Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Improving Yoga Student Safety: Supported Malasana

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Over the past several decades, the practice of Yoga has grown exponentially! It is now possible to find Yoga classes in community centers, hospitals, prisons, health clubs, universities, and even at local homeless shelters. There is a wide range of Yoga classes offered to many different groups of students around the country. If you find yourself teaching classes to a diverse group of students, learning how to gently and effectively encourage your students to use props and modify challenging poses, will allow your students to practice more advanced Yoga postures with ease and safety.

If you are a Yoga teacher, improving student safety is most likely one of your top priorities when you are teaching a class. This is especially true if you are a new Yoga teacher. As you gain more experience, you'll be able to more easily spot students who are especially prone to injury, and you'll be able to identify students who may need special modifications and support in the postures quickly. As your teaching skills deepen, you will become more comfortable with the appropriate, strategic use of props and modifications, which will help your students to practice challenging Yoga poses in a safe and effective manner.

* Malasana or Garland Pose

Malasana, or Garland Pose, is a Yoga posture, which can be quite challenging for many beginning students. Correctly practicing this Yogic squat can also be very challenging for experienced students who have tight Achilles tendons, calves, hamstrings, and hips. With the appropriate usage of modifications and supportive props, many of these students will be able to safely and comfortably benefit from the practice of Garland Pose. The benefits of Garland Pose include elongating and stretching the Achilles tendons, upper back, hamstrings, shoulders, and neck. This posture also helps to increase flexibility and release tension throughout the groin muscles and hips. 

Additionally, practicing Malasana tones the abdominal muscles and helps to encourage a better sense of balance. This Yogic squatting pose is also particularly good for increasing the digestive fire. The digestive organs are stimulated as the energy of apana vayu flows downward. This downward flowing of energy promotes a feeling of being grounded and calm, as well as optimal digestive activity. Before leading your students through the practice of Malasana, make sure that you have enough wedges, rolled blankets or Yoga bolsters available for the students who may need props, in order to practice this posture safely and effectively. When you are ready to lead your students through the practice of Garland Pose, ask them to come to Mountain Pose at the front of their Yoga mats. 

With an exhale, instruct your students to come to a squatting position on their mats with their feet comfortably far apart and parallel to each other. Have your students place their hands in Prayer Position, as they gently apply pressure against the inside of their thighs. The pressure of their upper arms against their thighs will increase the stretch throughout their inner thighs, hips, shoulders, and neck muscles. For those Yoga students who need to practice the modified version of Garland Pose, have them place a rolled blanket or a foam wedge underneath their heels, if their Achilles tendons are particularly tight today.

If some of your students experience mild knee discomfort in this posture, have them sit on a bolster for support, in order to relieve undue pressure on the knees. If any of your students are recovering from a serious knee injury, it is advisable to have them practice Happy Baby Pose, instead of Garland pose. Instruct your students to hold Garland Pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then release the posture and move gently and mindfully into Standing Forward Fold, before coming back to Mountain Pose at the top of their Yoga mats.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: 


parvezbdjsr said...

Practicing Malasana tones the abdominal muscles and helps to encourage a better sense of balance. Thanks for good posting!

Mary Wilson said...

Garland Pose helps to increase flexibility and release tension throughout the groin muscles and hips. Thanks for this good article.