Whenever I am studying with John Friend, and we are invited to move into balasana I recall as story he told of seeing Gurumayi move into the pose. He told us of the reverence with which she did the pranam — the bowing forward to touch the earth as she went into the pose. I like to start my asana practice with balasana because it reminds me to honor the teachings, the history of the practice, my teachers, and myself for coming to the mat. I think of the name of the pose, and I am reminded of the wonder (abhuta) of being embodied. I think of how children marvel and delight at everything they encounter. It is all new for them, but we can cultivate the sense of everything being new and wonderful. When we cultivate a sense of wonder, it brings us to the other meaning of bala, which is strength. For our lives will be stronger and fuller, if we can approach each pose on the mat, and each moment on and off the mat, with wonder and interest.
Balasana is also a good way to start the practice because it is a sweet, gentle way to open up the hips, groins, low back, and shoulders. It is a good way to shift from more active poses towards savasana because, as a forward bend, it is inward-going and quieting.