Many years ago, squatting was an unassuming, everyday pose, not just one that was done in yoga class. Nowadays, sitting and slouching for hours at a time has become the norm. It’s easy to forget that sometimes our comfortable, modern lifestyle can do damage to our bodies. In fact, I’ve heard of tight hips (often the byproduct of such luxuries as sitting in chairs and cars all day) referred to as the “affluent disease”. Garland pose, or Malasana, is the yogic version of a squat, which happens to be the perfect remedy for being seated all day. Initially, this pose may feel difficult, but with regular practice will feel like second nature.
Benefits of Garland Pose
Garland pose stretches the hips, groins, and low back, and promotes health in the pelvis and hip joints. The pose also strengthens the ankles, and tones the belly while stimulating the digestive organs and improving metabolism. Those with knee or ankle issues should practice this pose with caution.
Garland Pose Step-By-Step
- Begin standing in Mountain pose (Tadasana) with the feet separated just wider than hip-distance apart. Point your toes out slightly and bring your heels in slightly, like a ballerina.
- Bend your knees deeply, coming down into a squatting position. Sink your hips low, past the knees. Keep your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes to protect your joints.
- If possible, keep your heels down on the ground — if this creates tension or discomfort in the knees, roll up your mat or tuck a folded blanket under your heels for support.
- Lean your chest forward and fit your torso between your thighs. Fold your palms together at heart center, and press your outer arms against your inner thighs to separate the legs and lengthen the spine.
- Remain in the pose for 5 full, deep breaths. To come out of the pose, straighten the legs on an inhale and come up to stand in a passive forward fold (Uttanasana).
- For an added challenge, try moving into a twist from Malasana. Plant your right hand down on the ground in front of you, and extend your left hand up toward the ceiling, rotating your chest open and finding expansiveness through the collarbone. To move even deeper, try taking a bind by wrapping your right arm around your bent right knee and clasping your hands behind your back. Repeat on the other side.
- If it feels like too much to fold your palms together, or if balance is difficult, keep your fingers down on the ground in front of you, or use a block or bolster under your hips for support.