Have you seen photos of yogis in a deep squat? Wondering how they get into that pose, or what it’s good for? As a yoga instructor with a history of back pain, I can tell you this pose is amazing! Read on to learn about Yoga Squat Pose (Malasana): Benefits and How to Do It!
Brief Overview of Yoga Squat Pose (Malasana)
Malasana, also known as Yoga Squat Pose, has been practiced for centuries in yoga. The benefits of Malasana are both physical and mental.
What we in Western culture call Malasana would be called Upaveshasana in traditional yoga. You may also hear this pose called Garland Pose (“mala” meaning garland and “asana” meaning pose).
We will cover the form of this pose that is popular in the West. This version of the pose involves squatting down with the feet hip-width apart and the heels on the ground. Although it looks simple, Malasana is a powerful pose that offers a wide range of benefits for mind and body.
We’ll explore the many benefits of this pose, as well as modifications and precautions. We’ll also provide step-by-step instructions on how to practice Malasana safely and effectively, so you can experience the benefits for yourself.
Benefits of Malasana: Physical
Increased Hip Mobility
Malasana is great for stretching and opening the hip joints. As a deep squat, it helps to improve hip flexibility and reduce tightness in the hip flexors*, inner thighs, and groin muscles. This increased mobility can alleviate low back pain and improve posture.
*Hip flexors are the muscles that work together to flex and stabilize your hip. They also pull your thigh and torso together when you walk, run, sit or stand.
The gentle compression of the internal organs while in Malasana stimulates bowel function and aids in digestion. It can help relieve constipation and promote healthy bowel movements. The pose also encourages circulation to the digestive system, improving nutrient absorption.
Strengthening of Lower Body Muscles
Malasana targets many muscles in the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles. This promotes strength and stability in the legs while also supporting healthy knee function.
Maintaining Malasana requires effort as you work to keep your balance in the squat position. Practicing this posture regularly can improve balance.
Lengthening of the Spine
Strengthening of the Pelvic Floor
Malasana can improve pelvic floor strength. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles located at the base of the pelvis that supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Weakness in the pelvic floor muscles can lead to incontinence, pelvic pain, and discomfort during sexual activity.
When you practice Malasana, the deep squat pose engages the core and pelvic floor muscles and strengthens them.
Helping During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should always consult with their healthcare provider before starting a physical activity like yoga. However, Malasana is a common pose in prenatal yoga classes. It helps open the hips and lengthen pelvic floor muscles, which may help with labor and delivery.
Benefits of Malasana: Mental
Calms the Mind and Reduces Stress
When you practice Malasana, you focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing helps calm the nervous system and promotes feelings of relaxation.
Helps Release Emotional and Energetic Blockages
Often we hold tension in our hips when we are feeling emotional stress. By stretching and releasing the tension in the hip area, Malasana can help us let go of this emotional strain.
Encourages a Sense of Grounding and Stability
Malasana is considered a grounding pose, which gives you a feeling of stability and calmness. It also literally gives you a solid base on which to build your pose. A yogi squat is a great way to settle your nervous system after a stressful day.
Improves Focus and Concentration
Maintaining Malasana requires a certain level of attention as you work to keep your balance in the squat position. Practicing this posture regularly can help to improve focus and concentration.
Cultivates Grounding Energy
As a grounding posture with feet firmly planted on the ground, Malasana nurtures feelings of stability and connectedness to the earth. This sense of rootedness can help alleviate anxiety and promote overall mental well-being.
Practicing Malasana Pose
Below are step-by-step instructions for practicing Malasana.
1. Begin in a standing position at the top of your yoga mat. This is a foundational pose in yoga class which is called Mountain pose (see photo). Place your feet hip-width apart, or further. The tighter your hips the wider you will need your stance.
2. Turn your toes out slightly so that they point away from each other at a comfortable angle. Knees should face in the same direction as your toes. Don’t let the knees collapse toward each other or splay apart when you squat.
3. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, bend your knees and lower your hips down towards the ground. There should be no pain in your knee joint in this pose. If you have knee pain, see the modifications below.
4. Keep your heels on the floor, and try to bring your hips as close to your heels as possible. If your heels begin to lift off the floor, you may need to take a slightly wider stance.
Pro-tip: If your heels still lift off the ground, you can place a folded blanket under them for support.
5. Bring your palms together in front of your chest at your heart center in prayer position. (This is called anjali mudra. “Anjali” for offering and “mudra” for a gesture that we make with our hands). You can softly press your elbows against the inner thighs to gently open the hips.
6. Keep lifting the chest and lengthening the spine. Draw your shoulder blades together slightly to open your heart center.
7. Hold this position for 5-10 breaths, or as long as is comfortable for you.
8. To release the pose, bring your hands to the floor and slowly straighten your legs. You can stay in a forward fold with hands on the floor and knees slightly bent for a breath or two, then come back up to standing in Mountain pose.
Pro-Tip: If you are having trouble balancing, practice with your back to a wall. Alternatively, you can have your hands on a stable piece of furniture as you squat. Remember to listen to your body and only go as deep into the pose as feels comfortable for you.
Precautions for Practicing Malasana
Below are some precautions to keep in mind for those with knee, ankle, or hip injuries when practicing Malasana.
If you have a knee injury or knee pain, it’s important to be cautious when practicing Malasana. You may want to avoid deep bending of the knees and only move into a partial squat.
Pro-tip: A yoga block can be helpful to sit on. Additionally, you can place a rolled blanket or cushion behind your knees for extra support.
If you have an ankle injury or ankle pain, be careful not to roll your ankles inward or outward when practicing Malasana.
Pro-tip: Place a rolled-up blanket or towel under the outside edges of your feet to help prevent rolling your ankles. This should help reduce any strain on the back of your heels or your Achilles tendon as well.
If you have a hip injury or hip pain, it’s important to be gentle and mindful when practicing Malasana. You may want to avoid going too deep into the pose and instead hold a modified version where you don’t lower your hips as much.
Pro-tip: Place a cushion or block under your hips for added support.
If you have any concerns or injuries, consult with your healthcare provider before practicing yoga, including Malasana.
Work with a certified yoga teacher who can give you personalized recommendations for practicing Malasana. They can offer individualized guidance and modifications to help you practice safely and avoid worsening any injuries.
Yoga Squat Pose (Malasana): Benefits and How to Do It Summary
As you can see, Malasana offers a wide range of benefits. Physically, it improves balance, strengthens the legs, hips, and back, and promotes healthy digestion. Mentally, it reduces stress and anxiety, increases focus and concentration, and provides a sense of grounding and stability.
Malasana is a relatively simple pose. It can be modified to suit different ability levels, making it accessible to most everybody. With consistent practice, you will undoubtedly feel the transformative power of this grounding and restorative yoga pose!
Kate is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a Master’s in Public Health. She loves to share what she has learned about nutrition and yoga to help people live healthier, more balanced lives. When not working on this blog or teaching yoga, Kate is usually spending time with family and friends or reading a good book.