But during our formative years we're taught to compartmentalize, define, judge, and behave by society’s standards. Unknowingly we suppress that inner childlike spirit that easily finds love and joy. Left to our own devices, we seem to unconsciously gravitate to whatever “feel good” places we can find, sometimes with less-than-desirable results such as unhealthy relationships or lifestyle choices.
We forget that the happiness we long for is a result of when we allow ourselves to be free-spirited and courageous, ready to take a chance. Yoga encourages us to shed some of the protective suit of armor we wear in the world. Through our practice we are invited to feel and explore our bodies again, reuniting us with our inner selves, and in the process welcoming in some fun.
My son and I explored several postures to see which ones would bring the most childlike joy into our busy, everyday lives. Grab your mat, perhaps go outside, and take a minute to practice these poses, reconnect with your inner child, and tap into love and joy.
Curious babies learn to roll over and crawl by exploring movement. They’re delighted to grab their toes or rock side to side. It’s no surprise that happy baby pose is called “happy baby.” This lighthearted pose is always ideal to start or end to a class!
Start on your back in happy baby posture with the knees bent and wide, as close to the armpits as possible. With the soles of the feet facing up, grab your big toes with your peace fingers. Straighten your arms, spread the legs wider to Supta Konasana; your tailbone will lift off the ground. Externally rotate your arms and allow the elbows to begin to point to your knees. Next rock and roll from tailbone to crown until you are balancing on your sit bones in Upavistha Konasana B. This might take a few times. This variation is a rockin’ way to work the core and the bicep muscles without realizing it, as it's a whole lot of fun. See my Rock and Roll Konasana video here.
Play back memories of your childhood: lying on your stomach relaxed with your friends at the beach or at the park, your body warm against the Earth. Intuitively enjoying the feeling from a stretch, reaching back to see if you could touch your feet. Fearlessly discovering things to do with your body, like rocking and rolling. Enjoying the giggles that usually follow after and finding blissful moments of being present in your body. Did you know that was yoga? Take a page out of your own book and embrace your practice with a childlike curiosity.
Try and stop a kid from running, jumping, rolling, or tumbling—it's nearly impossible. Kids are often marched straight to gymnastics to channel all that energy into a somersault or a headstand. They fly up into these postures with openness and acceptance. While they're not always successful they shake it off and carry on. Be inspired by the lighthearted nature of children the next time you're on your mat. Just give it a go.
Bow pose can be a great place to start. From Salabhasana bend your knees, reach back with your hands, and hold onto your ankles. Feel as though you are kicking your feet into your hands. Encourage your body to lift away from the floor. Next, roll to the right side to gently and completely land on the floor. Enjoy the stretch through the front of the pectoral muscle. Then roll over to the left side and experience the stretch there. Embrace any silly feelings that come up while you practice. This posture allows you to loosen up. So go ahead and laugh out loud—let your emotions express themselves.
Test your sense of adventure and accept where you are in these postures. How far do you want to go? For a rockin' good time see this variation here.
There's something particularly special about going into a headstand. That moment when you rise up you're taking a leap and trusting your body to support you. The feeling that results is a mix of pride, appreciation, and pure, childlike joy.
I like to transition into tripod headstand from crow pose. Begin with either knees on top or on the outer edges of the triceps. Have your hands shoulder-width (or wider) apart. Don’t let the elbows wing out. Feel into the weight distribution from your feet to your hands and grip the ground with your fingertips. Stay here and play with the weight distribution. Bakasana can be a head game... Or come up into Bakasana and then gently bend at the elbows and tuck the chin in and place the top of the head on the ground. Be sure the arms are at 90 degrees from the sides and the back of the forearms. You want to create a rectangle shape with your arms. Engage the tummy muscles. Place the knees on the elbows for teddy bear posture or lift for tripod headstand.
To transition from tripod headstand back to crow inhale deeply across the back, then exhale, tucking the knees as close to the armpits as possible. From there engage your inner thighs and arms as you press your hands through the ground, and then straighten the arms to row pose. (Jumping back to Chaturanga Dandasana optional.) See my step-by-step video of crow to headstand back to crow with a jump to Chaturanga Dandasana here.
Children of the '80s will love this one. Want to bust out a breakdancing move like you did in the good old days? Years later as adult it’s still possible! This grasshopper pose variation is much easier than it looks. And busting out this complicated-looking posture is empowering. Yes, you've still got it! It might be you next time in the middle of the dance circle!
Start in Dandasana, cross your bent right leg over your straight left leg. Slightly twist your torso to the left and fold over. Next, reach toward your foot with the thumbs pointed down. Grab the outer edge of the foot (or loop a strap around the foot). Place your left hand about three hand-lengths away (but in line with your hip) and lean over to the left side as much as possible. When the right foot is flush with the ground, press very firmly through the foot and hand, and then try to lift yourself up. See how in this video for grasshopper.
Nailed your grasshopper? Now you can work on your breakdancing “worm” by mastering your up dog... Food for thought. Break out your new move.
This is my son’s favorite pose. He likes knowing there a posture specifically for him. Being a bright, energetic kid he does struggle at times processing emotions, feelings, and other people’s energy throughout the day. I catch him in this pose the most. Child's pose is a pose to calm the nervous system. It's a safe haven where you can let go and sift through any internal impressions in the privacy of your own home—yourself.
Start your day with an active Vinyasa-style child's pose. You can even do it in bed—which I highly recommend after morning meditation. Your knees go wide and your toes go together. Guide the buttocks to find the heels. Stretch your arms out in front of you, and melt your chest to the bed or ground.
Restorative child's pose is a gentler posture: knees go together, buttocks to the heels, and arms rest along either side of the body with palms facing up as the forehead lightly touches the ground.
Child's pose embraces sacred personal space, where a yogi can process “letting go of what no longer serves you," for more centered, positive choices and responses. Child's pose is symbolic of surrender and trust to our own dharma. By resurrecting the inner child we honor the God in us. It's an opportunity to bring union back to ourselves and to be lighthearted and happy.
With a smile on my face, namaste!
Photos courtesy of Stacy Lee Ghin