IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Suffer from low-back pain? This stretch can help

Child's pose helps release tension and ease pain — while also giving your mental health a boost.
Child's pose stretches the back, quads, hips and ankles.
Child's pose stretches the back, quads, hips and ankles.TODAY Illustration / Stephanie Mansour

Most people experience low-back pain at some point in their lives. Whether it’s due to a strained muscle, poor posture or a medical issue, one thing is for sure: the pain can get in the way of your daily life.

Of course, chronic back pain is always something that should be looked at by a doctor. But if improper form during exercise or the strain of daily movements is causing you discomfort, the right stretches can help release tension and aid in recovery.

Child's pose is one of my favorite moves to alleviate the pain that creeps of from sitting all day. Not only does it help stretch out the low back, but it's a great way to de-stress, relax and focus on your breathing. So even when your back is feeling strong, this is one of those moves that is just as good for your mental health.

What does child’s pose do for the body?

Child’s pose not only stretches your low back, but also targets the quads, hips and ankles, making for an effective lower-body stretch. If your body feels tight while performing child’s pose, it’s a good sign that some of these areas need some extra love.

But the child’s pose doesn’t only work your body physically. Because this pose is performed with your body resting on the floor, it can be a peaceful and relaxing move to perform if you’re hoping to work on your breathing or need to de-stress.

The common mistakes people make when doing child’s pose

I often find that my clients push themselves too hard during this move, hoping that stretching further will relieve their pain. Examples include craning their neck up while trying to extend the arms too far forward or opening their knees too wide to try to get their chest lower to the ground. The key is to ease into the stretch and gently let your body weight pull you toward the ground.

There are plenty of variations that can make child’s pose more accessible, so don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Listen to your body and perform the move to the best of your ability. Here are some tips to keep in mind when taking on child’s pose:

  • Stretch your arms out as far as they can go without straining, even if they aren’t as far as you expect them to be.
  • Lift your butt in the air, if needed, to make this move easier.
  • Use a cushion or pillow under your knees if you experience any pain.
  • A yoga block placed under your forehead can help reduce neck strain
  • Listen to your body and take a break to breath if you need it!

How to do a modified child’s pose

The child’s pose is a great move for anyone who’s looking to increase their flexibility or relieve muscle tension in the low back. However, it’s not as easy as it looks. If you’re struggling to perform child’s pose, follow these steps to perform the modified version.

Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Spread your knees so that your legs are apart, but keep your toes together so that your calves form a "V" shape. With your spine straight, reach your arms forward past your head so that your chest is in between your thighs. Remain in this position for 30 seconds, remembering to take deep breaths.

How to perform the child’s pose correctly

If you’re ready to try the traditional version of child’s pose, follow these steps:

  1. Come on to all fours and then sit back on your heels with your ankles under your butt. Make sure your back is straight.
  2. Keep your knees together and begin walking your hands forward. Keep the arms straight and reach your fingertips toward the front of the room. Stop when you feel a slight stretch in your arms, back and quads.
  3. Rest your torso on your quads, and if you are flexible enough, touch your forehead to the ground.
  4. Hold here, breathing deeply. Remember to lift your butt in the air and reset if you’re struggling with the stretch.

4 exercises that will help you perform child’s pose better

Child’s pose requires some level of flexibility; so don’t worry if it sounds intimidating (or feels difficult)! There are plenty of other stretches that can help make the child’s pose easier and more accessible.

Cat cow

Start on your hands and knees. Rest your palms on the mat so they are directly under your shoulders. Move into the cat pose by dropping your stomach toward the ground, looking toward the sky and arching your back so that you form a gentle "U" shape with your spine. As you exhale, move into cow pose by pulling in your abs, dropping your head and and rounding your back.

Low runner’s lunge

Start on your knees. Bend your right knee and place your right foot flat on the ground in front of you. Keep your left knee on the ground; gently lean into your front right leg until you feel a stretch in the left hip flexor and quad. Touch the ground with your fingertips, with hands on either side of the right foot. Keep your gaze looking forward and your spine straight. Hold for 10 seconds, and then perform on the left side.

Upward salute

Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Bring your arms out toward the sides so that they are parallel to the floor with your palms facing the ceiling. Breathe in, bringing your arms up above your head. Reach the arms straight up toward the sky while consciously keeping your shoulders down and back. Turn your gaze to look up at your hands and hold.

Knees to chest

Lie on your back and bring your knees in to your chest. Use your arms to hold your legs together, wrapping your hands around your knees. Make sure to keep your back straight and pressed in to the ground. Hold for one minute while breathing.

More ways to master the move: