“How can I improve my happy baby? Because I struggle to get a deep bend in the hips and still keep my low back/pelvis on the floor, it’s a huge pull on my arms/shoulders to hold my feet.” – Gillian
Most conversations in response to this question about any yoga pose will go something like this:
Me: “Why do you want to ‘improve’ the pose and why do you feel you need to improve the pose?”
Student: “Everyone in class just seems to have their knees so much closer to their torso and I imagined be how good that must feel…”
Me: “You can see how a pose looks on someone else, but you can’t see how it feels.”
If you want to get deeper into the pose because it actually feels better for you, or you want to improve your hip flexion, for example, here are some ways to do it:
Hold onto something closer. Back out of the pose before you dive further into it. If you are unable to keep your tailbone on the ground or have very long legs/short arms, but are set on holding your feet, your tailbone will never reach the ground. But if you try to grab something closer to your body, you may be able to keep your tailbone on the ground and it may actually feel better. Grab hold of one of the following body parts, listed from closest to furthest away – which ever you can hold while the back or your head and shoulders remain comfortably on the floor. (Be sure your chin is not tilting up and your shoulders are not craning away from the floor.)
The backs of your thighs
The backs of your knees
The pinky-toe sides of your feet
2. Make it active. Ananda Balasana is usually a passive posture, as opposed to an active one. By making it active, we can increase our active range of motion and potentially, get deeper into the pose. Here are some ways you can make Happy Baby active:
Gently press your sacrum down into the floor like a foot on a gas pedal. This will lengthen out your spine and bring the lumbar curve into your lower spine, instead of rounding it into the floor (not what we want).
Use your hip flexors to actively draw the tops of your thighs down towards the floor on either side of your ribcage.
Dorsiflex your feet to stabilize the ankles and knees and avoid overstretching.
3. Take it upside-down. In Ananda Balansana, you are upside down, on your back, allowing gravity to help move your thighs and knees towards the floor. You can work this pose upside-down (upside up?):
Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders.
Sit down into a deep squat.
Place your elbows on your inner knees.
If necessary, stick your bum out until there is a concave curve in your lumbar spine.
Relax your hip flexors and pelvic floor and let gravity help you to sit down into the squat. I find that constantly revisiting Step D helps to move my hip flexors out of the way and sit down deeper.
You can stay with elbows on inner thighs…or start to work your hands down towards your ankles, just like you would on your back in Happy Baby.
Happy Happy Baby-ing!