Okay, so maybe not everyone hates it. However, I certainly haven’t heard too many sighs of excitement when malasana is introduced into practice.
Just to bring you up to speed malasana is also known as the yogi’s squat. It’s an easy pose to get into. Start with your feet a bit wider than hips width apart. Toes should point out towards the corners of your mat. Then you just slowly lower your hips down as low as you comfortably can while keeping your head up and your heart shining forward. Your heels may or may not lift a little. My favorite thing to do with my hands is to press them together in prayer and push my elbows into my knees to help spread them further apart. There’s a ton of different modifications and ways you can use props to help make this pose more accessible to you.
Squats are somewhat foreign in our western culture. In most of the rest of the world people squat constantly. They squat to cook, clean, socialize, eat, read and for all kinds of other things. We rarely squat outside of the gym or unless absolutely necessary. It’s really a shame because squatting is a very effective way to work all of the muscles of the lower body. Malasana easily activates and strengthens uddiyana bandha and mula bandha increasing core strength and lower back strength.
I have hip problems so I’m always surprised at how comfortable malasana is for me. I could squat forever. Okay, maybe not forever but at least for a good 15 long breaths. Outside of the studio I like to do basic breathing meditations in malasana. All poses have their own energetic qualities and according to Yoga Journal, malasana has a grounding quality that taps into apana vayu or downward flowing energy. This grounding property makes malasana a great pose for anytime you are feeling stressed.
In yoga there are five vayus. The vayus are the subdivision of prana (life force energy or breath). Each of the five vayus have different properties including the directions of the flow of breath (vayu translates to wind). Apana vayu is considered one of the most important. Its flow is downward and its energy is situated in the pelvic floor and lower abdomen. Apana vayu (with help from mula bandha) helps our bodies eliminate all physical toxic substances and helps our minds eliminate all emotional or psychic toxins.
Before I start a meditation session, I like to do a few sun salutations. I welcome ocean breath into my practice and I lengthen my breath to an inhale of about 4 or 5 and a longer exhale of about 6 or 7. I have a vocal performance background so lengthening my breath this long feels comfortable and natural for me. If you can’t breathe in and out that long don’t worry about it.
Once I’m feeling awake I slowly drop into malasana. I really focus on keeping my back straight and my shoulders rolled down my back. I keep my chest open and my heart shining forward. I lengthen my breath as long as possible, about 8 counts in and anywhere from 10 to 12 counts out. I usually stay like this anywhere from 5 to 10 breaths. I typically just focus on my breath and the feeling of my breath bringing energy throughout my body but also grounding me to the earth. I imagine breathing out all the negative crap in my body and mind. I will sometimes visualize the breath coming into my body and down through the earth as shiny and gold and the breath that is leaving my body as stormy and grey. I’ll take some time in a future blog to write about some meditation tips and tricks for those of you who are just getting started.
My body tends to let me know when it is time to stop, either I’ll start to notice some discomfort or sometimes my tummy will start rumbling (I wasn’t kidding about this being a detoxifying pose!). Other times I won’t be able to tame my monkey mind enough to take benefit from the meditation. I get out of malasana by tipping forward and slowly straightening my legs into a full forward fold. A few deep urdhava hastasana (sweeping arms overhead in mountain pose and then bringing them to prayer) and I am ready to go for the day.
Malasana really helps me find my center and grounds me to the earth. It brings me a sense of calm and reduces any stress I am feeling. I have always thought that the poses I like the least are the poses I need the most so if you dislike malasana squat it is probably the one you should be practicing the most! Don’t be afraid to use props or any other modifications to make it more accessible to you.