Anyone can do yoga — and you don’t need to go to class regularly to start seeing the benefits. All it takes is ten minutes of your time, in the comfort of your own home, or you can slot it into your regular exercise regime. This week: How child’s pose relieves a tight back and stiff shoulders — and gives us some much-needed time out.
Hips sinking gently to my heels, forehead supported by the ground, child’s pose is one of the most deliciously relaxing yoga postures out there.
This is my ultimate ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ pose. When my three little sleep thieves have been up all night, when my mind is buzzing with pointless information, when I just need a little bit of time out to calm down, regroup and renergise, this is what I do.
The fetal position evokes a sense of safety and security and, forehead to ground, your gaze turns inward, which slows the mind. And by laying your tummy on the thighs, your exhale naturally lengthens, which calms the nervous system.
Child’s pose is also an ideal way to end a workout because it gently teases out any tension in the back, hips and shoulders, and helps the body relax and rejuvenate.
HOW TO DO IT
Grab some cushions or a yoga block (as an alternative, a couple of hefty books work well). A yoga mat isn’t essential — a carpet, rug or blanket on the floor would all do nicely.
Come on to all fours and slowly lower your hips back to the heels, taking the knees a little wider than hip-width apart to allow your hips to open fully. Drop your forehead to the floor. Lay the arms down above your head, palms to the ground, or keep them beside the body if this is more comfortable.
Now, many of us struggle to get the forehead to the ground and the hips to the heels simultaneously, but you need to feel properly supported to fully relax and feel the benefits. To do this, experiment with your props. Try placing a cushion or two under your forehead and see if your hips drop down, or maybe nestle them between your thighs and your calves, tucked in behind the knees.
Once you are comfortable, turn your attention to the breath. Notice the inhale, long, cool and smooth as it travels down to your lungs, and the exhale, warm and soft as it moves out of the body. Feel the body move as you breathe. Notice how the back moves as you inhale, ribs expanding outwards and sideways, and relaxes as you exhale. Feel as if you are puffing out the area around your kidneys as you breathe.
If you have your arms extended in front, you can deepen the stretch for your shoulders and chest by walking the hands forward as far as they can go. Stay in this posture for as long as you like.
To come out, simply use your hands to push yourself to an upright position.
CAN ANYONE HAVE A GO?
Young or old, hyperflexible or stiff as a board, anyone can feel the benefits of child’s pose with simple modifications.
If you have knee pain, practice on something padded, such as a blanket, or try rolling over and do the posture lying on your back. For stiff feet or ankles, padding also helps, or you can turn your toes under, but make sure you still feel relaxed.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, Tuesday March 31, 2015.