Arm Garland Pose – Malasana
Every now and then heavily pregnant ladies come to our classes wanting to ease the pressure in their backs. This squatting pose helps relieve pressure in the lower back and is also great for opening the hips for an easier birth.
Although usually confined to the gyms in the western countries, throughout the Asian countries you will see people squatting while they are cooking, waiting for a bus or even reading. It is suggested that this is why there is less incidence of hip replacements in the eastern countries where many people are more familiar with squatting than with sitting in chairs. Squatting opens up the hips, elongates the spine, tones the legs and strengthens the lower back and core.
Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning garland or circle. This pose is basically a wide leg squat.
Surprisingly a young man once told me he did this yoga pose at the ‘Big Day Out’! (For those unfamiliar with this Aussie icon, Big Day Out is about 8 hours of pumping out live, loud music to hugely squashed crowds of mostly young hyped up people with lots of standing and lots of dancing.) Squatting is a great way to relieve tired backs and legs, much needed after being caught up in the mosh pit. The full pose will also give us a gentle stretch across the upper chest and front shoulders.
As with any pose we need to move into it slowly with caution, making sure we don’t feel any discomfort or pain Squatting pose has a few variations and adaptations so you might be able to adapt it to suit your condition.
Let’s try it:
- Sit with your legs out in front hip distance apart and bend your knees, roll forward onto your feet into a squat. Have your legs wide enough that they are hugging each side of your torso and you can fit your elbows between your legs.
- Reach your arms up beside your ears and lengthen your sternum upwards.
- Keep that length in your body as you join the palms in Namaste at your chest, spreading your legs with your elbows.
- Stay for as long as comfortable and then return to sitting and shake out your legs.
If your calves are tight, roll up a towel as a wedge to rest your heels on.
If you are pregnant and close to delivery you might be better to sit on a firm cushion or yoga block.
If your knees are uncomfortable try a rolled facecloth in the knee joint or don’t come down so low.
As pictured above, Malasana can also be a gentle twist. Reach the left hand to the floor or a block while keeping the same length in the torso, don’t let the spine round as you slowly turn the chest to the right and either raise the right hand or place it on your lower back. If your neck is okay you can turn your head to look up. Repeat on the other side.
Vrndavan dasi (Margaret) is ‘senior’ yoga teacher at ASMY who over the years has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about and appreciation for all aspects of yoga.