankles, shins or better yet, hold onto the backs of your thighs, but still keep your legs wide to feel the stretch along your inner thighs and the opening of your hips.
Doing this will allow your tailbone and sacrum to rest comfortably on the floor, grounding your shoulders and allowing your whole spine to be in contact with your yoga mat, thus relaxing your neck into a neutral position, helping to relieve tension around the neck area. If you stay here in stillness for a few moments and take a deep inhale and an even deeper exhale, you’ll start to feel your body relax and melt into the posture. Then if it’s comfortable for you, try rocking from side to side, and feel the delicious massage along your back.
If full happy baby feels quite strong, you may also want to try half happy baby pose. You can do this with a yoga strap, by wrapping the strap around one foot using the resistance between you and the strap to draw that same knee into your armpit. You may find that you feel more open along the inside leg when doing one at a time.
In Yin yoga you may hold this position for a few minutes and it can feel really nice to elevate your pelvis by placing a bolster or a folded blanket underneath your sacrum. Then bring your awareness onto your breath and feel into your body with each inhale and exhale.
In a more yang style practice, when learning how to do crow pose, for example, happy baby can be a really great starting point to imitate the pose while on your back. It allows you to practice opening up the hip joint area and drawing the knees as high up the arms as possible.
Happy baby can also be used an alternative to child’s pose in yoga classes to stretch the inner thighs and release tension in the lower back.
If you are a pregnant woman, happy baby pose can feel quite relieving physically and mentally, but seek medical advice or a pre natal yoga teacher before practicing.