Ever notice how smiley and satisfied a baby seems when they're lying on their back grabbing both feet in the air? While this position is natural to us when we're little, it's also advantageous to us as adults.
In fact, it's an important and common pose in yoga — aptly named happy baby (Ananda Balasana in Sanskrit) because it involves lying on your back and holding your feet like a bubbly babe. And while it feels as fun, silly and relaxing as child's play, it offers several benefits, including reducing hip tension, releasing tight pelvic floor muscles and relieving back pain.
All you need is a floor, so you can do happy baby whenever or wherever the mood strikes. "In the morning, it will help to loosen you up and set your intention for the day, and in the evening, it will help you unwind and let go, especially when practiced with deep breathing," says Sarah Duvall, DPT, CPT, a certified personal trainer and founder of Core Exercise Solutions.
How to Do Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
- Lie on your back.
- Bend your knees and bring them toward your belly.
- Grip the outsides of your feet and gently pull your knees down toward your armpits.
- Try to keep your ankles directly above your knees, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. You want to feel a mild, comfortable stretching sensation in your hips but not pain.
- If you’d like, you can gently rock from side to side.
- Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
As long as it’s comfortable, you can hold happy baby pose for longer periods (up to 5 minutes). Extending the stretch really gives you the time to focus on relaxing and releasing tight muscles, Duvall says.
3 Benefits of Happy Baby Pose
Here are just a few reasons to make happy baby pose a part of your daily routine:
1. Relieves Tight Hips and Improves Hip Flexibility
Sit at a desk all day? Chances are your hip muscles are terribly tense. Happy baby is like a tonic for tight hips.
That's because "happy baby pose is a hip opening exercise," Duvall says. It lengthens the glutes and hip adductors, alleviating the achiness and stiffness in these muscles and enhancing their flexibility, she says.
While happy baby is beneficial for easing hip tension, the pose can be challenging for people with especially tight hip muscles, Duvall says. Adjust the position to meet your flexibility and mobility levels.
For example, instead of grabbing your feet, try placing them on a chair or simply up on a wall, Duvall says. “Or if you have a strap available, you can also loop that over each foot and hold the strap (instead of your feet) to make the pose more comfortable.”
2. Releases Tension in Your Pelvic Floor
Just like any other skeletal muscle in your body, you can experience tension in your pelvic floor muscles. But stretching tight pelvic floor muscles isn't as intuitive as stretching your quads or calves.
Luckily, happy baby, which lengthens the pelvic floor muscles, can help with that. "When you hold this pose — and really sink in, breathe and relax — it can reduce tension and muscle tightness to help the muscles let go," Duvall says.
Having a healthy pelvic floor is fundamental because tight pelvic floor muscles can cause symptoms such as pain during penetration or intercourse, difficulty urinating (or, conversely, incontinence), constipation and lower back pain.
3. Helps Reduce Lower Back Pain
As we know, happy baby can help reduce tension in the hips and pelvic floor muscles. And both areas play a pivotal role in tempering tightness in your lower back.
Yep, relaxing in the happy baby position may help relieve low back stress, Duvall says. And adding deep, diaphragmatic breaths can help you achieve an even deeper stretch and sense of calm, she says.