Malasana: Squat Pose or Garland Pose
A great stretch for ankles and the lower back, Malasana (mahl-AH-sana), which is also referred to as Squat or Garland pose, opens the groin and tones the belly. While comfortable for some, Malasana can be difficult for others. Appropriate adjustments and modifications can help students enjoy the benefits of this posture while strengthening and opening the muscles needed to practice Malasana and other postures.
Philosophy + Origin
There are many beautiful attempts to defend the translation of Malasana as “Garland Pose.” While mala most commonly refers to a garland or rosary, many students have a difficult time understanding how this imagery applies to the pose. Some teachers argue that the shape of the body depicts the bead on a mala, or perhaps the arms look like a mala or garland hanging from the neck. Other teachers will use the story of how this posture is traditionally taken when receiving the gift of a garland from a spiritual teacher. While all very poetic, there’s another lesser-known understanding of Malasana that makes more sense. The word mala can also be translated as excrement. Considering the digestive benefits of this posture, it makes a lot more sense.
- Place a rolled or folded blanket under the heels if they don’t reach the ground.
- Place a block under your hips to reduce pressure or discomfort in the knees.
- Add a twist or bind to intensify the stretch.
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Lower back injury
- Knee injury
When held for longer periods of time, Malasana is a great warm up. If your hips and lower back allow, try beginning your practice with Garland Pose and enjoy the opening and heat created from the posture.
- Begin in a low squat with your feet as close together as possible. If you can, keep your heels on the ground. Use a rolled or folded mat If your heels don’t comfortably touch the floor.
- Spread your thighs wider than your torso so you can lean forward and bring your torso between your thighs. Exhale to deepen into the posture by pressing your elbows against your inner knees or shins. Place palms together in prayer position and create resistance between the inner legs and the elbows.
- Lengthen the front of your torso as you squeeze your inner thighs towards each other. If you want to move deeper, take a twist or a bind. You can also reach back with your hands and hold onto or under your heels.
- Hold the posture for as long as is comfortable, a minimum of 30 seconds. When you’re ready to exit, use an inhale to stand up into Mountain pose, folding forward if you’d like to release the back in Forward Fold.
- Baddha Konasana
- Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Mala = garland, rosary
- Asana = pose
- Improves digestion
- Stimulates bowel movements
- Stretches groin, lower back, sacrum, hips
- Strengthens and stretches the ankles
- Tones the belly
- Stimulates and strengthens apana vayu
The grounding quality of Malasana makes it a great pose for learning how to stay rooted to overcome obstacles. The following mantra honors Ganesha, the elephant deity who removes obstacles in our lives. To practice, say or chant, “Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah,” which means, “I bow to the elephant-faced deity [Ganesh] who is capable of removing all obstacles. I pray for blessings and protection.”
MUDRA: Anjali Mudra
Bring your hands together at your heart center as a divine offering to yourself and your teachers.
Natarajasana: Lord of the Dance Pose
Natarajasana (not-ah-raj-AHS-anna) is a physically challenging, beautiful pose that requires flexibility in the spine, legs, and hips. To practice the pose, use a thoughtful sequence filled with plenty of preparatory poses in order to make sure your body – and mind – are adequately prepared. Regular practice will help develop strong mental fortitude and determined concentration.
Philosophy + Origin
A physical embodiment of King Nataraja, a form of the lord Shiva, lord of the dance pose (also referred to as king dancer pose) is a tribute to this powerful god of destruction. Embracing destruction and even death as part of the cycle of change and growth, this pose is a helpful reminder that no good can exist without evil, no birth without death.
In most depictions of King Nataraja, he is standing on one leg (hence the shape of the pose), gazing over the head of a small dwarf, whose presence represents ignorance. In this way, lord of the dance pose encourages our consciousness to elevate above ignorance, above the common thoughts and misunderstandings that cloud our view. The balance that comes from the pose awakens our understanding that clarity brings steadiness.