Through my 14 years of hatha yoga practice, I have come to realize that I am lucky to have practiced with teachers that encouraged rest; rest during practice and a deep savasana following. Most frequently suggested as a place to rest is Child’s Pose or Balasana, which offer students a retreat in the middle of a potentially challenging class. As a teacher of students with a wide variety of mobility and stability, I often find that the students most in need of a break are not able to get into the pose. Tight hip flexors, sore knees and inflexible ankles are a common occurrence, particularly among men, which can make Child’s Pose uncomfortable. Even with props, which can be difficult to maneuver when one is new to yoga, Child’s Pose can be challenging and not a relaxing place to visit!
The shape of Child’s Pose is very similar to the fetal position, which many of us sleep in each night. Additionally, we spend way too much time lingering at the computer with hips and knees flexed, ankles locked and legs crossed. When you consider the shape, sitting at a desk is very similar to an upright version of Child’s Pose. As drivers, texters and computerized beings, we now have “extension amnesia”, which has left the backside of the body (the posterior chain) of the body inactive.
In a recent interview on The Liberated Body Podcast, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist Steven Haines discussed the physical reactions of eyes darting and increased neck muscle activity when we are under stress from the environment (think sitting at your computer or behind the wheel of your car in traffic). He recommends “coming into the extensors, firing the back of the body. When we do that our throat is open, our heart is open, our belly is exposed. This can allow parasympathetic tone to be present.” He goes on to state that we counter these head-centric responses by grounding and feeling in our feet to “switch off all the business in the head.” Steve is a proponent of using the feet and spinal extension as a tool for relaxation response, exactly as one might in Tadasana.
In my classes, I offer students the option of Tadasana as the new resting “poise”. Most asana seek to reflect a variation of Tadasana in some way, so I find it a natural and relaxing place to visit during any fitness routine or stressful moment in the day.
Specifically, standing in Tadasana turns on the extensors of the back body to keep us lifted and elongated which in turn, relaxes the flexors of the front body from their habitually folded and slouched shape. When aligned, Tadasana requires the core muscles to stabilize the spine against gravity for a steady stance and breathing into the abdomen and ribs (abdominal thoracic breath) can be restful and calming to the nervous system.
Come back on Friday to learn how I tune up my Tadasana with Yoga Tune Up®!
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Reading this article makes me really want to practice with you!!! I LOVE Tadasana<3 But never thought it could be offered as a resting “poise”!!! THAT IS SO BRILLIANT! All the information given here for the posterior chain is so valuable! I really like child pose for down regulating BUT I might choose tadasana over child pose because I am convinced!
This is an excellent suggestion, particularly for students for whom child’s pose isn’t restful or even tenable at all. I’ve been in classes where crocodile, tabletop or even down dog are offered as alternatives, but I love the whole body extension that tadasana offers. Tadasana invites the parasympathetic nervous system to switch on, but is still somewhat stimulating, making it an excellent substitution for students who have the mobility to perform child’s pose, but who combat lethargy or depression. I personally find child’s pose too down-regulating to be appropriate in-between active asanas; tadasana’s energizing quality overcomes that limitation of balasana.
Thank you — this offered a really interesting new perspective for me! I do often use Tadasana as a resting pose, but I had never thought of it in this way before. I can imagine that, delicious as child’s pose may be for some (though certainly not all!) people, there are probably some real world benefits of learning to relax in standing. I just downloaded that episode of Liberated Body for a re-listen!
wow! You shifted my perspective with my approach to Tadasana!! I always think in active form then restorative with this. Especially since arms are in flexion , shoulders although depressed can still feel strong energy. Yet, it makes complete sense in your article to treat it as a resting pose along with a counter pose to all the spinal flexion we do. Along with rest, this posture will allow students to tune inward more to them selves and be more aware in their own bodies that they are engaging tubular core and also proper spine alignment!
Thank you for offering this alternative to childs pose for an active rest. I see the same restrictions in my students, and will start encouraging my students to try an active rest here going forward.
As one of those guys who has had a lot of trouble relaxing into Childs Pose, Tadasana is a great alternative. One thing I would suggest is that for people who don’t have the arm flexibility for full shoulder flexion when they raise their arms towards the ceiling in Tadasana, letting them know that keeping their arms down but engaged is also a great option for bringing them back into balance.
I love this rationale for Tadasana as a resting pose, or I would more accurately say, a restorative pose, because it restores your tone, posture and breath to its ideal position. As Holli reminds us, Tadasna turns on and strengthends the back line of the body and takes us out of the adaptive shortening that happens when we sit. And it allows for abdominal and thoracic breath.
I love the idea of offering this pose as an alternative to Child’s Pose. We spend far too much time sitting in spinal flexion and it is great to suggest Tadasana as a pose for quiet reflection and rest. Thanks for this wonderful idea!
Thank you Holli for this wonderful article. I have to admit that I am no stranger to feeling over-stimulated and stressed. It never dawned on me that the poise I try to teach and model to my figure skating students for effective mechanics and pleasing aesthetics, can activate parasympathetic tone. I have never used the cue of opening the throat. What a wonderful way to help a competitor realize how fully they will be able to breathe and remain calm. And what a wonderful way for a coach to access a little yoga, to open the throat and the heart,… Read more »
Thanks Holli for an insightful blog. I’ve noticed when I cue child’s pose in my classes, several students have difficulty getting into the deep flexion that Balasana requires and do not appear to be resting in the slightest. Offering Tadasana or as Gretchen mentioned in her post Crocodile pose (Tadasana supine) is a wonderful alternative.
