Need a break from adulting for a minute? You’re not alone. Here’s a hint: Try Happy Baby Pose. It could help you feel as blissful as a smiling infant. Hey, it’s worth a shot!
What is Happy Baby Pose, anyway?
Happy Baby Pose (aka Ananda Balasana) is a yoga and Pilates stretch that can bring on relaxing, calming vibes. You’ll grab your feet and rock back and forth on your back, and it just might help you feel as happy as a baby in a cradle.
And it’s not all child’s play. This move’s also an effective way to help improve flexibility and release tension when you incorporate it into your regular yoga practice.
You don’t need anyone to sing you lullabies to relax like a newborn. Here’s what to do.
- Lie flat on your back on your mat.
- Bring your knees toward your chest, keeping them at a 90-degree angle. The bottoms of your feet should face the ceiling.
- Reach forward and grab the inside or outside edges of your feet — whatever’s most comfy.
- Spread your knees apart gently. They should be wider than your armpits.
- Flex your ankles and gently rock from side-to-side (like a happy baby!).
- Inhale and exhale deeply as you continue to rock it out.
This pose is meant to be relaxing and restorative, so stay in it as long as you’d like.
Happy Baby is a super gentle pose that should *feel* gentle. Think of it as time to baby yourself. With that in mind, here’s how to keep things soft and supportive.
- Keep your shoulders glued to the mat. Raising your shoulders can be hard on your spine. If they’re lifting off the mat, try grabbing your ankles or shins.
- Keep your noggin grounded. Lifting your head can lead to neck strain or pain. If you’re having a hard time keeping your head down, try using a rolled blanket or towel underneath your neck. You can also try grabbing your ankles or shins instead of your feet or using a yoga strap.
- Take it easy, baby. This is a restorative pose, so why not stay a while? In this pose, there’s no need to push your body or work hard — you’ll reap the most benefits by just relaxing into it.
We can be pretty hard on our bods. Now’s your chance to give yourself some TLC. Here are the top benefits of rolling around like a baby in a manger.
1. Reduces tension and tightness
Happy Baby Pose stretches and opens up your inner thighs, hips, and groin. It’ll also give your hamstrings a little stretch. Before you do the move, you may not even notice how much stress you carry in these areas of your bod.
As you rock back and forth, Happy Baby stretches, realigns, and eases tension in your spine. This gentle motion can increase flexibility, relieve tension and tightness, and potentially reduce neck or back pain.
Though there aren’t any studies on Happy Baby Pose in particular, there’s lots of research to support the link between yoga and physical well-being.
In a small research review with 14 studies, researchers concluded that across studies (“with few exceptions”) yoga appeared to reduce pain and disability in participants with chronic lower back pain.
2. Helps you relax
Remember what it’s like to be young and free of responsibilities? Even if you can’t recall much of your stress-free youth, Happy Baby offers an opportunity to transport yourself to simpler times.
Yoga instructors often encourage stressed out students to let the world outside the yoga studio fade away. When you breathe deeply into the pose, you can fully experience the present moment. In that space, deadlines and packed schedules don’t even exist. (Win!)
In a study with 668 adults, researchers found yoga practice to be an effective self-management strategy for coping with stress, anxiety, and depression during the COVID-19 lockdown. (However, researchers noted that there was no significant difference in feelings of well-being and peace of mind among beginner yogis, so it might be a practice-makes-perfect kind of thing.)
In a small 2012 study with 72 women who felt “distressed,” the women who practiced Iyengar yoga (a type of yoga focused on structural alignment) 1 to 2 times a week for 3 months reported less stress and a greater quality of life than the women who didn’t.
3. Makes for a healthy heart
Doing Happy Baby pose just may make your heart happy, too.
A small 2014 research review with 69 studies concluded that yoga has a significant impact on cardio-metabolic risk factors. Keep in mind, that’s the case when it’s compared to doing no exercise at all. So, your weekly gym trips will def also make a big impact on your heart health.
In a small study with 80 patients with heart disease, people who practiced yoga for 12 weeks combined with deep breathing experienced a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and higher mental health scores compared to people who didn’t.
While more research needs to be done before concluding that Happy Baby Pose can fend off heart disease, anything you do to exercise and relieve stress is likely helping your cardiovascular health.
Happy Baby modifications can make the pose more accessible and comfortable. Here are a few to try.
1. Use a yoga strap
Happy Baby Pose is all about getting down-to-earth. If your head, neck, or shoulders are lifting off the ground or it’s difficult to grab your feet, try using a yoga strap around the arch of each foot.
2. Use your elbows to separate your knees
If your knees keep wanting to kiss, try using your elbows to separate them. The added pressure will help you slip into the proper position and maximize the stretch.
3. Hold one leg at a time
Lifting one leg at a time can help you gently ease into the stretch, especially if it’s hard to keep your pelvis, neck, head, or shoulders on the ground.
It can also help you isolate each leg to balance out the flexibility between your limbs.
If you’re a newbie to yoga, it’s a good idea to consult a certified yoga instructor or professional trainer before trying out this pose.
Even attending a restorative yoga class can help you learn the ropes in a safer, more supervised environment.
Due to the nature of this pose, it’s not recommended if:
If you’re not sure whether this pose is right for you, chat with your doc, physical therapist, or a certified personal trainer. They can offer you personalized advice.
Happy Baby Pose is a relaxing, restorative pose that stretches the inner thighs, hips, groin, and hamstrings. Some research suggests that doing yoga poses like Happy Baby may reduce stress, aid in relaxation, and potentially help ease back pain.
Just keep in mind that it may be unsafe to try Happy Baby Pose if you have a neck or knee injury, or if you’re past the first trimester in pregnancy.