Malasana Modifications: Unlock Hip Flexibility & Strength With Yogi Squats

Do you spend long hours sitting at a desk or driving? If so, Malasana is the yoga pose you didn't know you needed. As a registered yoga instructor, I can say that this is one of the hardest yoga poses for many people (don’t worry, there are many malasana modifications available). 

This hip-opening posture is one of the best asanas for relieving tension and tightness in the lower body, helping to undo the damage of a sedentary lifestyle. 

It is surprising to many to learn that the squat was once a normal resting position and still is in parts of the world, especially in Asian countries.

But even in Western countries, it is common to see children sitting in a squat position still. However, as we get older, we favor the chair and couch, which causes detrimental effects on our mobility. 

Thankfully, practicing the yogic squat can counteract the tightness and tension caused by the unnatural position of sitting on a chair. Read on to learn how to practice garland pose safely and the many malasana modifications available. 


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Malasana definition + Sanskrit word 

Malasana, also called yoga squat, is a deep squat pose practiced to open the hips and groin while strengthening the lower legs. 

The Sanskrit word Malasana translates to Garland Pose; Mala = garland, Asana = pose. Mala can also mean ‘impurity' or ‘excrement,' which makes sense as it is a typical elimination posture in the East (if you've ever visited Asia, you'll know squatting toilets are the norm in many places).

How to pronounce malasana

Malasana is pronounced as a four-syllable word like MA-laa-sa-na. Note that you should pronounce mala as MA-LA, not MAR-LA. Moreover, the “sa” part should be short, not long or emphasized like “sar.”

10 benefits of malasana

10 benefits of Malasana 1. Stretches and opens the hips, inner thighs, and groin 2. Relieves lower back pain 3. Strengthens the ankle, feet, and calf muscles 4. Opens the chest 5. Improves balance and posture as it promotes a straight spine and engages the core muscles 6. Stimulates the root and sacral chakras

The main benefits of malasana are to release tension and tightness in the lower body (particularly the hips and groin) and improve mobility in this region. Studies have also found that squatting increases muscle activity, which helps to burn fat.

10 benefits of yogi squat

  1. Stretches and opens the hips, inner thighs, and groin
  2. Relieves lower back pain
  3. Strengthens the ankle, feet, and calf muscles
  4. Opens the chest
  5. Improves balance and posture as it promotes a straight spine and engages the core muscles
  6. Stimulates the root and sacral chakras
  7. Promotes healthy digestion and elimination
  8. Provides grounding and calming energy
  9. Strengthens the pelvic floor muscles to encourage a better birthing process
  10. Improves your yogic posture

How to perform malasana in 6 steps

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to practice the malasana garland pose in 6 steps. 

  1. Stand at the top of your mat in mountain pose. Place your feet hip distance apart; the toes can point slightly out. 
  2. Keeping your spine straight, bend your knees and push your butt back as you lower it towards the floor. Keep your feet flat on the mat; if the heels lift, rise slightly.
  3. Bring your hands into a prayer position at the heart center. Place the elbows inside the knees and bring your thumbs to your chest.
  4. Keep your chest lifted as you hold Anjali Mudra. If you feel like you're falling forward, bring your arms forward and place your fingers on the mat. 
  5. As you hold for five breaths, gently press the elbows against the inner knees, keep your butt close to the floor and your shoulders relaxed.
  6. To come out, straighten the legs into a standing forward fold.

Who should use a malasana modification? 

Because of modern life, many of us have tight hips, hamstrings, and lower backs. This tension can make natural positions like squat pose very challenging. 

Moreover, if you are new to yoga or any movement practice, you will likely find the yoga squat difficult initially. Luckily though, there are many ways you can modify malasana to make it more accessible while you improve your mobility. 

Of course, not all modifications are to make a yoga pose easier. There are several modifications for the garland pose that can make the pose more challenging, ideal for advanced yogis who have mastered the traditional yogi squat.

3 beginner malasana modifications 

Woman performing malasana modification by sitting on a yoga block.
  1. Sit on a block – One of the most common modifications I give for the yogi's squat is to sit on a block or two. This gives you more support and stability, allowing your muscles to stretch gently, not forcefully.
  2. Place a prop under your heels – If your heels lift whenever you sink your hips down, place a rolled-up mat or blanket underneath them to protect the muscles in the feet and ankles. 
  3. Place a blanket in the knee joint – You can also put a folded blanket behind the knee, separating the calf and inner thigh. This can make the pose more comfortable and allow you to go deeper, enhancing lymph compression and blood circulation.

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3 advanced malasana modifications 

Woman performing full bind Malasana or Garland yoga pose.
  1. Revolved malasana with one arm up – This twisted variation stimulates digestion, increases metabolism and challenges your balance as it requires you to look up. This is the first variation I offer to my students who want to take this pose a little further. 
  2. Malasana with half bind – The next step is to bring the top arm behind the lower back into a half bind position. This opens the shoulder and stretches the chest deeper.
  3. Malasana with full bind – If you master these two variations, you can reach the lower arm behind your low back and try to bind the hands. This gives the deepest twist and shoulder opening. You can also do this variation using a strap.

Contraindications for malasana

You should avoid practicing the yoga squat if you have any recent injury or surgery to your knees, ankles, hips, pelvis, or lower spine. Be extra cautious with knee injuries, as practicing the yogi squat can cause swelling in this joint. If you are unsure whether to practice garland pose, consult your medical provider. 

When practicing the yogi squat, avoid putting all your weight on your toes or the balls of your feet. Instead, spread the weight evenly between all four corners. 

Finally, one of the most common mistakes is to come into the pose too quickly or forcefully, which can cause injury. Listen to your body and respect the range of motion you have rather than push yourself into the full expression of the pose. 

Takeaway on malasana modifications

No matter how tight your hips are or how much low back tension you have, these malasana modifications make this pose accessible and beneficial for all. 

Still, when it comes to flexibility, consistent practice is a must. I've seen many students gain significantly more mobility in their hips and eliminate chronic low back pain by practicing this pose daily. So give it a go and see for yourself!

Other articles you might enjoy for further asana understanding: How to do Parsva Balasana, top yoga poses for strong abs, yoga stretches for legs for toned legs, and the yoga poses for strong arms that you should be doing.

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Gemma
Gemma

Gemma is a Certified Yoga Teacher of over 5 years. Aside from being a CYT 200, Gemma is also certified in Yin and Yoga Nidra. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise of yoga and wellness through words, guiding others along the path of personal and spiritual development. She is in LOVE with everything related to personal-growth and psychology. Aside from helping others find more peace and stillness, Gemma runs a kitten rescue project in Thailand, where she is currently residing. Gemma can be reached at gemmac@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Gemma on LinkedIn.

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