Blog Mental Health Yoga Yoga Squat Dos and Don’ts: Get The Most Out Of This Grounding Pose

Yoga Squat Dos and Don’ts: Get The Most Out Of This Grounding Pose

One of the essential principles in yoga is grounding. This refers to the process of connecting with the earth and finding stability (3). In simple terms, think of it like rooting yourself metaphysically into the ground, just as a tree does with its roots.

One of the best poses to achieve this sense of grounding is the Yoga Squat, also known as Malasana or Garland Pose.

Unlike other poses that may focus on flexibility or balance, the Yoga Squat is all about grounding and strength. It can be quite challenging for beginners, but with practice, it can become a vital part of your yoga practice.

Here’s what you need to know to do it safely and effectively.

What Is a Squat In Yoga Called?

In yoga, the squat pose is commonly referred to as “Malasana,” which translates to Garland Pose. The yoga squat pose name “Malasana” can be broken down into two parts in Sanskrit: “Mala,” meaning garland, and “Asana,” meaning pose or posture (4).

This name is reflective of the shape the body takes in this position, reminiscent of a garland—a string of flowers or beads, signifying a connection to nature and the earth.

The origins of Malasana, like many yoga poses, are intertwined with yoga’s spiritual and philosophical traditions.

Yoga itself dates back thousands of years, with references to yoga postures found in ancient texts like the Vedas and the Upanishads (1). These texts don’t specifically mention Malasana by name but elaborate on the importance of sitting and squatting positions for meditation and spiritual practices.

Malasana is often associated with grounding and a connection to the earth. The squatting position brings the practitioner closer to the ground, promoting a feeling of humility, stability, and balance. It’s a pose that encourages the practitioner to root themselves in the present moment, fostering a sense of inner calm and focus.

Furthermore, Malasana is linked to the Muladhara chakra, also known as the root chakra, which is located at the base of the spine (4).

This chakra is considered the foundation of the “energy body,” governing survival instincts and our sense of grounding and connection to our bodies and the physical world around us.

By practicing Malasana, it’s believed one can help balance this chakra, enhancing feelings of security, stability, and vitality.

While the physical benefits of Malasana, such as increased flexibility in the hips, ankles, and back, and improved digestion, are well-documented, the pose also holds deep spiritual significance. It’s a reminder to stay present, rooted in the earth, and connected to ourselves.

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Yoga For Knee Strength: Strengthen Your Joint With These Poses

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What Is a Yoga Squat Good For?

Yoga squat benefits are physical, mental, and emotional. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  • Stretches the hips, ankles, and lower back: Malasana requires you to squat deeply with your torso slightly forward, allowing for a deep stretch in these areas.
  • Builds strength in the legs and core: Holding this pose will challenge your leg muscles and engage your core for stability.
  • Promotes pelvic floor health: Squatting is a natural position for childbirth and bowel movements. By practicing Malasana, we can strengthen and activate the muscles of our pelvic floor.
  • Improves digestion: This pose compresses the abdomen, providing a beneficial massage to the internal organs and helping with digestion.
  • Relieves tension in the groin and lower back: The deep squatting position can release tension and tightness in these areas, making it an excellent pose for those who sit for extended periods.
  • Enhances balance and coordination: Malasana requires a significant amount of balance and coordination, making it an excellent pose for improving these skills.
  • Provides relief from menstrual discomfort: The deep squat position can help ease menstrual cramps and discomfort.
  • Ease of labor and childbirth: Practicing Malasana during pregnancy can help prepare the body for labor and delivery by strengthening the legs, opening up the hips, and creating space in the pelvic area.
  • Calms the mind and relieves stress: The grounding nature of Malasana can help bring a sense of calm and peace to the mind, reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Promotes inner balance and focus: Holding this pose requires concentration and focus, which can help cultivate a sense of balance and mindfulness.
  • Encourages a sense of grounding: By connecting to the earth, Malasana can promote feelings of stability, balance, and calmness.
  • Balances the root chakra: As mentioned earlier, Malasana is associated with the Muladhara chakra and can help balance this energy center for overall well-being.

yoga squat  

We must emphasize that to get the full benefits of this pose, you have to practice with intention.

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You’ve probably seen Indian women effortlessly sitting in a squat position throughout the day. They seemingly do it without thinking, perhaps because they’ve been doing it since childhood.

Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle has made sitting in a squat challenging for many people. We sit on chairs, couches, and other furniture that don’t require us to squat. As a result, our hip flexors and glute muscles get tight and weak, making it challenging to perform this pose correctly.

For this practice to benefit both body and mind, an intentional approach is a must.

A mindful and intentional Malasana practice will look different from one person to another. But the idea is to honor your body and its capabilities while fostering a sense of grounding, calmness, and presence.

This means, adjusting your body alignment, taking deep breaths while holding the pose, and focusing on your connection with the earth beneath you.

Bring your mind to the present moment, and allow yourself to feel rooted in the earth, connected to your body, and centered in the here and now.

Read more: Japanese Yoga: A Deep Dive Into Mindful Movements

How to Do Malasana (Garland Pose)

To practice Malasana safely and effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Begin standing at the top of your mat with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly bend your knees and lower into a squat position, keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  3. Your heels may lift off the mat slightly, and that’s okay. If you’re unable to bring your heels down completely, place a folded blanket or yoga block under them for support.
  4. Bring your hands together in prayer position at your heart center.
  5. Use your elbows to gently press against the inside of your knees, opening up the hips.
  6. Draw your tailbone down towards the ground to engage the core and take deep breaths in this position.
  7. Hold for a few breaths or longer if comfortable, then slowly release and come back to standing.
  8. Repeat as desired, focusing on proper alignment and mindful breathing.

Yoga Squat Variations and Modifications

If you have any knee or ankle injuries, it’s best to avoid this pose. However, here are some modifications that can help make Malasana more accessible for those with limited mobility:

  • Place a yoga block or folded blanket under your heels for support.
  • Stand in front of a wall and use it as support by placing your hands on it while squatting.
  • Use a chair for support by holding onto the backrest while squatting.
  • If you’re unable to bring your feet together, keep them hip-width apart and focus on deepening the squat instead.
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To prepare your body to perform Malasana, try these exercises:

  • Start in a seated position and bring your feet together, knees bent to the side in a butterfly pose. Gradually lean forward into a squat position.
  • Begin standing with your feet wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes outwards at an angle. Gently lower into a squat while keeping your heels firmly planted on the ground.
  • Use a yoga strap or towel to support your body weight as you lower into a squat.

In our Squats for Glutes guide, we cover various squat variations and modifications that can help improve your overall strength.

Some yoga squat progressions to deepen your practice include:

  • Crow pose (Bakasana): This arm balance incorporates Malasana into the pose, requiring both strength and flexibility.
  • Garland Pose with a Twist: From Malasana, bring one hand down to the mat and rotate your upper body towards the opposite side, opening up through the chest and shoulders.
  • Deep Squat with a Forward Fold: From Malasana, bring your hands to the ground and slowly straighten your legs while keeping your feet firmly planted. This pose provides a deeper stretch for the hamstrings.

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How Is Yogi Squat Different From Regular Squat?

The traditional squat used in weightlifting and other exercise routines is different from the yoga squat.

While both poses require bending at the knees and hips, a regular squat focuses on building strength in the legs and lower body, while a yoga squat emphasizes grounding and stretching (5).

Here are some key differences between the two:

  • Alignment: In a regular squat, your feet are hip-width apart, and your toes may be pointed slightly outward. In a yoga squat, your feet are wider than hip-width apart, and your toes are pointing straight ahead or slightly angled outwards.
  • Depth: A regular squat often requires you to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, while in a yoga squat, you aim to bring your buttocks as close to the ground as possible.
  • Focus: In a routine squat you may focus on keeping your chest up and engaging your core while pushing through your heels. In a yoga squat, the emphasis is on grounding through the feet and bringing your body close to the earth.
  • Breath: The breathing in a regular squat is fluid with an inhale when you lower your body and an exhale when you come back up. In a yoga squat, the emphasis is on deep belly breathing to help open up the hips and release tension.
  • Intention: A regular gym squat is often used for building strength, while a yoga squat focuses on grounding and connection to oneself and the earth.
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Both poses offer their unique benefits, and incorporating both into your routine can provide a well-rounded practice for the body and mind. 

yoga squat  

Can Everyone Do a Yoga Squat?

Malasana or Garland Pose, is a pose that not everyone may find accessible immediately, due to various physical constraints.

