Balasana – Finding an Internal Practice

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Balasana, or Child’s Pose, is an ideal posture to help us remember that yoga is an internal practice. We are closed to the outside world and our inner self is protected. This is an especially important pose in public classes because it forces us back into ourselves. It can be difficult not to compare our body with the other bodies in the room.

Practicing with others can be uplifting and empowering, but it can also sometimes be embarrassing. It’s okay, we’re human. Sometimes we feel weird and awkward in our bodies. It’s inevitable, and every day is different. Let me repeat: Yoga is an internal practice.

What’s going on in your body is important, don’t get me wrong. An internal practice just means you are completely in YOUR body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Not anyone else’s. Our internal life is what keeps us coming back to the mat. We can do the same poses every single day, but they will usually feel different every single time, depending on all the variables in play (time of day, how we feel, what we’re thinking about, what we dreamt about, what we did the day before, the list goes on and on).

An internal practice means: be in your body and be in yourself. Be completely in your body, but remember these asanas, these postures, are not here for us to adhere to as if they were rigid rules we must follow to the tee so we can belong to the yoga cult. Rather, the postures are tools for us to use and for our bodies to receive as such. When you move into a posture, let your body receive it. Then let your body receive your breath.

There are many modifications that make a pose more accessible for your body. Balasana is all about relaxation, rest, and coming back to the breath. If we’re not comfortable, we can’t relax, rest, or breathe! So get comfortable! Here are a few modifications for balasana that can help us relax:

  1. Separate your knees. This is helpful if you’ve a little too much pizza, or if you’re pregnant. I prefer this version and almost always take balasana with my knees apart.
  2. Rest your head on something. If the forehead doesn’t reach the mat comfortably, place a block underneath or stack the arms to make a pillow.
  3. Rest the hips on something. If the hips don’t reach the heels, place a bolster or rolled-up blanket underneath the hips.
  4. Relax the arms. Whether your arms are overhead, down by your side, or tucked up in between your knees, make sure they are relaxed!

This list is by no means exhaustive. I would love to hear how you rest and restore in balasana!

My daughter, Gianna, in two modifications of balasana, Child’s Pose. Unsurprisingly, this pose usually comes easily to children!

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Get Unstuck with (Modified) Malasana

Practicing hip-opening postures can help release unnecessary emotions that we may be holding onto. It also relieves the stress and tension caused by those emotions. Sometimes we may feel as though we’re stuck, like we can’t move forward in our lives, our career, or our yoga practice. We definitely can’t go back either and it can be frustrating! Practicing hip-opening poses shakes things up (like a snow globe!) and can get things moving again, whether we need to move forward emotionally, mentally, or even physically.

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This is a modification of one of my favorite poses ever: Malasana (garland pose). It’s basically a wide-legged squat, which is great for:

grounding (root chakra!)
opening up the inner thighs
aiding in digestion

It also helps stretch the ankles and feet. In full Malasana I and Malasana II, the feet are together which can compromise the knees if the hips are not very flexible. This wide-legged version offers a great alternative for those of us with tight hips.

If you’re ready for the full posture, check out Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar.

To practice this modified version, add this mini sequence to your practice:

  • Uttanasana (standing forward fold)
  • Spread your feet a little wider than hip distance (about a yoga mat’s width)
  • Continue breathing deeply in this wide-legged forward fold
  • Bring the palms together in front of the heart in Anjali mudra
  • Slowly bend the knees and sit back
  • Widen the hips by pressing the elbows into the knees

While in the pose, breathe deeply and think of lifting the chest and sinking the hips. Keep the legs and arms active throughout. If your heels don’t touch the floor, place a blanket under them, with the front half of the feet remaining on the floor.

Want to get even more unstuck? Check out the Lighthouse Meditation!