The happy baby, also called ananda balasana, is a yoga pose that involves lying on your back with your feet in the air — just like a happy baby. It’s the ideal posture to drop into whenever you need to stretch tight muscles and joints, but it also comes with a few other fun perks.
The position of the happy baby pose targets the lower back in the best way. “Most of us sit all day with our pelvis and tailbone rounded and tucked under, which creates a lot of pressure on the sacral spine,” says Tara Massan, a 200-hour certified yoga teacher. The legs-up pose counteracts that position and, because you’re also encouraged to gently rock side-to-side, it also acts as a mini back massage.
Happy baby gives the hamstrings and hips some love, too. As you pull back on your feet, Massan says you’ll notice that your hips and legs start to open, especially as you guide your feet away from your center. This is a kind of stretch that often gets overlooked, Massan notes, since most people tend to focus on forward and backward stretches rather than lateral ones.
Another interesting benefit of the happy baby pose is how it might improve your mood. “In yoga and many spiritual practices, the hips are thought to store a lot of emotions,” Massan tells Bustle. When your hips are tight it can be tough to release tension and stuck energy, but once you “decongest” the area with a stretch, Massan says it’s easier to let it all go.
Of course, the pose is also pretty fun since it involves rolling around on the floor. “It reminds you that you can move in and out of postures that may seem awkward, childish, and silly, but they still provide great benefits for the body,” says Massan. Here’s how to give it a try for a feel-good stretch.
How To Do The Happy Baby Yoga Pose
- Lie on your back.
- Bend your knees into your chest.
- With your arms on the insides of your legs, grab the outer edges of your feet.
- Your ankles should be lifted over your knees, ideally with your legs bent at 90 degrees and your feet facing upward.
- Hold onto your flexed feet.
- Lightly use your arms to pull on your feet so your thighs and knees move towards the sides of your torso/armpits.
- Allow for a natural curve in your lower spine.
- Try a gentle, side-to-side rocking motion to massage your lower back.
- Hold the pose for 8 to 10 deep breaths.
- Repeat every day if you like, especially to relax before bed.
How To Modify Happy Baby
If you want to make the happy baby a little less challenging, Anice recommends holding onto your ankles or shins instead of your feet — which is a good option if you have tight hips. It might also feel better to do this one leg at a time, Massan says, by keeping the non-happy-baby-leg in a bent position with your foot on the floor. She notes you could also use a yoga strap over your feet to give yourself a little extra leeway.
Another way to modify the move — and make it a lot comfier — is to place a blanket under your lower back to release pressure or under your head or shoulders for extra comfort, Anice says.
To take this pose to the next level, Anice suggests lengthening one leg at a time out to the side to deepen the stretch in your hamstrings. You can also imagine lengthening your entire spine.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
While it might be tempting to yank your feet closer to your body, it’s better to take your time and ease into the position, Massan says. “One day you may find immediate relief and release in your body, and the next day you may have a hard time reaching your feet,” she says. “It’s important to meet your body where it is and to take time to just be in your skin in this posture.” The more you relax into the happy baby pose, she says, the more you’ll enjoy it.
Tara Massan, 200-hour certified yoga teacher