No matter when and where I practice, or what class I teach, there's always a happy baby. Somewhere towards the end during a cool down. This is quite possibly the most blissful pose of them all. It's in the name: ananda = bliss. Ah yes, the only potential competition may be coming from Savasana. You know, the nap at the end. But that's another story.
♥ Lie down on your back, hug your knees into your chest.
♥ Keeping the knees bent, lift your feet towards the ceiling.
♥ Separate your knees (slightly wider than your torso) and reach with your hands between them, then over the ankles to grab the outer edges of your feet.
♥ Take the feet as wide as your knees and hold them directly above, flex the feet and press up through the heels.
♥ Press your feet into your hands and use your hands to press your feet down, lowering your knees outside of your armpits.
♥ Keeping that, lengthen the back of your neck and extend your sit bones towards the floor, until you feel your spine lengthen and the lower back lift slightly.
♥ Hold for about a minute, you can rock gently side to side if it feels good for you.
The happy baby is a great gentle stretch for the hips. But I feel that the real benefit of this pose is that, once you 'get it', it really does feel blissful. You might want to have a bit of play with the position of your pelvis. The trick is to keep lengthening the sit bones away from your shoulders / towards the floor, so that you balance your pelvis on your sacrum, the flat bone at the base of your spine.
The lumbar spine should not be flat on the ground but slightly lifted. So that if you did have a free hand, you could slide it under. And even though the main stretch here happens in the hips, the happy baby does help release your lower back as well as gently massage the area.
The happy baby should be practiced with caution if you are pregnant or have any neck or spinal injury. Also, it's always good to be mindful of the knees. As usual, flexing the feet will help to keep all the leg muscles engaged and joints protected.
If your hips feel really tight and, as a result, your feet seem a bit out of reach, here are a couple of variations (this is also for you if you can't reach your feet without lifting your head and/or shoulders of the ground, and/or straining your neck): You can either hold onto your shins, or use a belt (scarf, jumper, etc) to hook over your feet.
Hold this pose for about a minute, or as long as feels comfortable. Breathe deeply all the way down into your belly using the full capacity of your lungs. You may want to close your eyes and imagine that your breath flows all the way into your hips to assist the stretch.
If you happen to love the happy baby, feel free to practice this pose whenever takes your fancy. If you don't love it, there is a chance that you have not yet found the sweet spot. Don't give up, it's worth persevering! So are you a happy baby yet?
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