How to Do the Happy Baby Exercise

Mother and Son in happy baby pose
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Happy baby is an easy exercise often done in Pilates and yoga classes. It is a gentle stretch for the hamstrings, inner thigh, and inner groin, a relaxation exercise for the back, and it also opens up the hips, shoulders, and chest.

In yoga, the happy baby pose is also called Ananda Balasana. Happy baby is a nice treat to give yourself any time. It feels especially relaxing after a workout.

  • Difficulty: This is an easy exercise; it can be performed by beginners.
  • Time Required: You will need only 1 minute to perform this exercise.
  • Contraindications: If you are pregnant or if you have a knee injury or neck injury, you may not wish to do the Happy Baby exercise.

What You Need to Do the Happy Baby Exercise

You will need an exercise mat or a firm, padded surface. You may want to support your neck with a small pad, pillow or folded blanket. You can do this exercise at home or at the studio.

How to Do the Happy Baby Exercise

  1. Lie on your back and find a neutral spine position where the natural curves of your spine are present but not exaggerated.
  2. Bring your knees toward your chest. As you bring your knees up, keep your hip sockets soft so that your legs come up but your hips stay down. Keep your neutral spine with your tailbone on the mat.
  3. Flex your feet and show the soles of your feet to the ceiling.
  4. Wrap your first two fingers around your big toes and pull lightly down. Your feet stay flat to the ceiling but your hips release allowing your knees to come closer to your chest as you relax.
    1. You can also bring your hands up to the outside of the foot and grasp the foot around the arch.
  5. Take your time and breathe deeply. Enjoy the easy stretch in your hamstrings. Let your back relax into the floor - don't push it down, just allow it to release naturally. Be a happy baby.

Tips for the Happy Baby

  1. Try to keep the pose contained so the legs stay fairly parallel and the shoulders stay settled on the floor.
  2. If you are not able to hold your feet, you may use a strap or exercise band to hold the foot, looping it over the middle of the arch.
  3. Learn more about releasing at the hip socket with Pilates knee folds.
  4. It is interesting to note that the founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, was much inspired by the movement of babies. There is much to learn in this simple exercise. You have probably watched a baby grab its toes and play with them, perhaps envying that simple motion and sense of wonder. Grabbing your toes as a baby does brings us back to the flexible spine we had as a baby. In yoga, this move is recommended for relief of stress and fatigue, to calm and center you.
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