Does Happy Baby Pose Massage Your Kidneys?

A yoga student recently posed this question: “Does rocking side to side in Happy Baby Pose massage your kidneys? Does it compress the kidneys? And when you release, does it send them fresh blood? I am curious about this in regards to compression of the organs as well! ‘Fresh blood?’ Is that a thing?”

Where Are Our Kidneys?Human body internal organs. Stomach and lungs, kidneys and heart, brain and liver. Medical anatomy vector infographics. Body of human, liver and brain, heart and internal organs illustration.

Well, the first question we need to answer is, can we actually massage or compress the kidneys in Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)? First, when we take a look at someone with normal anatomy, we’ll see that the kidneys are in the back. Roughly half of them are covered by ribs. In addition to ribs, if we can imagine slicing through a body at about the middle of the kidneys and looking up at them, we would see that there are some more things that cover the kidneys from behind, mostly muscles.
Kidneys shown in CT scan

We can get this view from an MRI or CT scan. The CT image is a slice taken right about the kidneys’ middle. The kidneys are the two light gray round things near the bottom of the picture. This view is like imagining a yogi in Happy Baby with an invisible bottom half, you could look up from the bottom, and the kidneys would look like the CT scan.

Can We Massage Our Kidneys in Happy Baby Pose?

You can see here that the kidneys are pretty close to the back, but there is a good bit of cushion between them and the floor. These structures include the transversus abdominus, quadratus lumborum, and lumbar multifidus muscles adding up to around 1.5 inches of thickness plus any more cushion from fascia and fat. You’ll need to get through these layers of muscles to massage the kidneys.

Second, when we look at the body in the pose, your weight will also be distributed to your upper and middle back, not letting much pressure concentrate on the kidney area (that soft area on your back between the ribs) pelvis). When you rock side to side in Ananda Balasana, you might be able to press the kidney areas into the floor a little, but you can’t really focus much pressure there.

The natural curve of your back and body will also make it difficult to focus pressure on the kidneys. As for compression from the inside, some weight comes from your abdominal organs on top of the kidneys when you lie on your back. Your kidneys also get pushed down from your lungs and diaphragm when you breathe in, so a combination of having organs on top of the kidneys and the diaphragm pushing down may cause a little squeeze on the kidneys.

Senior woman doing yoga's Happy Baby Pose in sunny room.

So What’s the Verdict on Your Kidneys in Happy Baby Pose?

You might be able to give the kidneys some gentle stimulation in Happy Baby Pose. I don’t know that you could compress them that much more than normal since there is not a lot of weight coming down on them from the front of your body, and you can’t press them that well into the ground. If you can get some compression, then you might be able to cause a temporary increase of blood flow to them, just like anything else you compress in the body.

Read my article on twisting for more information on compression, reactive hyperemia, and “fresh blood!” So, does Happy Baby massage or compress your kidneys and bring fresh blood to them?! Maybe, but probably not much. No worries, though; asana practice is completely awesome for getting your blood flowing everywhere, kidneys and all. Throw in a few standing poses before Ananda Balasana, and all will be well!

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Nolan Lee and

Dr. Nolan Lee is a yoga teacher and physical rehab specialist in Chicago, IL, with an extraordinary passion for understanding how the body moves and functions. Nolan has the unique ability to blend the science of anatomy with the art of yoga. With an active practice at this clinic, Balanced Flow Wellness, he practically applies yoga to restore and maintain health. Dr. Lee also holds a Master of Acupuncture degree and is a NASM-certified corrective exercise specialist (CES). He enthusiastically shares his knowledge of yoga and anatomy in lectures, workshops, and on his blog.

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