Some of these factors include:

  • Tight Achilles tendons, which can limit the ability to keep the heels down and affect balance and depth in the squat.
  • The shape of the bones, particularly in the hips, can also play a significant role in how deep one can go into a squat. Variations in bone structure can lead to differences in range of motion and comfort level in the squat position.
  • Lack of mobility or flexibility in the ankles, hips, and knees can make it challenging to perform a deep yoga squat. This pose requires a significant amount of mobility in these areas.
  • Strength or conditioning might also be a factor, as holding the body in a squat position requires strength in the legs and core to maintain balance and alignment.

However, this doesn’t mean that those who currently struggle with the pose can’t work toward achieving it.

Through consistent practice that includes mobility exercises for the ankles, hips, and knees, gradually increasing flexibility, and building strength, individuals can improve their ability to perform a yoga squat over time.

It’s also beneficial to start with modifications or use props, like blocks under the heels, to make the pose more accessible while working on increasing mobility and flexibility.

If you have any of the following conditions or concerns, please consult a healthcare professional before attempting this pose:

  • Knee, hip, or ankle injuries
  • Recent surgery in the lower body area
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Pregnancy (always consult your doctor before practicing yoga during pregnancy)
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Read more: Yoga for Moms Who Need a Break: A Simple Guide

Dos and Don’ts of Practicing Malasana

Like any yoga pose, it’s essential to practice Malasana safely to avoid injury and get the most out of the posture. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

DOs:

  • Warm-up before attempting the pose: To avoid straining your muscles, make sure to warm up your body with some gentle stretching before practicing Malasana.
  • Listen to your body: If you feel any pain or discomfort, gently come out of the pose. Remember that each one is different, and it’s essential to honor your limitations.
  • Maintain a straight spine: Keep your back as straight as possible while in the squat position to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your spine.
  • Use props if needed: If you find it challenging to get into the full pose, use props such as blocks, blankets, or a wall for support and stability.
  • Breathe deeply and evenly: As with any yoga practice, remember to focus on your breath. Deep, even breathing can help you relax (2) and find balance.

DON’Ts:

  • Force yourself into the pose: Avoid pushing yourself too far or forcing your body into a full squat if it doesn’t feel comfortable. Always listen to your body’s signals.
  • Collapse your chest or round your back: Keep your chest open and shoulders relaxed while in Malasana to avoid rounding your back.
  • Hold your breath: Remember to continue deep, even breathing while in the pose. Holding your breath can create tension and make it harder to find balance.
  • Practice on a full stomach: Avoid practicing Malasana after eating or with a full stomach as this can cause discomfort and make it more challenging to hold the pose.

FAQs

  • Why Can’t I Do a Yogi Squat?

You may struggle with Malasana because of physical limitations such as tightness or lack of mobility in the ankles, hips, and knees. This could also be due to differences in bone structure or a lack of strength and conditioning.

Check out these Stretches for Squats that can help improve your ability to perform a yoga squat over time.

  • How Long Do You Hold a Yogi Squat?

Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, gradually increasing your time in the squat as your mobility and strength improve.

  • How Long Should We Do Malasana?

There’s no set time to hold Malasana, and it’s best to listen to your body. Aim for at least 30 seconds and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable in the pose.

  • Why Is Malasana So Hard for Me?

Malasana requires a significant amount of mobility, flexibility, and strength in the ankles, hips, and knees. If you struggle with any of these areas, you may find it challenging to perform the pose comfortably.

The Bottom Line

Malasana, also known as Garland Pose, is an essential and beneficial pose in the practice of yoga. It offers physical benefits such as increased flexibility and improved digestion, while promoting mental and emotional well-being through grounding, balance, and focus. 

By practicing Malasana with intention and mindfulness, we reap its full benefits and incorporate it into our daily lives for a healthier mind and body. Remember to always listen to your body and modify the pose as needed to ensure a safe and effective practice.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Beyond the Mat: Exploring the Potential Clinical Benefits of Yoga on Epigenetics and Gene Expression: A Narrative Review of the Current Scientific Evidence (2023, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Integrative and lifestyle medicine strategies should include Earthing (grounding): Review of research evidence and clinical observations (2020, sciencedirect.com)
  4. Malasana (Garland Pose or Squat) (n.d., yogajournal.com)
  5. The Squat: Muscles Worked, Form, Variations, and More (2022, issaonline.com)