In many able-bodied yoga classes (I use that term to differentiate from accessible/chronic illness aware yoga classes.) yoga instructors tell students they can “rest in child’s pose” if they can’t perform a pose or variation or feel as if the class is “too much” for them. Instructors use that term “too much” pretty loosely, no matter if the class is too much mentally (such as emotionally, sensory, or cognitively) or physically for them. “Just go into child’s pose”, they say as if it’s no big deal.
Let’s look at child’s pose. The individual is on their knees, with them spread so that their torso folds forward and their forehead rests on the mat. Arms are stretched in front of the individual with palms placed flat on the mat. Looking at the pose, I see stress on the knees, the hips, the spine, and possibly the shoulders, not to mention the compression of the chest.
Contraindications for the pose confirm this. The pose is not recommended for those with knee injuries or problems (a suggestion is given to place a blanket under the knees for cushioning, which might help externally). Pregnant individuals aren’t recommended to do this pose, nor are individuals with asthma. Individuals who have undergone abdominal surgery, or who have heart ailments should avoid this pose. And the indication is that if people have had hip, spine, knee, or ankle surgery or injuries, they should avoid the pose as well. Knees are mentioned twice usually in this context.
Which adds up to the fact that this pose is not indicated for “everybody”.
As a larger bodied individual I can do child’s pose, but staying in it for a long time (such as with yin or restorative yoga), begins to hurt my hips and knees. I have severe spinal arthritis, with scoliosis (or a curve) in my lumbar spine, and this also leads to issues with my sacroiliac joint (or where my spine meets my hips). Some days I can bend over, or forward, without issues. Others, it’s a bit ouchy.
A good substitution for anyone, really, not just those with chronic pain or fibromyalgia, is to have them rest in a way that’s comfortable for them. Some may wish to stand in mountain pose. Others may want to sit in one of the seated poses (staff pose or just sitting with the legs crossed), and some may want to lay down in corpse pose. However someone wishes to rest, they should be allowed to do so. And then, I suggest teachers that specifically mention resting in child’s pose, think about why that is and how they can make their classes more accessible.
It does no one any good to suggest yoga for chronic pain or fibromyalgia and then make the classes inaccessible.