Child’s pose and Shell stretch are effective ways to find a back stretch, but they’re very different. Here’s how to choose which one is best for you.

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When your back starts hurting, you want to do the right stretch the right way and start feeling better immediately.

You don’t have time to sit and research. You don’t have time for trial and error. In fact, you feel like you barely have time to breathe!

No, you need to know what exercise will work best when your back seizes up, and you need an effective back stretch.

Then, you need that exercise to deliver on its promise and take your pain away.

Two of the most popular exercises to stretch your back are Child’s pose (from yoga) and Shell stretch (from Pilates). And, although Joseph Pilates was undoubtedly inspired by Child’s pose when he created Shell stretch, these two exercises help your back in very different ways.

Here’s more about what each exercise does, how to choose the one that’s right for you, and step-by-step instructions to guarantee relief when your back pain strikes!

Related: There are actually tons of exercises to help you stretch your back; these are just the two most popular. If you’re searching even more back stretches, check out Spinal Rejuvenation.

Child’s Pose vs. Shell Stretch: Which Back Stretch Is Best for You?

Child’s pose and Shell stretch are both popular exercises for back pain relief. In fact, Shell stretch was even inspired by Child’s pose, which is a yoga pose known as Balasana.

Although both of these poses provide back pain relief, they don’t do it in the same way. Here’s how they’re different.

Child’s Pose as a Back Stretch

When you practice Child’s pose, your knees go wide and your chest lowers towards the floor. Your sink into your hips and feel yourself melt.

This allows you to release any tension you might be holding in your low back or hip. As your low back relaxes, your upper back melts toward the floor.

This back stretch is particularly helpful for anyone whose back pain is from hip or upper back tightness.

Shell Stretch as a Back Stretch

When you practice Shell stretch, your knees are together and your chest lowers towards your thighs. You curve and stretch your spine like a shell on the sand.

This allows you to release any tension you might have in your low back. As it flexes and moves the opposite way, your muscles in your low back get a good stretch.

This back stretch is particularly helpful for anyone whose back pain is from tight low back muscles.

So, How Do I Choose Which One Is Best for Me?

Honestly, it all comes down to trial and error. Read the directions below and give each exercise a try. Most people discover that they have a strong preference for one exercise over the other.

The exercise that you prefer is probably going to be your go-to back stretch the next time you’re in pain.

But, What If I Don’t Like Either of These?

Although most people will find a wonderful, pain-relieving stretch from at least one of these two exercises; some people won’t. All bodies are different, so there’s no one-exercise-works-for-all pose.

The key is trying other exercises and discovering what’s best for you and your body.

If you’d like more pain-relieving back exercises, check out my online course, Spinal Rejuvenation. You’ll learn how to relieve your back so you can get back to doing the things you love.

How to do Child’s Pose

the yoga pose child's pose as a back stretch
  1. Lower down on to your knees with your knees as wide as your mat.
  2. Gently, let your big toes touch each other.
  3. Angle your SITs bones (the bones that you feel when you sit on the floor) so they point to the wall behind you.
  4. Draw your belly button toward your spine, and lower your bottom toward your heels. Make sure you don’t tuck your SITs bones under you as you sit back.
  5. Let your upper body fold toward the floor.
  6. Reach your arms out straight and place your palms on the floor. With straight elbows, you are in an active Child’s pose. If you bring your arms by your side, you are in a resting Child’s pose.
  7. Remember to breathe. Take nice, gentle inhales and exhales through your nose.

How to do Shell Stretch

pilates exercise shell stretch as a back stretch
  1. Lower down on to your knees with your legs parallel. Your legs should either be right beside each other or just a little wider.
  2. Draw your belly button to your spine, and sit your bottom back toward your heels. Let your spine round forward.
  3. Let your upper body fold toward the floor.
  4. Reach your arms out straight and place your palms on the floor. With straight elbows, you are in an active Shell stretch. If you bring your arms by your side, you are in a resting Shell stretch.
  5. Remember to use Pilates breathing. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through pursed lips.

For Visual Learners…

Sometimes, it’s just easier if you can see it done and hear some directions. Here’s a video of how to practice Child’s pose and Shell stretch for all the visual learners out there.

Want to Learn Other Ways to Relieve Your Back Pain?

If you were searching for a good back stretch today because you have some back pain you’re trying to get rid of, you’re in luck! I’ve created a course to teach you everything you need to know to permanently ditch hip and back pain. Click here to check out my Spinal Rejuvenation program.

Or, if you want a free taste of what you’ll learn in Spinal Rejuvenation, click here to download The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.

2 Comments

  1. Sean on January 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

    This stretch works great for anyone that does weighted squats. It helps prevent the lower back from rounding at the bottom of the squat, which is one cause of lower back pain.



    • Sarah Stockett on January 19, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      Such a great point, Sean! Thank you so much for bringing this up. In yoga, we do squats (malasana), but sometimes I forget that squats are done in strength training as well.