YOGA POSE OF THE MONTH: MALASANA
The yoga pose of the month for December is one that directly improves our ability to surf better. After all, that is exactly why many of us get into yoga. We want to become stronger, fitter and more flexible so that we can better enjoy our hobbies and sports and perform at a higher level.
Although this pose is one that can help you surf better, yoga is intended to do something far more important, like helping us live better. Whether you’ve been practicing yoga for years or are just getting into it to help improve your cutback, try to open your mind to the holistic benefit that’s achieved through consistent practice. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that yoga doesn’t just change how you surf but also how you approach life in general.
Malasana (also known as garland pose or squat pose) is sort of a funny-looking asana, but it’s a powerful one that has the potential to benefit you in many ways. Not only is malasana a grounding pose that helps you to relax, but also it has many physical benefits, such as stretching the hips, groin, and low back, improving digestion and metabolism, warming up your knees and ankles, and improving your general posture.
Squatting is something that we naturally do when we are young, but often lose the ability to do properly as we get older and out of shape. Relearning this posture helps us regain the balance and flexibility that we may have lost from years spent sitting in offices or stuck in traffic. Malasana is a good pre-surf pose. It activates our core muscles and prepares us for the sudden shift into a controlled squat that we make each time we stand up on a wave. As with all yoga asanas, it’s ideal to perform malasana on an empty stomach and bowels. Before paddling out, find a flat hard bit of ground and start standing. Take your feet a little wider than hips width to provide a solid foundation and angle your toes slightly out. Then, simply squat down. A couple of fine-tuning points:
- Keep your knees happy by making sure that your knees are pointed in the same direction as your toes.
- Don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the ground. This may change over time as you practice more. If it doesn’t, it’s not something to worry about.
- Bring your hands into prayer pose and use your elbows to press against your inner thighs. This provides a little leverage to help you lift your torso and thereby deepen the stretch.
Another variation, that feels pretty darn good on your back, is to stay in this squat position, take a ragdoll shape with the arms by grabbing opposite elbows and letting your head hang heavy. The more you tuck your chin in toward your chest, the more you’ll feel a stretch in the muscles along the length of your spine. Hold the pose for a few rounds of breath. To come out of the posture, release your hands to the ground and lift your hips up for a standing forward fold, which feels pretty good as a counter movement. Repeat this pose a few times, focusing on your breath and really allowing your body to react to the squat. Once your muscles are warmed up and awake, then grab your board and get out there!
Kilty Inafuku teaches yoga classes on the North Shore at the North Shore Yoga Co-Op and Paumalu Yoga, in Honolulu at Power Yoga Hawaii Piikoi and in Kailua at Yoga by the Sea. She also hosts, and guest teaches at various yoga events on the island and leads retreats both in Hawaii and overseas. For more information visit www.kiltyyoga.com.
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