One of the more restful of yoga positions, Balasana, or Child’s Pose, taps into an inner peacefulness. In Balasana, the spine elongates and the shoulder blades broaden, sending messages throughout the nervous system that relay an overall calming.
I can recall a great number of times checking on my son when he was younger. There in his crib, he epitomized child’s pose. With bent knees supporting his upper body, his tailbone touched down between both heels, an arm stretched along each side, and he breathed that full, rhythmic breath of a sleeping child.
Someone with a movement disorder, however, may find this position not only challenging but counter productive. Bent knees can trigger involuntary dorsal flexion in the feet for someone recovering from a stroke. Pressure on the feet of a person living with Parkinson’s or dystonia can result in painful cramping in the toes or plantar area.
That said, those with conditions that make it difficult to bear weight on bent knees or maneuver down to the mat may benefit greatly from this restorative, sleeping child position. With a few modifications, the qualities of this pose can shine through, inviting the voluntary as well as the involuntary muscle tension to release.
For those who wish to move onto the mat, the first modification uses the bolster and a second mat rolled up. Position the bolster so your torso rests on it rather than on your legs. The rolled mat positions behind your knees, relieving some pressure. From seated on bent knees, lengthen the spine on an inhale before exhaling down onto the bolster.
A second variation uses two chairs, a bolster or cushion, and a block or thick hardcover book. Begin seated on the corner edge of a chair. Angle the second chair so a corner of the seat touches the edge of where you’re seated. Set the bolster vertically on the second chair seat and arrange the block or book behind it for support.
With your legs straddling the corner of the second chair, position your knees over your ankles and come into Seated Mountain. Lengthen up on an inhale and, reaching your arms around the bolster or cushion, exhale as you hinge forward from the hips. Allow your torso to rest on the bolster and your arms to settle onto the block. You may want to adjust the angle of the bolster and/or add a folded blanket to the chest area for additional support in aligning the spine.
For either variation, rest one side of your face on the bolster for several cycles of breath before turning your head to rest equally on the other side.
Whether you live with a chronic condition or temporary injury, there lies within a peaceful center. Allow yourself to relax into it with the calm of a sleeping child.