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In this series, we’re helping you master basic exercises — as if you had a personal trainer by your side! Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge to perform these moves properly in order to get better results and prevent injury.
We may associate long, sedentary periods at work, in the car, or sitting on an airplane with tightness in our glutes, hips and hamstrings. And it’s not just inactivity that causes this tension. The leg, back, glutes, and hip muscles tighten from sitting, walking, running, standing, jumping and everything in between!
Luckily, there is a fun pose that helps release some of this tension and increases mobility — and it feels oh-so-good. Happy baby pose has countless other benefits, too. The yoga pose stretches the entire lower body, helps combat stress and anxiety, and lowers the heart rate.
What does happy baby pose do for the body?
Happy baby pose relaxes the body by gently stretching the low back, hips, groin, spine, hamstrings and inner thighs. It is often included at the end of a yoga practice, but can be performed at any time to promote emotional and physical well-being.
The pose is great for beginners, too! Regular practice will increase flexibility, which can improve sleep, posture and circulation, reduce risk of injury, and make other yoga poses more accessible.
The common mistakes people make when doing happy baby pose
It is important to perform the pose properly to prevent injury. To reap the benefits of the stretch, avoid lifting your shoulders off the mat. If your hips are tight, it may be a challenge to keep your shoulders down. In this case, start with the modification for a pose that will be more comfortable for you.
It is also important to keep your neck in contact with the mat. Your chin should not be raised. Pretend that you’re holding an egg between your chin and your chest and that you don’t want to crack it. This positioning should make the exercise comfortable, relaxing and soothing.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and resting on the ground
- Maintain a small space between your chin and chest and keep your neck relaxed
- Keep your shins parallel so that your body is balanced
- Breathe and keep your chest as open as possible
How to modify happy baby pose
If you are new to yoga, stretching or flexibility exercises in general, it may be necessary to modify the exercise. If holding your feet places too much strain on the inner thighs or hamstrings, it’s difficult to reach your feet, or if your upper body lifts from the ground, lower your hands from your feet and hold on to your shins instead. You will still feel the stretch and can work up to holding your feet!
How to perform happy baby pose correctly
Traditional happy baby pose is great for improving mobility in the lower body. If you’re ready to give it a try, follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable padded surface or a yoga mat. Feel free to grab a small pillow to rest your head on.
- Lie on your back with your spine neutral and relaxed.
- Keeping a neutral spine, bring your knees to your chest. Flex both feet and bring your soles toward the ceiling, so that your shins are perpendicular to your body. Your knees should bend toward 90 degrees.
- Wrap two fingers of each hand around your big toes, if you can reach, and gently pull your feet down toward your chest. You should feel a comfortable stretch. Alternatively, you can wrap your hands around the outsides of your feet and gently pull down.
- Breathe deeply and hold the position for a few breaths.
4 exercises that will help you perform happy baby pose
Becoming flexible in the hip, leg and gluteal region takes time. If happy baby pose is too advanced for your current mobility level, try these alternatives.
Lie on your back with feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Hold here, and if this is comfortable, grab the back of the leg and pull gently toward the chest. Repeat on the other side, crossing the opposite ankle over your other knee. Hold for 3-4 deep breaths per side.
Knees to chest
Lie on your back with legs extended. Bring both knees to your chest and wrap your arms around them. You can also do one leg at a time, bringing one knee to the chest while the other leg stays extended. Switch sides after 3 breaths.
Wide leg forward fold
This stretch can be performed both seated and standing. For the seated variation, sit tall with your legs out in front of you. Slowly open up the legs as far as your body allows while keeping an upright spine. Try leaning forward with your back straight, stopping when the back starts to round. Hold this position for a few breaths. For the standing variation: stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width. Keeping a tall spine, clasp your hands behind your back. Make sure to maintain your balance as you gently lean forward as far as your flexibility allows while keeping your back straight. You can place your hands on the floor in front of your feet or keep them clasped behind your back. Breathe and sink deeper into the pose.
Place your right foot in the center of the mat and step your left foot back into a low lunge. Lower the left knee to the mat, keeping the right foot in place. Keep your torso lifted and a 90-degree angle in your front leg. Feel the stretch in the right glute and left hip. Gently press down through your left toes to bring your knee up off of the ground. This is the full extension of the low lunge. Breathe into the pose for 3 breaths. Come back to standing and switch sides. Place the left foot in the center of the mat, step your right foot back, and lower the knee. Feel this stretch in your left glute and right hip.