I secretly call Malasana the pose that shouldn’t really be a pose at all, as it is rather a forgotten instinctual position in our body; a bit like tonsils which we now take out as if they have no purpose.
Invoke Your Inner Child
I remember when my kids were little, watching them play for hours in “malasana pose”. Whether it was squatting next to the noisy traffic of a Hot Wheels race track or dressing those annoyingly small Polly Pockets, this position is the unconscious favorite for small kids. While trying to match my kids minute for minute in a playful squat pose, I took a full day training with Tias Little where we worked every angle on squat (and sore hips for 3 days as I remember). I left that workshop determined to figure out at what age and why we as humans stop squatting freely like it is an unconditionally fun gift to our anatomy. The “when” we stop was about the sweet age of 6 from my experiment, but please feel free to correct me if you have kids and are investigating. And the “why” I just chalked up to becoming “civilized” little humans who use toilets and chairs.
Some of the incredible benefits of Malasana pose:
- opens and strengthens our feelers for the earth – the feet and ankles
- improves balance
- relieves lower back pain
- increases hip mobility
- stretches adductors and groin area in inner thighs for improved sexual function
- relieves menstrual discomfort (I will personally vouch for this one)
- preparatory position for child birth,
- stimulates digestion and the downward energy of Apana Vayu (your own built in Squatty Potty!)
- healing for pelvic floor dysfunction
- benefits the relationship between diaphragm, transverses abdominis and pelvic floor for improved respiration and deep core function
- and it SHOULD BE grounding and calming if you find the appropriate version for your body
Contraindications and Limitations
Here is the “but” of the “should be” to all of those benefits, (and also why I use this posture as an assessment for new students). If you have knee or hip pain, most versions of the pose are contraindicated. Other issues that may have you gritting your teeth: limited dorsiflexion in the ankles, tight Achilles tendon and calf (look past the superficial gastroc the deep soleus muscle), tight hamstrings or piriformis (a cause of sciatic pain, which this pose can also help alleviate), tight adductors (inner thighs), or tight hip flexors. Did you notice how many times I wrote the word “tight”?
Lets talk weak. If your core or any of the team gluteus muscles (major in your bum, medius and minimus in the outer hip) are weak it will be difficult to maintain this pose and breathe at the same time. If the erector spinae muscles are not strong enough, it is a fight against gravity to keep the spine in axial extension.
So You Walk Into A Yoga Class, and the Teacher Immediately Puts You Into a Squat While Smiling…
In my opinion, any yoga pose that can be used as a physical assessment tool does so because it is complicated and uncomfortable for the majority of students. FYI, two of the other poses I use are child’s pose and downward dog – also commonly approached in a way that students are lead to think they should be easy and comfortable. Though the more advanced variations of Malasana pose are not accessible to many students, particularity for any amount of time, this video may help you to find a version that is comfortable for your body. More importantly, in any of its variations, Malasana is a functional and extremely beneficial posture (refer to list of benefits above) that you can start from where you are and expand with practice.
If you are looking for just the feel good of Malasana pose, skip to the end of the practice where we do the restorative version with feet on the wall to the accompaniment of Michael’s music composition. Listen, ground into the Apana energy and delight in Michael playing keyboard with Tanner the dog on his lap! And by all means, take the Squatty Potty off your Christmas list!
Peace and Light,
YouTube Video Link: