This week our focus is on Malasana, known as garland pose. In the full expression of the pose, the feet are together, the forehead reaches the mat and the hands reach around the knees to bind behind the back. For our purposes, we will work on the a modified variation, where the spine is long and the hands are at the heart.
In this modified variation of the posture, squat with the feet hip distance apart with the toes and knees drawing foward. To balance the apana or downward energy of this pose, a lift through the pelvic floor or activate mulabandha. Hands come to the heart while lifting the spine long. Malasana is great for opening the hips and achilles. It can also strengthen and promote mobility in the knees and quads.
Here are a few options and variations that will cultivate openness and strength in Malasana.
Option 1 – Football Squat. With the feet about hip distance and the toes drawing forward, sit the hips back and rest the forearms on the thighs. Keep the knees behind the toes as you would in utkatasana. Bear the weight evenly on all four corners of the feet, lightly gripping the mat with your toes. Gently lift the pelvic floor.
Option 2 – Malasana with hands to the floor. When you feel ready to go deeper, begin to drop the hips further towards the floor. You can support the hips on a block or bolster if needed. Keep the weight back and lift the pelvic floor. Over time, work to drop the hips as far as you are comfortable. Be mindful of how the achilles react and of how the knees feel with the compression. If there are any concerns, back off and give the body time to be available to the deeper squat.
Option 3 – Malasana with heels on blanket. This variation is especially useful if you have tight achilles or calves. Roll a blanket or your mat, so there are a couple of inches of cushion, place your heels on the cushion. Find any degree of the squat that feels right.
Option 4 – Malasana Variation. Rest the hips in the fullest squat available with the heels on the ground. Bring the hands to anjali mudra (prayer) at the heart and reach the sternum towards the thumbs. The knees draw to the center, while the elbows counter that gentle pressure. Keep the lift of the pelvic floor and if available activate uddiyana bandha.
Malasana is a great posture to open the hips. It helps to counter the tightness we create when sitting in chairs and driving cars. In everyday life, this is a great position to encourage healthy movements when picking up heavy objects or squirmy ones, like kids.
If you find that you can get deeper in this pose by turning the feet out, that’s an option, but do try to gently coax the feet more forward to continue to challenge the hips. If you have any knee issues, be very mindful as you work in this posture. The best option may be to stay with Option 1, the Football Squat.
Whatever variation or focus you work on this week, be sure to work where you feel challenged, but also where you can breath and relax around the work. Follow this weekly challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or share about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.