Leg cradle, or baby cradle pose, is ranked among the beginning level asanas, but its effects can be profound. The hip opener is a careful and gentle preparation for meditation and for more challenging asanas, such as full lotus and pigeon pose.
Simple and Intense
Leg cradle stretches thigh, hamstring, and calf muscles and releases tightness in hip muscles and hip flexors. That takes tension off the spine, increases your range of motion, boosts circulation, and may help to alleviate back pain. When your hips are open, you move more freely and have better energy and balance. The asana's name describes the action of the pose: you cradle your leg in your arms and rock it in the same movement you would use to rock a baby. In this case, you're soothing the tension of tight hips and retraining muscles to move smoothly into more advanced poses and to provide a more stable and effortless meditation seat.
Do the Pose Safely
To safely perform this asana, do the following:
- Sit on the mat in dandasana (staff pose) with both legs extended in front of you and your spine long and erect.
- Keep your left leg extended -- or bend the left knee and bring the left foot into the right groin, if that feels more comfortable.
- Bend your right knee and bring the right foot over the left thigh. Slip both hands, palms up, under the right calf to lift the leg and draw it toward your body.
- Flex your right foot to protect the knee, which is now close to your right armpit.
- Grasp your right heel with your left hand and your right knee with your right hand, breathing evenly, sitting tall, and keeping the right calf parallel to the floor.
- In this position facing squarely forward, move your bent leg gently to the right and to the left a few times, pivoting at the hip.
- Place your right heel in the curve of your left elbow and scoop your right arm under your bent knee. Clasp your hands in front of your leg to "cradle" it like a baby.
- Adjust your torso to maintain an erect spine as you draw the entire leg in towards your body. Don't slouch over the leg.
- "Rock" the cradled leg easily from side to side, deepening the stretch as you inhale and exhale, keeping the focus on the movement at the hip.
- Maintain a neutral ankle. The right ankle remains flexed but relaxed, and the foot should not be sickled.
- Use your arms to move the leg back and forth at least 10 times -- longer if you are enjoying the stretch -- before releasing the leg, returning to dandasana and repeating the pose with the left leg.
Easy Does It
Leg cradle is an easy pose but not a simple one. It really counters the hip tightness that is a by-product of a sedentary lifestyle. As you begin the work to open your hips more, you may need to modify the pose until you are flexible enough to do it fully. Support the heel and the knee with your hands as you move your bent leg from side to side. Save the complete cradle with hands clasped in front of the leg for the time when you can easily sit straight up in that position and pull your leg into your torso. If you have knee or hip problems or an injury that is not fully rehabilitated, leg cradle doesn't belong in your practice sequence. Talk to your yoga instructor about safe alternative hip openers to accommodate your fitness level or medical condition.
Unblock Your Chakra
Svadisthana, the sacral or second chakra, is located in the pelvic region and governs creativity, composure, sexuality, and equanimity. Hip opening asanas free stuck energy in the sacral chakra, calming the mind and generating or enhancing innovative thinking and imagination. This pose will not only soothe your aching back and improve your posture, it will help you to think more clearly, stay tranquil and centered, and rocket past any creativity blocks that could keep you stuck in place.