Hip flexibility is a common issue for many people today. Sitting for long periods can shorten and tighten the inner thighs, groin, and hip flexors — which can cause poor posture and back pain. Garland Pose is a hip-opening yoga posture that helps to lengthen and open the hips, creating more mobility for all of your daily activities.
The Sanskrit name for this pose, "Malasana" (mah-LAHS-uh-nuh) comes from two words:
- "Mala" — meaning "garland"
- "Asana" — meaning "pose"
Sometimes also called, "Wide Squat," Malasana is the preparatory position for the arm balance, "Crow Pose" (Bakasana). Some yoga teachers also refer to Malasana as "Frog Pose," but that is not to be confused with the hip-opening pose performed on the knees, which is also called "Frog Pose."
Garlands for Inner Peace
In India, garlands of flowers or beads are often used as ritual offerings and altar decoration. Mala beads, also known as prayer beads, are traditionally used to assist with meditation. Hip-opening yoga poses like Malasana are traditionally used to help prepare the body for long periods of seated meditation. Practicing Malasana can help you connect with ancient rituals of yoga, which can lead you deeper into your own meditation practice.
Benefits of Garland Pose
Malasana stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles, and torso. It tones the abdominal muscles and improves the function of the colon to help with elimination. This pose also increases circulation and blood flow in the pelvis, which can help regulate sexual energy. Malasana improves balance, concentration, and focus. Malasana is particularly beneficial for women who are pregnant, as it can later aid in childbirth.
Equanimity and peace in all conditions, in all parts of the being, is the first foundation of the yogic status. Peace is the first condition, without which nothing else can be stable.
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic low back or knee injury. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin by standing at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), with your arms at your sides. Step your feet about as wide as your mat.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips, coming into a squat. Separate your thighs so they are slightly wider than your torso, but keep your feet as close together as possible. If your heels lift, support them with a folded mat or blanket.
- Drop your torso slightly forward and bring your upper arms to the inside of your knees. Press your elbows along the inside of your knees and bring your palms together in prayer position (Anjali Mudra). Work toward bringing your hands to your heart center and your forearms parallel to the floor.
- Lift and lengthen your torso, keeping your spine straight and shoulders relaxed. Shift your weight slightly into your heels.
- Hold for five breaths. To release, bring your fingertips to the floor. Then, slowly straighten your legs and come into Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana).
Modifications & Variations
Garland Pose can provide a deep stretch to your hips and groin! If you’d like to deepen or lighten the pose, try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- If your heels don't come to the floor, place a folded, firm blanket or rolled yoga mat underneath them.
- Experienced students may step their feet completely together.
Women who are pregnant and those who need help balancing have a few options:
- Rest both hands on the back of a chair.
- Rest one hand along a wall to the side of the body.
- Do the pose with your back against a wall.
More experienced students can drape the torso between the legs:
- Reach both arms forward, then bend the elbows and bring the shins into the armpits.
- Extend the arms behind your body and clasp the heels.
- Drop the forehead to the mat.
Practicing Garland Pose can be a great way to challenge your balance and loosen tight hips. It might be difficult at first, but with practice, your muscles will lengthen and you will be able to squat. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Avoid jerking, pulling, pushing, or forcing any movement in this pose. Let your movements be slow and smooth.
- Do not bounce your hips up and down. Doing so can overstrain your knees and hip flexors.
- Keep shifting your weight back into your heels.
- Lengthen the front of your torso and keep your spine long, not rounded.
Squat to Release
Tight hips can throw your whole body out of whack, but with regular stretching, they will loosen and become more flexible! Practice hip-opening yoga poses like Malasana every day, and be sure to use whatever variations and modifications you need to feel secure. With time, your entire body's range of motion will improve.