Pose Breakdown: Yogi Squat

Malasana, sometimes also called Garland Pose or Yogi Squat looks very simple but is often difficult for us to achieve. It requires the perfect balance of mobility and stability in the ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, and spine, as it works the quadricep, hamstring, glute, and calf muscles of the legs, plus, it strengthens the lower back and core.

There are also many benefits that malasana has for your body, especially in our culture of sitting. It is a very effective way to release the lower back, to ground your energy, and even to tone the entire lower body. It works the quadricep, hamstring, glute, and calf muscles of the legs, plus, it strengthens the lower back and core.

Here’s how to do it:

Start by placing your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, and turning your toes out just a bit. Don’t worry if you don’t get it just right, you can always re-adjust your stance later.  Next, drop your hips as if sitting down, as far as you can drop them. Depending on your body proportions and flexibility, your heels may lift anywhere from just a bit to a lot, and that’s okay. Try to keep them reaching for the floor, but don’t force the heels down.

Once your lower half is situated and stable, bring your elbows inside your knees, press your palms together, in prayer position. Use your elbows to further guide your knees apart, and push your chest through your knees. Focus on lengthening your spine. Depending on your torso length, you may find your elbows a little higher or lower on the inner thighs.

There can be some trouble shooting for malasana, here is what I see most often:

  • Stressing over heels not touching the ground. Heels not reaching the ground can mean lots of things, from tighter hamstrings, to knee troubles, to simply unchanging body proportions. The simplest solution in class is to slide your blanket up under your heels to support your malasana base.

  • Knees collapsed in. This is one you want to be cautious of, as we really want to protect our knee joints. Often times this can come from tight hip flexors or even an unstable core. Ensure the knees are tracking over the center of the ankle and the toes are pointed the same direction as the knees. Sometimes this may mean that you have to adjust the width of your feet to be slightly wider or narrower depending on your proportions.

  • Aystemmetry. Often this is due to a previous lower body injury, and sometimes we are just tighter on the dominant side of our body. If your malsana is leaning or tilting unevenly—lift your hips, using a prop such as a block, blanket, or even a small chair under your hips until your hips are parallel with the floor and the compromised side is in balancedFalling backwards. Falls happen! If you find yourself falling in malasana, usually this happens when trying to get those heels to the ground, try tucking a block behind your sits bones. You want to still encourage your weight to be in your feet, but that little support can keep you from falling backwards and allow you to express the pose.

    Bonus tip: Practice this at home by holding on to a countertop or door knob and sinking your hips back (to a block or not) so that you can work on the shape, alignment, and stabilizing those muscles with less risk of falling.

    Practice these tips and soon you will be able to sit in malasana and use it as a go to position to counteract all of the sitting we do in our day-to-day lives.