If there’s one yoga pose that’s almost ubiquitous with pregnancy yoga or prenatal yoga, it’s Malasana (also known as Garland Pose or a yoga squat). Squats during pregnancy (and afterward, too!) make sense. The pose is kind of amazing at stretching the groin area, opening the hips, and starting to make room down there for baby to make his grand exit.
But the longer I teach prenatal yoga and postnatal yoga, and the more I work with moms at all phases and seasons of motherhood, the more I realize that flexibility isn’t the only thing that we need.
So, while I do include some version of a squat in nearly every prenatal yoga class I teach here in Charleston SC, I have also been including versions of the pose that help mamas strengthen their inner thighs and outer hips, too.
These are two areas that are often pretty weak in a lot of yoga students because we stretch them often, but rarely work to help them get stronger. (I’m raising my hand over here!)
The traditional Malasana is a great pose, but why not change things up a bit and get even more benefits from the posture?
4 Variations of Squats During Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Beyond
How To Practice a Traditional Yoga Squat during Pregnancy and Postpartum
Stand with your feet a bit wider than your hips with your toes turned out. (If you’re standing near the top of your yoga mat your toes will point toward the corners.)
Take a slow, full, deep breath in. As you exhale bend your knees in the same direction as your toes and come into your squat.
Bring your hands into a prayer position and snuggle your elbow inside your legs. Lift your chest up so your collar bones are broad. With your elbows or the backs of your arms gently press into your knees/thighs so your knees go wider apart and toward the wall behind you. Notice where you feel a stretch (for most people it’s in the inner thighs and groin area).
How to add more support.
If you are going to be in your Malasana (Yoga Squat) for a while, bring a block (or two) under your sitting bones and use them as a seat.
If your feet feel uncomfortable because your heels are lifting away from the floor (which is totally normal for many bodies, by the way!), try sliding a rolled blanket or mat under your heel for support.
Thigh Master Squat
Remember Suzanne Somers and her Thigh Master commercial? (No? Here’s a refresher. You’re welcome.) This version of Malasana is similar to the action you might have done in the 80s when you borrowed your mama’s Thigh Master.
Here’s how you do it:
Come into a traditional Malasana (Garland Pose) as described above. Take a moment to make yourself comfortable. Find your breath. Lift your chest, Soften your shoulders, face, and jaw.
The pose will look almost identical to the traditional pose, but this time instead of using the arms to gently guide the knees apart, you’re going to squeeze your knees into your arms.
Stay here for a bit, or you may choose to squeeze the knees inward on the inhale and release on the exhale for a few rounds.
The goal of this variation is to strengthen the outer hips. Come into a traditional Malasana, but this time don’t bring your hands into prayer in front of your chest. Even though your hands aren’t there to guide you, keep lifting the chest and feel your shoulder heads move back.
Maintain the posture through the upper body as you bring your hands to the outsides of your knees. Your hands will act as something for your knees to press into and offer some resistance.
Stay here for several breaths, or try pulsing for a few rounds. Press the knees into the hands on the inhale, release with the exhale.
Rock Your Squat during Pregnancy + After
I love the idea of working our bodies in novel and unusual ways to bring more balance (whether you need strength and stability or flexibility and openness). But, for me, this practice is more about using the physicality of the postures to help calm and soothe the mind. So my very favorite version of Malasana happens to be one that’s more adept at calming and soothing the nervous system.
Come to the traditional version of Malasana with your hands together in prayer in front of your heart. Lift your chest, spread your collar bones, and use your elbows to gently guide your legs apart.
But instead of staying static, sway a bit from side to side, letting your breath inform your pace and how far you go in each moment. Close your eyes if you’d like and just feel how the rocking sensation makes you feel.
I always say that what’s soothing for baby yoga is also soothing for mamas, so rock yourself the same way you’d rock a sleepy baby.
While most people think of Malasana as a pose that stretches the lower body, it can pretty great for the upper body, too. This last version is a lovely opening for the shoulders, too, so it’s a great way to target both the inner thigh/groin area and the shoulders at the same time–two areas that definitely need some extra love for most pregnant and new mamas.
Here’s how to do it:
Come into a traditional Malasana Pose, but instead of bringing the hands together into a prayer position, just bring the fingertips of the right hand to the floor or a block right in front of you.
Keep the right finger tips where the are as you bring your left hand up toward the sky. (Mamas with very flexible shoulders may be able to take a bind here, but it’s not necessary to get the benefits of the pose!)
After a couple slow, smooth breaths, bring your left hand to the floor and reach your right hand up to the sky.
Do how do (or did) you squat during pregnancy? Did you have a favorite variation?