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Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana) is primarily a hip opener, which has great benefits for the hip flexors and muscles of the legs.
Leg muscles used during Ananda Balasana are Gluteus maximus, Adductor magnus, Gracilis, Biceps femoris, Semitendionsus, Popliteus, Tibialis posterior, Gastrocnemius, and Semimembranosus.
Due to the neutral spine position - the lower back is aligned, but not really stretching.
However, the hands reaching toward the feet would cause back muscles such as: External intercostals, Internal obliques, and Spinal Extensors to be stretched.
Thank you for your response. In the process of placing one's hands on the soles of the feet and pulling the legs down in an attempt to make the knees touch the ground, are there any back muscles contracting? The agonists and antagonists get a little hazy for me when dealing with the back.
Once again, thank you for your help so far.
This is an excellent follow up question. When you consider Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana) as an isometric exercise: the External intercostals, Internal obliques, and Spinal Extensors are engaged, but the amount of force can vary depending on body type and intentional force.
For example: if we have an ex-cheerleader, she may have no difficulty bringing her knees to the floor, but she can now contract the above mentioned back muscles groups with no difficulty.
On the other hand, we have someone with really tight hips and legs, who can't reach his or her feet. This person will probably never get his or her knees to the ground. At the same time, this person will easily stretch the above mentioned back muscle groups.
Here is a third scenario: With mental intention we can shift the isometric balance. If we practice Ananda Balasana as a wide legged press, the back muscles will stretch. If we allow the legs to rest and intentionally pull with the back muscles, we can contract the back muscles.
Here is an excellent site that you can use as reference for the muscle group that are being stretched on every pose
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