Malasana (also called Garland Pose) is a wide squat. If you spend most of the day sitting in chairs this pose is for you! It really helps to open your hips. In many parts of the world, where sitting on the floor is common, the squat is a position that people naturally take in order to relax. It allows the skeleton to relax and prevents compression on the tailbone, the sacrum and in the lower back.
The yoga squat helps to open the hip and groin area. It also stretches and strengthens your ankles. It stretches in your lower legs and lower back. Squat pose can also be a nice break between other postures in a more intense yoga class.
If you have any knee or lower back problems be sure to listen to your body taking it slowly and carefully. I had knee surgery a couple of years ago for a torn ligament and this is one of those postures that I didn’t really know if I would be able to do again. However, the yoga that I have practiced since the surgery has helped me to build up balance, strength and alignment. I can do Malasana again and feel that it actually benefits my knee now.
How to Do Malasana
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart.
Bend your knees and lower your hips towards the floor into a squat.
Bring your arms to the inside of your legs pressing out on the elbows against the insides of the knees. The palms of your hands are pressed together in anjali mudra (prayer hands).
Bring your hands towards your heart center and open your knees slightly.
Relax your shoulders and lengthen your spine by intending the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
Take five deep breaths here. Slowly straighten your legs coming into standing forward bend to release your hips. Relax here for a few breaths.
One modification that I like for this pose (from Yoga Journal) suggests sitting on the edge of a chair so that your thighs form a right angle to your torso. Your heels should be on the floor slightly ahead of your knees. Lean forward so that your torso is between your thighs. This variation is gentler on your lower back and knees yet you still get the hip opening benefits.
Once in the squat position, use a cushion, block or bolster to sit on for support.
Place a rolled towel or a wedge block underneath your heels if they don’t touch the ground.
In the beginning you can use a wall or a chair to help you get into squat and to maintain balance.
Another interesting variation is the wall squat (an alternative sometimes recommended for pregnant women). Have a look at the demonstration in the video below.