Uncomfortable in Yoga’s Child’s Pose? Try These Variations

A teacher training graduate writes:

When I teach Child’s Pose, I have noticed that some of my students keep their back straight and hips hiked up in the air, almost Downward Facing Dog-like. I’m not sure if this is a flexibility issue, or if they just don’t understand my instructions. Do you see this in your students, and if so, how do you address it?

I do see that pattern occasionally, and it can have several causes. Most yoga teachers think that Balasana (Child’s Pose) is a comfortable, forward-bended resting position—and it usually is. For some students, however, Child’s Pose isn’t restful at all; it’s confusing, uncomfortable, and frustrating.

The photo below shows a student practicing Child’s Pose. Note that her hips rest toward her heels, and her elbows and forehead relax comfortably toward the floor.

Woman in child's pose yoga modification using mat under knees

Sometimes, however, students touch their heads to the floor while pointing their hips to the sky. This places the spine in a subtle backbend and usually isn’t the slightest bit comfortable.

full bodied woman in child's pose yoga modification using mat under knees hips raised

A student usually does this for one of three reasons:

  1. Her knees are unable to bend acutely or are uncomfortable when deeply bent.
  2. She can’t breathe comfortably when her chest, belly, or breasts are pressed against her thighs.
  3. She doesn’t understand how to do the pose.

The solution, of course, depends on the cause. Two adaptations are useful for students with knee issues:

Place a bolster or folded blanket on top of the student’s calves. This allows her to rest with her knees at a less acute angle.

woman in safe child's pose yoga modification using mat under knees and bolster under thighs

Place a bolster under the student’s chest and belly. This has the effect of raising the floor, so her knees don’t have to bend as much when she lowers her body.

full bodied woman in safe child's pose yoga modification using mat under knees and bolster under chest

If, on the other hand, the student has difficulty breathing in Child’s Pose, coach her to widen her knees to make more room for the breath.

full bodied woman in safe child's pose yoga modification using mat with knees wide

You can also have the student place a bolster, forearms, or fists underneath her forehead to maintain space for the breath.

woman in safe child's pose yoga modification using mat under knees and bolster under forehead

If the student doesn’t understand how to do the pose, then some individualized coaching is in order. Ask her if she is choosing to modify the Child’s Pose for comfort. If the answer is no, she’s likely confused. Work with her to better understand the form and intention of the pose. If the answer is yes, find out specifically why she’s uncomfortable and work with her to adapt the pose to get both function and ease.

BodySensing: Intuitive Yoga for Myofascial Release – A course from YogaUOnline and Yasmin Lambat.

Enjoy more practice tips from Tracy Weber – 5 Keys to Healthy Neck Alignment in Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana).

Reprinted with permission from TracyWeberBlog.com

Tracy Weber, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT  is a practicing yoga therapist, and also the author of the Downward Dog Mystery series, which won the Maxwell award for fiction. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible.

Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their crazy new German shepherd pup, Ana. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

For more information on Tracy and the Downward Dog Mysteries, visit her author website: http://TracyWeberAuthor.com/.

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