Hi! This version of YTU Tadasana is very new to me. Typically, I teach Tadasana in an engaged way. I’ve realized in YTU training that I really need to work on relaxing in this pose. I will definitely offer this variation! I’m not sold on using it in place of child’s pose, as I use child’s pose for rest, yes, but as a transition pose that simultanesously rests the student while it opens the hips, and child’s works great when you’re doing a floor sequence segment of the class. I like your title though!
Brilliant using Tadasana in place of Balasanaat times. Most of us certainly do get enough hip flexion already. I’m going to start putting this in place of some Childs poses in my class sequences.
I love your term “extensor amnesia.” It is so true and I have personally found child’s pose hard at times. The alternative of standing relaxed with extensors on and the entire front relaxed is good. We don’t get time in the real world to do this often enough. Now, that’s relaxing!
Yes!! Love this Holli! Tadansana is my new most favorite pose. A pose I can practice throughout the day. It truly is a resting pose for me as it is my way of always bringing myself back to center. It always reminds me of my alignment and breath. Namaste!
It’s very interesting ! I’m doing right now my YTU teacher training level 1 and I understand now why it was so hard for me to do Child’s pose after 2 years of practice !!!! It’s the tension in my psoas !!! Everything make sense now ! I’ve always had a pinch in my right groin and always think that it was structural……I know now that it was tension !!!
I really like the idea of practicing Tadasana to fire up parasympathetic system and relax….
Thank you very much !!!
I am rarely comfortable in child’s pose, and yet the teacher usually cues come to rest in Child’s pose. I teach yoga, and hardly ever offer child’s pose. I know some people are extremely comfortable in the pose. What I offer is come to comfort in your Tadasana. I tell my students that Tadasana is my favorite pose. They just look at me, I guess wondering if I’m crazy. I continue to to tell them this,when I say come to rest in Tadasana . One by one I see the release of the tension in their body, just because they… Read more »
I feel the same way, I start my classes in Tadasana and use it through out as a transition and as a resting pose.
This is awesome!!! Many if my students in gentle class cannot do child’s pose due to back or knee pain and this is a very good alternative. I am surely going to you it. thank you holli.
Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the insight from your article. Childs pose can be so challenging and uncomfortable for some students and it is often the only resting pose offered to them. Tadasana is a great alternative.
Thank you for the alternative! Tadasana is such a foundational pose, literally, and it’s so under-estimated in most yoga classes. Definitely one that we should come back to again and again – both on and off the mat. I also am now interested in listening to Steve Hain’s podcast on Liberated Body – thanks for mentioning it.
I love that you have listed tadasana as the new ‘resting’ pose. I see many individuals who are in a spinal flexion, hip flexion (i.e., hunched over) position. Child’s pose has a great place in yoga practice, but if done too much, it can actually perpetuate and reinforce the same posture we are trying to get them away from. Tadasana helps to move people from the curled over position to a lengthened and balanced posture. It is a great “active” restorative pose. Nice job!
I am absolutely agree, child pose is not suitable for everyone and should be use not as a rest pose but mostly as a decompression of the back after back-bends. When tadasana is great it not only give time to rest after active vinyasas but also teaches the right posters which is so important in modern society
I also have students who find childs pose challenging and not a restful pose. For those folks, I offer a variation with the hips lifted and joint stacked above the knees while the head is resting on the forearms (some call this “puppy pose”) which has an added benefit of a slight inversion, which can be soothing for many people. But that still has the hips in flexion. I love the suggestion to use Tadasana as a resting pose as well as a counter pose to all the spinal flexion that we do in daily life. I will definitely be… Read more »
Before reading this post, I always thought of Tadasana as a very active pose. Your reading has changed my thinking, and I realized that I have been trying to explain to my students some in a seated position: being upright, not slouching or leaning, although not overly tight but relaxing in this pose instead. What I like about Tadasana is the rooting of the feet to the ground, and I will definitely offer it as a resting pose to my students in the future.
Great post! This light bulb went off for me today as I was in child’s pose today. I thought to myself that this is not the relaxing postion that I want to be in. I felt cramped from the flexion and felt the urge to elongate my body, prob to counteract the sitting I had done prior to class.
This is a fantastic suggestion, I’m definitely going to make use of it while teaching. As you pointed out, it’s often taken for granted that Child’s Pose will be restful and relaxing because it is IF you have the flexibility. Many students don’t, however, and Tadasana is a great alternative.
I love it! As a relatively new teacher, I’ve also noticed that child’s pose is difficult for some students. It’s not very restful. Thank you Holli, for this incredible, intuitive idea. I will definitely offer this up.
Thank you for offering an alternative. I’ll try to incorporate Tadasana as a new resting pose in my classes as well.
Your description of an inaccessible child’s pose is exactly what I experienced for the first few years of my practice. Because my muscles couldn’t relax in it (and some even had to contract) it caused me undue stress. Tadasana was indeed a good alternative, and I wish more teachers would encourage this (after teaching proper tadasana alignment as well).
Great post! Love tadasana!