Thread the Needle Pose
Parsva Balasana (PAR-S-VA bah-LAHS-anna), also known as the Thread the Needle or Revolved Child Pose, is a simple posture that gently compresses the chest and opens the shoulders while calming the body. Thread the Needle Pose is a stretch that opens the shoulders and stretches the spine. This calming pose is great for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, and it can also help relieve chronic shoulder or back pain. The posture utilizes the support of the floor to allow for relaxing into the pose and focusing on breathing.
Benefits of Thread the Needle Pose
The body can feel completely at ease and natural every moment. Just let it. Thread the Needle Pose stretches and opens the shoulders, chest, arms, upper back, and neck. It releases the tension that is commonly held in the upper back and between the shoulder blades. This pose also provides a mild twist to the spine, which further reduces tension. Practicing the pose with your hips on your heels (see variations below) also stretches the hips, thighs, and lower back.
How to Do Thread the Needle Pose (Parsva Balasana)
- Start in a neutral position on all fours. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward. This is Table Pose.
- On an exhalation, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat, then gaze toward your left.
- Keep your left elbow lifting and your hips raised. Do not press your weight onto your head; instead, adjust your position so you do not strain your neck or shoulder.
- Let your upper back broaden. Soften and relax your lower back. Allow all of the tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to drain away.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your left hand and gently slide your right hand out. Return to Table Pose.
- Then repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
If the pose feels uncomfortable, don’t force the twist. Relax and don’t go farther than is comfortable. Instead of bringing your shoulder all the way to the ground, prop yourself up to whatever height is comfortable stretch using blocks, a cushion or a towel.
Thread the Needle Pose for Beginners
Since Thread the Needle is a calming position, it’s important to make whatever modifications you need to feel comfortable, safe, and supported in the pose.
- Start on all fours, but instead of sending your extended arm through your opposite arm, keep it raised and stretch from there.
- If your knee caps hurt, fold your mat or place a firm blanket under your knees.
- If your wrists hurt in the starting position, place your forearms on the floor, instead.
Thread the Needle Pose for Advanced
To deepen the pose, wrap your opposite forearm around your back and hook your hand in the opposite hip crease to get a stretch in both shoulders. For a deeper full-body stretch, come into the position from Child’s Pose (Balasana):
- Begin in Table Pose. Spread your knees wide apart and drop your hips back toward your heels.
- Bow forward and drape your torso between your thighs. Your heart and chest should rest between or on top of your thighs. Allow your forehead to come to the floor. This is Child’s Pose.
- Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Then slide your right arm beneath your left arm, keeping your palm facing up. Turn your head so you gaze to the left. Relax your entire body.
- Hold for up to one minute. Return to Child’s Pose, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Thread the Needle can be a simple way to release shoulder tension throughout your day, or as part of your regular yoga practice. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Move slowly in and out of the pose.
- Keep your breath smooth and even. The deeper you breathe, the more your body will be able to relax. With every exhalation, release your shoulders a little more into the pose.
- Keep your gaze soft.
- Keep your collarbones broad; do not let your raised shoulder collapse in toward your chest. This helps to protect your neck, while also increasing flexibility and strength in your shoulders and chest.
You can practice Thread the Needle any time throughout the day when you need to release shoulder and neck tension. It can feel good at the end of a long day to stretch out these parts of your upper body. Regularly integrating Thread the Needle into your practice will help you create balance, peace, and well-being even off the mat!