How to do the Malasana Pose
- Begin standing in the middle of the mat in mountain pose (tadasana). Plant your feet hip distance apart and turn your toes outward
- Exhale. Squat down, keeping your heels planted on the mat. Spread your knees to the sides to make room for your torso between them.
- Inhale. Bring your palms together in salutation seal (anjali mudra) at heart center. Bring the points on your upper arm right above your elbows to the points just inside of your knees.
- Exhale. Press your arms against your knees to open your hips wider. Bend your torso forward slightly to engage your erector spinae and stretch your gluteal muscles.
- Inhale. Straighten and lengthen your spine to extend your back upward. Press the bottom corners of your shoulder blades toward your heart center to bring your shoulders down and back.
- Breath and hold the pose. As with a forward bend: extend the back with every inhale, deepen the stretch by pressing against the knees and folding forward with every exhale.
- Inhale. Release your arms from between your legs. Stand up, back into mountain pose.
Modifications and Props
Support your raised heels with a rolled blanket. If your hamstrings are tight and your heels lift off the mat in step two (above), roll up a blanket and place it under your heels to support them in the pose.
To protect your knees, prop your buttocks up with a block. If you feel strain in your knees while practicing garland pose, place a block behind you in step one (above). Sit on the block as you take the pose.
Twisted Garland Pose
This twisting variation of garland pose alternatively stretches and strengthens the erector spinae for back that is both flexible and strong. Instead of step three (above), inhale and reach your left arm around the front of your left leg and plant it on the mat. Reach your right arm straight up. Extend your back. Exhale. Twist to the right. Look up at your right palm. Breath and hold the pose. Exhale and come back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
Forward Folded Garland Pose
This forward folding variation of garland pose stretches the erector spinae and gluteal muscles for improved flexibility in the back. Instead of step three (above), inhale and reach both arms forward. Plant them on the mat in front of you. Exhale. Inhale and extend your back. Exhale and bend forward from the hips. Breath and hold the pose. As with any forward bend: extend the back with every inhale, fold further forward with every exhale.
Bound Garland Pose
This bound variation of garland pose opens the chest and stretches the arms as it deepens the pose’s forward fold. Instead of step three (above), inhale and reach both arms forward. Rest them on the mat in front of you. Extend your back. Exhale and bend forward from the hips. Work your arms forward until your knees are in your armpits. Reach your arms behind your back. If your fingers make contact, clasp them together. Breath and hold the pose. As with any forward bend: extend the back with every inhale, fold further forward with every exhale.
Squat and Rise Pose
Swami Satyananda Saraswati details this dynamic garland pose variation in one of his asana guides. In step two (above), instead of squatting down all the way, exhale and bend your knees so that you lower your buttocks just one foot toward the mat. Inhale and come back up. Exhale and, this time, lower down two feet. Inhale and come up. Continue in this way until you come into full garland pose. Breath and hold garland pose (step six). Inhale and come back to mountain pose.
Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon runs along the back of the lower leg. It is one of the muscles responsible for plantar (downward) flexion of the ankle and flexion of the knee. Because the foot is dorsi (upward) flexed in malasana pose, it stretches the Achilles tendon. If your heels do not touch the mat in this pose, it may be because your Achilles tendons are tight.
Hip rotator muscles. The hip rotator, or lateral rotator, muscle group includes six small muscles in the hip that control external rotation of the legs. Short hip rotator muscles contribute to poor pelvic alignment. In garland pose, both legs are externally rotated. This rotation, and the stretch to the hip rotators it provides, contributes to good pelvic alignment and improved range of motion for kicks, jumps, and splits.
Hip flexor muscles. The hip flexors are a large group of muscles located deep in the thighs, hips, and buttocks. They connect the leg, pelvis, and abdomen and allow you to lift your upper leg towards your body or bend your body over your upper leg. Sitting for long periods of time weakens the hip flexors, making it difficult to lift the upper legs and to bend over. In malasana pose, the hip flexors lengthen, particularly when you bend forward actively.
Gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscle group includes the three buttocks muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The gluteal muscles are some of the body’s strongest and are the primary movers of the hips and thighs. When bending forward in garland pose, the pose stretches the gluteus maximus.
Erector spinae muscles. The erector spinae is a bundle of muscles and tendons in the back that control extension and rotation. Because they are responsible for straightening the back, the strength of the erector spinae muscles is closely linked with posture. Bending forward in malasana pose stretches the erector spinae muscles in the lower back for better posture and a back less prone to pain and injury.
Abdominal muscles. The abdominals are located in the lower belly, between the ribs and the pelvis. They control the tilt of the pelvis and the curve of the lower spine. Pulling in the lower belly as you bend forward in malasana pose strengthens the abdominal muscles. For best results, don’t clench your rectus abdominus (your six pack) as you “suck in.” Instead, engage both your rectus abdominus and the obliques on either side of your stomach, drawing your entire belly in.
Triceps brachii. The triceps brachii is a large muscle on the back of the upper arm responsible for straightening the arm. Push exercises, like planks and push-ups, build tricep bulk. In both garland pose and twisted garland pose, the triceps strengthen as the arms push off each other in anjali mudra or off the mat in twist.
Want to try a more advanced yoga move? Check out the plow pose for beginners.
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