Second, the next three poses in this series are all going to be variations on a theme. That is, they all create the same basic line through the trunk (including the pelvis), though they engage other parts of the body in different ways.
First up in this line is child's pose. From my experience, even a fair number of non-yoga-focused exercise programs and workout DVDs include balasana as a restorative or stretching pose at the end, so I'm guessing that a lot of people are already familiar with some version of it. In terms of a pelvic floor focus, it's another of the muscle stretching poses, and it uses that same tailbone lengthening and lower back relaxation present in tadasana.
Balasana / Child's Pose
There are a couple different versions of this pose; see them here and here. One expression of the asana is not inherently better than another, though you may discover that a particular variation routinely works better for your body. I'd encourage you to regularly experiment with different expressions of the pose to determine which one serves you best on any given day.
Because this pose may involve movement in the knees, low back, and/or neck, pay particular attention to those areas. If you feel pain -- particularly sharp or pinching pain -- in those areas, adjust the pose so it's comfortable for you.
- Starting in kneeling, adjust your legs so the pose is comfortable for you. Bringing the knees together will focus the stretch more on the lower back; bringing the knees apart may accommodate a larger torso and will increase the stretch to the upper back.
- Fold from your hips, extending your torso forward onto or between your thighs. Press your hips back in the direction of your heels, regardless of whether they actually touch your heels.
- You may choose to bring your arms straight out in front of you, about shoulder distance apart, palms resting on the floor. This arm variation allows you to use your arms as leverage to help lengthen your spine. You may also choose to bring your arms back, resting palms up at your sides. This variation can help relax your shoulders, which in turn can relax your upper back.
- Lengthen and relax the back of your neck, resting your forehead on the floor. If bringing your forehead to the floor causes neck strain, rest your forehead on a prop (block, blanket, hands, etc.).
- Lengthen and relax your back, extending your tailbone back toward your heels.
- Exit the pose in a way that's safe for your back and knees. Possibilities include slowly rising to an "all fours" position or pressing up to kneeling.
I am not always so much a fan of Howcast's explanations of asanas, but this pretty clearly and succinctly demonstrates some of the variations:
Other options include using a bolster for torso support. This is especially your friend if your back and hips don't enjoy bending so far forward, though it can ease the knee angle as well:
Regardless of the version, the tailbone-lengthening action should mean that your pelvic floor muscles are open and relaxed. If that's not the case for you -- or if you're having trouble releasing anywhere along your spine -- try wiggling your hips a little. Seriously. It is easier to be relaxed when you are wiggling your butt around, and that is just fact. If people in your yoga classes look at you funny, they don't know what they're missing. ;)
Additionally, I know balasana is often described as a resting pose. While that's true, it may be worth clarifying what "resting" means here. I'm about to steal words from my teachers and say that rather than being a time to "check out," a resting pose is a time to "check in" with your body and see what needs relaxation and rejuvenation. It is a more passive pose in the sense that you're surrendering strong muscular effort, but it is still active in the sense that mind and body are still tuned in and aware.
Now that I've said that, though, it's probably also worth noting that child's pose can be (and is!) incorporated into vinyasas if those are your thing. (In case it is not painfully obvious by now, they are 110% my thing. It makes me happy to do them, and it makes me happy to share flow suggestions with others.) In this first one, the lengthening in balasana is a good counterpose to the backbending of cobra*:
And one that flows from camel pose** to child's pose, incorporating a little bit of core strength:
This is where I should probably end by repeating my little disclaimer that I am not a yoga teacher. And, you know, even if I were, I can't tell via the Internet which poses and modifications are appropriate for you. Particularly with my cautions about the backbends, it's not that I want to alarm people or say, "Hey, don't do these poses!" But I do want to reiterate my strong recommendations that yogis be mindful, honor their bodies, and modify when appropriate. You are smart people and can make good judgments for yourselves. I just want to give you the tools with which to make those good judgments.
* If you are not familiar with cobra, it can't hurt to first read about it before deciding whether it's appropriate for you. Neither is there any harm in keeping the movement small, at least at first while you're figuring out what works for your body. It's also worth repeating that this -- like all backbends -- is a pose where you want to take care of your low back and neck.
** If you're not familiar with camel, this is where you can read about it, though you'll probably want to note that the flow in the video does not involve the fullest expression of camel pose. Rather, it's going into sort of a "mini camel," with only a small back bend. That said, it's also worth repeating (DID U C WHAT I DID THAR?) that this -- like all backbends -- is a pose where you want to take care of your low back and neck.
PS -- Any guesses as to which asana is up next? ;)