I have been perusing a few books to find new pose variations to inspire my personal yoga practice and to add to my teaching repertoire. A pose that I really enjoy having in my personal practice is Malasana, or Garland Pose. Sometimes this pose is referred to as the Yoga Squat (Upavesasana). I do not enjoy this pose because it is easy, rather, I think it is important to incorporate as it really challenges and strengthens my legs including my ankles, hips and it stretches out my lower back.
Mala is the Sanskrit word for garland or wreath. Asana is the Sanskrit for posture. Therefore Malasana is Garland Pose.
Anatomy of Garland
Malasana is a powerful stretch for the ankles, knees, hips and lower back. People who have had a serious knee injury or knee pain should not do this pose. This pose can be very challenging for beginners, especially for people in Western cultures where we do not squat as people in many other cultures around the world do on a daily basis.
Malasana is a great pose to add to any Vinyasa sequence and can also be used in a restorative or Yin sequence. BKS Iyengar states it is a powerful pose for toning the abdominal organs and relieving backaches. Malasana is also a pose that women may use to relieve discomfort due to menstrual cramps and help prepare for childbirth. It is also a great pose for strengthening alignment in Crow Pose.
How to get into Garland
Step your feet hip distance apart or wider and turn your toes out to about 45 degrees. Bend your knees and gently lower your hips as low as is comfortable. You may choose to step your feet farther apart initially, and then once your hips are lowered, slowly step your feet closer together. Lean your torso forward to center your weight. Bring the palms of your hands together at your heart (prayer position or Anjali Mudra) and gently press your elbows into your knees to open up your hips. Keep your gaze forward or center your drishti at your nose.
Due to the deep nature of this pose, it is best to enter into it slowly, remain in in for at least 30 seconds and then exit carefully by straightening your knees and moving into a forward fold to stretch out the backs of your legs.
Variations of Garland
To lessen the severity of the pose, you may chose to leave your heels off of the ground or rest them on a folded blanket. You can spread your feet wider and lower your hips only halfway. Some people may benefit from just initially sitting down on a block in a squat position until they build strength in their legs to enter the pose fully. A good variation to lessen the intensity is to rest your hands on your knees and just focus on keeping your torso upright.
To intensify or deepen the pose, there are many options available. Stepping your feet closer together and bringing your feet parallel with each other are ways to begin to intensify this pose without adding any additional arm movements into the posture. Iyengar demonstrates the pose with his feet parallel and big toes touching. I find keeping my heels on the floor to be too difficult in Iyengar’s variation, so I balance on my toes and keep my heels touching (this is also known as Tip Toe Pose or Prapadasana).
To intensify the back stretch, you can stretch your arms forward and lay your palms flat on the floor and slowly work on lowering your torso forward. Or you can try Malasana II where you wrap your hands around the heel of your feet and lean your head forward to the floor.
A variation that I prefer is to add Eagle arms to this pose. Additionally, there are numerous arm binds one could attempt in this pose. Overall, this is a fun pose to play with and see where it can take you.
Here is a video showing a few Garland variations in a vinyasa flow:
- 2100 Asanas by Daniel Lacarda
- The Complete Guide To Yin Yoga by Bernie Sanders and Sarah Powers
- Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
Do you have a favorite Garland variation? Please share!