HOW TO PRACTICE Garland Pose IN YOGA (Malasana)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Garland Pose
In yoga, each asana produces a different quality or “energy” in the body. Some yoga poses are energizing and uplifting, while others are soothing and grounding. Garland Pose utilizes what yogis refer to as “apana,” or the “downward” flow of energy, which makes it grounding and calming.
Garland Pose is a wide-legged squat posture that brings the limbs of the lower body into deep flexion while the spine reaches skyward. It requires stability and strength in the knees, hips, and torso.
Commonly known as “Garland Pose,” Malasana may actually have been mistranslated. According to YogaUOnline’s Charlotte Bell:
“As it turns out, Malasana’s name has nothing to do with garlands or beads. Due to a mistranslation that doesn’t take into account the subtle differences between Sanskrit’s long and short ‘a’, the word that would be correctly transcribed as ‘maalaa’ (garland) was confused with the word ‘mala’ (excrement). According to the Indian ashram Jaisiyaram’s website, Malasana properly translates to ‘Defecating Pose.’” ~Charlotte Bell
Even though the translation of “garland” sounds so much lovelier, this alternate translation – that the yoga pose name is actually more accurately translated as “Yogic Squat Pose” – makes a lot more sense, given its position and its many digestive benefits.
Benefits of Garland Pose
Garland Pose (Yogic Squat) strengthens and tones the lower body and buttocks, mobilizes the hip and ankle joints, and can elicit a calm and focused mind. It is a great yoga pose to help counter the effects of sitting in a modern office chair for long stretches.
Garland is also the best position for strengthening the pelvic floor—better than kegels alone. In the squatting position, the pelvis is put into a slight posterior tilt, which strengthens the connection of the pelvic floor muscles from the sacrum throughout the pelvic bowl. In traditional kegel exercises, the pelvis moves into an anterior tilt, weakening the glutes, and creating a tightening more than a strengthening effect.
Garland Posse also aids in toning the abdomen and may aid in elimination (as we discovered the name suggests!).
The Yogic Squat is also a wonderful yoga posture for pregnant women, and can be practiced safely up until 34 weeks. After week 34 (or whenever the baby’s head is engaged in the pelvis) deep or unsupported squats are contraindicated.
Basic Garland Pose
- Start with your feet about shoulders-width apart. Rotate the toes and ball of your left foot outward to 11:00 and the toes and ball of your right foot outward to 1:00.
- On an exhalation, bend your knees deeply to lower your hips down toward the ground. Keep your chest lifted and shoulders back.
- Make sure you aren’t rounding forward in the spine; as you lift your sternum up you’ll feel as though you are “backbending” out of the yoga pose.
- With your hands in Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position) and elbows pressing on the insides of your knees, squeeze the inner knees against your elbows. Notice how the belly engages toward the spine, and the back body expands.
- Stay here for several breaths.
- If you like, you can move into a gentle twist by grounding down through your right hand on the outside of your right foot and then reaching your left arm up toward the ceiling.
- Repeat on the other side.
Note: If you feel any knee pain, or if you are unable to keep your spine long when you come into the squat, try placing a block or bolster underneath your hips. If your heels don’t reach the floor in this yoga pose, place a folded blanket under the heels to decrease ankle flexion and provide a surface for grounding the heels.