AHHH…. Child’s Pose. The ‘resting’ pose of yoga. The needed break from downward dog or a ‘chaturanga’. The pose of comfort and relaxation… for some of us. But not for all.
In my yoga4cancer (y4c) classes or in my yoga teacher trainings, I don’t suggest Child’s Pose for resting because for many survivors this pose is actually not comfortable and can even be harmful. I know this might be surprising to some so let me explain:
- First, it requires a level of flexibility in the spine, hamstrings and feet, which cancer patients and survivors lack due to inexperience and / or return to exercise.
- Second, it puts pressure on the lower vertebrae that can be compromised due to chemotherapy & other treatments that weaken bones or osteoporosis.
- Third, cancer survivors can have sensitivity in the abdomen due to scar tissue, surgical sites, or even existing painful tumors.
- Finally, having the head below the heart restricts breath (to some extent) can feel claustrophobic, which is a particular point of sensitivity for cancer patients who may have often been required to hold breath and stillness in small spaces (MRI machine) for long periods of time during treatments or diagnostic tests.
For all these reasons, Child’s Pose is not necessarily relaxing or comforting, which defeats its purpose entirely. Of course, for some survivors, this pose is wonderfully relaxing and helpful. It’s just important for both yoga teachers AND the students to understand the potential challenges and modifications that can be done to make it comfortable for all.
y4c Modification to Child’s Pose: Modify child’s pose by placing a blanket under the knees and a rolled blanket under the tops of the feet. Once that is set up, place a block between the thighs, with one or more blankets or a bolster on top of that block and across the thighs. Construct a support for the chest and the head using blocks and blankets so the bend is less extreme and the head remains at the same level as the heart. Place a clean towel on the head support.