Can't Do Child's Pose? Here's What Your Body's Trying to Tell You

youg women doing child's pose on black yoga mats outside
If you can't do child's pose, it's a sign you might be lacking hip and ankle mobility.
Image Credit: Viktor_Gladkov/iStock/GettyImages

Child's pose — in which you kneel and sit back onto your heels — is a seemingly easy and comfortable yoga pose. In fact, it's what many yoga instructors encourage trainees to move into when they need to reset during a flow. But even the simplest of poses can be difficult for some people to do.

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"Child's pose may seem like a simple position to get into, but in actuality, it is not for everyone," Carly Cano, DPT, a physical therapist at Fusion Wellness and Physical Therapy, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "It may be difficult for some people to get into child's pose for many reasons. If you don't have enough flexibility in your spine, hips, knees or ankles, child's pose will be a challenge."

Thankfully, there are a number of exercises you can do to make child's pose more comfortable. If you're wondering why you can't do child's pose, the following tips and recommendations from physical therapists will give you some ideas for how to improve your ability to get deep into this feel-good stretch.

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Tip

You also may look at child's pose and think, how the heck am I going to do that down on the floor — and get back up after? If you're concerned about accessing this pose, try it out on your bed first. You'll still benefit from the stretch. The soft surface can also help relieve some of the pressure on your joints, according to Cano.

If You: Feel Hip Tightness or Your Hips Pinch

You Might: Have Limited Hip Flexion Mobility

To properly do child's pose, you need adequate hip mobility, specifically hip flexion. Hip flexion is the action of "closing" your hip crease or bringing your thigh closer to your torso. Deep hip flexion is needed for this pose, and some people experience tightness in this area or groin pain during child's pose.

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Fix it:​ There are countless stretches you can do to help improve hip flexion, but for the purpose of getting into child's pose, the following mobility exercises can really help.

1. Quadruped Rocking Exercise

Image Credit: Theresa Marko/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Get into a quadruped position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
  2. Gently and slowly rock your body forward and backward, with an emphasis on moving backward.
  3. Start in a pain-free range first, and each day as you practice, you may find that you are able to move your bottom farther toward your heels.

2. Supine Knee to Chest

This exercise is a good hip opener while being gentler on the knees. Theresa Marko, DPT, owner of Marko Physical Therapy, recommends this move to people who want to improve hip flexion without stressing the knee joints.

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Image Credit: Theresa Marko/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms by your side.
  2. Slowly bring your knees to your chest as far as you can. Use your hands to pull them closer if possible.
  3. You can also try one leg at a time to practice both hip flexion and hip extension.

If Your: Knees Can’t Take the Pressure

You Might: Need a Softer Surface

Sometimes, an inability to get into child's pose isn't about muscle flexibility or joint mobility. If you experience child's pose knee pain, you could be feeling the effects of arthritis, Marko says.

Fix it:​ The primary fix to is to do the pose on a softer surface. Try folding up some blankets and positioning them beneath your knees, using a couple of yoga pillows or meditation cushions or even doing the pose on your bed. Also, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional if you think you may have arthritis or an injury to your knee joints.

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Knee pain can also come from an inability to fully bend the knee, which is required to get into child's pose, Marko says. If this is the case, you can fix it by rolling up a hand towel and placing it in the crease of your knee. This should allow you to sink deeper into the pose without putting as much pressure on your knee joint.

If Your: Feet or Shins Ache

You Might: Need to Work on Ankle Plantarflexion

Your ankles move primarily in two ways: dorsiflexion, which brings the toes closer to your shin, and plantarflexion, which is essentially pointing your toes away from your shin. In child's pose, deep plantarflexion is required to sink all the way into the position. Many people may have shin or top-of-foot pain during child's pose when doing plantarflexion.

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Fix it:​ For achy shins and feet, improving plantarflexion in the ankle is crucial for getting into child's pose. By increasing the range of motion in the front of your ankle, you'll feel less tightness in the muscles along your shinbone. Practicing dorsiflexion can help, too, and is generally a good movement pattern to work on.

Alternating Ankle Stretch

Image Credit: Theresa Marko/LIVESTRONG.com
Time 15 Sec
Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand up in a comfortable stance.
  2. Lift one foot up and point your toes.
  3. Gently press your toes into the ground until you feel a light stretch. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Lift your foot again and position it flat on the ground.
  5. Bend your knee and press your body weight downward and forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your ankle. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds
  6. Repeat on the other foot.

If You: Can’t Sink Deeply Into the Pose

You Might: Need to Improve Spinal Mobility and Flexibility

One common reason people can't get all the way into child's pose is that their back muscles are tight, Marko says. "In the child's pose position, you are elongating them and stretching them and if they are tight, they can feel uncomfortable."

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Another factor that might be holding you back? Mobility limitations in your actual spine. In child's pose, your lower spine flexes (rounds) and your upper spine extends (arches). If you struggle with either of those movements, the pose may be difficult to do, Marko says.

One way to modify child's pose for a tight back is to place your hands on an elevated surface, such as yoga blocks or rolled-up towels. This will reduce the amount of stretch in your back but still allow you to sink into the pose. As you gain flexibility, you can reduce the amount of elevation until you can place your hands directly on the floor.

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Fix it:​ The fix to poor spinal mobility is, like with all joints, to challenge your vertebrae to access deeper ranges of motion. Improving your ability to flex and extend (round and arch, respectively) is your ticket to feeling comfortable in child's pose.

Progressive Sleepy Puppy Pose

Sleepy Puppy pose is similar to child's pose, but without the emphasis on hip flexion. By practicing sleepy puppy pose, you can focus on spinal flexion and gradually improve your ability to sink into this position.

Image Credit: Theresa Marko/LIVESTRONG.com
Activity Mobility Workout
Body Part Back
  1. Position yourself on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips.
  2. Walk your hands out little by little, lowering your chest toward the ground as you do so.
  3. Once you feel a stretch in your upper spine, stop and hold the position for a few seconds.
  4. The more you practice, the farther you will be able to walk your hands out, and the deeper you’ll be able to sink into the pose.

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