Child’s Pose/Shell Stretch: Do More Than Rest

yoga Child's PoseIt’s no secret that Joseph Pilates borrowed some exercises from yoga. One of the poses he selected to borrow and modify was Balasana, commonly known as Child’s Pose. For some reason, the name changed to Shell Stretch. Frequently, this pose is used as a rest or recovery pose, but it really does so much more than give your body a break.

How to do Child’s Pose

  1. resting Child's poseLower down on to your knees with your knees as wide as your mat.
  2. Gently, let your big toes touch each other.
  3. Draw your belly button toward your spine, and sit your bottom back toward your heels.
  4. Let your upper body fold toward the floor.
  5. 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.
  6. Remember to breathe.

How to do Shell Stretch

  1. Pilates shell stretchLower down on to your knees with your legs parallel. Your legs should either be right beside each other or a little wider.
  2. Draw your belly button to your spine, and sit your bottom back toward your heels.
  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 breathe.

Benefits

In Child’s Pose, you could be resting, which is important. However, Child’s Pose is also a forward fold. This is a great opportunity to warm up your hips and work on lengthening through your pelvis. You can create nice length in the spine and really find those core muscles as you lift your belly button to your spine. Plus, it’s a great, gentle way to stretch posterior muscles.

In Shell Stretch, with the knees closer together, the stretch ends up being more about recovery or stretching the spinal muscles than about finding length through the pelvis or forward bending. The stretch is particularly focused in the low back. It looks very similar to Child’s Pose, but I would bet you that it feels different in your body.

If you have a tight low back, low back pain, or have had lumbar disc issues, please do Child’s Pose instead of Shell Stretch.

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Try both exercises. Do they feel different to you? Please, please use the box below and comment! Let’s get some conversations going!

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

2 comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

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