Countering Sitting #1 - Malasana
All people talk about is how bad siting is for you. Well I sit a lot - I spend 12 hours+ a day sitting at a desk. And no matter how much I try to heed my ergonomic tips (walk around every hour, sit up straight, use my footrest…), I can’t help but falter in my posture.
The result? Relentlessly tight hamstrings, tension in my shoulders, and compression in my lower back.
Yoga is my way to counteract the effects of sitting and to train myself to take what I’ve learned in yoga off the mat, and into the work place. Pose after pose, there are so many ways that yoga teaches us to align our body optimally by lengthening the lumbar spine, strengthening the core, and relaxing the shoulders.
Over the next few posts, I’ll highlight a few simple poses that help to counteract the effects of sitting. Try practicing these poses for a few minutes each day to work the entire body, from the core to the spine to the hamstrings and calves. You don’t need much space or even a yoga mat to try them out before or after work.
Malasana or “garland pose” is a hip and groin opener. In many cultures around the world, squatting is a regular part of life, but in Western culture, we are used to sitting in chairs and at desks.
Feeling grounded - Malasana brings us closer to the earth, and with practice and time, it can create a sense of stillness and calmness. It also creates a deeper connection with our root chakra, which represents our most basic needs.
Lengthening your lower back - Sitting at a desk puts your spine at a 90 degree angle, which puts pressure on our lower back. Malasana creates a long diagonal line on our spine and lengthens our lower back. It also helps reduce lower back pain by stretching the hip flexors (see below).
Opening your hips - The more you sit, the tighter your hip flexors become. Our hip flexors (psoas) create a pull on the lower back when they are tight. By stretching and lengthening the psoas, we can reduce this pull.
Strengthening the core - Malasana can help to tone the core. Practice by pulling your lower belly in towards your spine and using it to support . A stronger core is critical to building better posture.
How to practice
Start by standing in tadasana, mountain pose, with your feet hips width distance and your arms by your sides, palms facing out.
Step your feet out wider (at least shoulder width) and angle your toes diagonally. The wider you bring your feet, the more space you create in the squat.
Inhale, your hands come to a prayer at heart center. Exhale, squat down into malasana. If you can keep your heels on the ground,
Lengthen your lower back and draw your shoulders blades down your back to remove any rounding in your spine. Press your elbows into your inner thighs to open your hips. Use this pressure of arms pressing into legs and legs pressing into arms to lift your chest and broaden across your shoulder blades.
How to modify
If your heels can’t touch the ground or you can’t squat, you can modify the pose:
Place a rolled up blanket under your heels
Try to practicing the squat against the wall - no need to go down far
Be patient with yourself - malasana requires mobility in your spine, hips, and ankles. Strengthening your pose will come with regular practice.
This pose should be avoided if you have knee injuries or lower back injuries.