We usually think of child’s pose, sometimes known as bheki, as a relaxation pose. It figures in yin yoga and restorative sequences and is generally used as a counter-pose after more strenuous work. However, what seems an easy pose actually represents certain challenges to the breast cancer patient.
Firstly, the classic arm positions in child’s pose – arms alongside the legs or extended and next to the ears – can be challenging for these students. To lay the arms alongside the legs suggests that the person is low enough into the pose (ie: backside is sitting on the heels) so that the upper arm is on the floor. My ladies aren’t all able to do this. Also, anyone with serratus-flap reconstruction is going to find the required rounding of the shoulders hard on the affected side. The extend the arms taxes both serratus anterior and trapezius. There are some people who just can’t lift the extended arm that high. This calls for a modification! Read on…
The ankles can present a problem in ladies of a certain age. If there is undue strain on the front of the ankles, the pose becomes unstable. A simple solution is the prop the ankles on a tubular prop, or simply roll up the end of your mat and use that.
If there is a bit of belly – and let’s face it, with all the cortisone administered in chemo, most students arrive a bit on the heavy side – we need to make room for it. Simply separating the legs helps the body settle comfortably into the deep forward bend.
In people who carry neck tension – and most mastectomized and reconstructed ladies do – you will see that the cervical curve persists in this pose. Do your best to bring attention to the dorsal zone, instructing students to separate the shoulder blades on the inhale. Tell students to pull the chin down towards the sternum. (For those who are comfortable on the pose, you can suggest a little breath retention after each exhale.)
Take the arms out to the side, just above shoulder height, with the elbows bent. Keep a slight pressure between the forearms and the floor. Splay the fingers and keep a slight pressure on the fingertips. Keep awareness at the fingertips.