Happy baby — also known by ananda balasana, its Sanskrit name — is a restorative yoga pose that gently stretches the hamstrings, inner thighs, and groin while releasing tension in the hips, spine, and lower back. Holding this position, and even rocking back and forth or side to side, is also a great way to relax and simply feel better.
It looks fairly natural — so easy a baby could do it, you might say. All you need to perform the pose is a supportive place to lie back and kick your feet up high enough to grab. But to get the most out of this move, you’ll want to be aware of some common pitfalls.
One mistake is trying to force the position. Muscling your way into a deep stretch creates tension.
A set of related issues is the inclination to raise the head, shoulders, or chin, or otherwise move out of a neutral, flat-lying spinal position. Suboptimal alignment can create pain or discomfort, as well as additional tension.
Remember: Happy baby is meant to be relaxing. Make adjustments to help support your body in its best position. That might mean testing different grips on your feet: Try grasping the outsides or insides of your feet; hooking your fingers around just your big toes; or, if you can’t reach your feet, holding your ankles. If reaching your feet while keeping your shoulders down and back flat is difficult, you might also try using a yoga strap, band, or towel instead of your hands.
Once you find a comfortable position, press your feet up while simultaneously pulling down gently with your hands (or strap). Challenge yourself to ground your sacrum more deeply into your mat without throwing off your alignment. You might even try rocking side to side to massage your back muscles.
At this point, a small smile might naturally appear on your face. But as with everything, don’t force it.
- Begin by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Raise your feet and draw your knees toward your chest, keeping them bent to about 90 degrees so the soles of your feet face the ceiling.
- Reach up to grasp your feet. You can grab the insides or outsides of your feet or wrap your fingers around your big toes.
- Allow your knees to fall apart to about shoulder width. Take deep breaths and relax into the pose. Stay there for 30 seconds or as long as you like.