What do you mean you’ve forgotten the core series? I last wrote about it… oh. Over a month ago.
Well, okay. There’s this core series; you can find it in the “core” category over in the right hand column. I’m currently at the pelvic floor part, which is the bottom of the core muscles. And this is the post on malasana, which is basically a yoga squat that stretches and relaxes the pelvic floor.
Okay, so. Coming from someone with a hypertonic pelvic floor dysfunction (basically, my pelvic floor muscles are tense enough to make a doctor and a physical therapist go, “Whoa. That’s not normal.”) I absolutely love this pose for any time something has to come out the bottom end of me.
Inserting or removing a menstrual cup? Malasana.
Shooting endo pain of the “I’m about to pass out” variety? Malasana. Bonus: In public, malasana is cleverly (or not so cleverly) camouflaged as, “Hey, I suddenly want to look at this thing on the ground!”
Problems relaxing my pelvic floor in order to pee or poop? Modified malasana… because I can’t actually squat on the toilet. (Apparently, some people can. Note my awe here.)
[Video by Dina Prioste of Get Exercised via YouTube.]
A couple of alignment points:
- First and foremost, your knees and ankles should be comfortable — especially your knees. For me, this means ensuring that my hips, knees, and toes are all turned out at the same angle (decided by my hip angle) and that they’re in line with one another. Aligning them with my torso (my hips) is what keeps my knees and ankles safe in the pose. If you feel knee or ankle discomfort, it’s 100% encouraged to realign and adjust.
- While in the posture, the emphasis should be on lengthening the spine. For me, this means moving my tailbone down toward the floor (not really the same as tucking it under) and lifting the crown of my head toward the ceiling. When I do this, the physical dimensions of the pose — my spreading thighs and tailbone — facilitate pelvic floor relaxation while the conscious engagement facilitates a pelvic floor lift.
As the Get Exercised clip offers, there a variety of malasana variations. I feel like it’s worth detailing them because there may be no single variation that’s correct for every person all the time. Some options:
- Malasana on a chair: Entering the squat with the support of a chair. If more hip mobility and quadricep engagement is available, it’s possible to place the feet on something (stool, yoga blocks, etc.). It is possible that this pose is fabulous for facilitating strain-free poop. Just sayin’.
- Butt on a block: If a chair keeps the pose too high for hip opening, sitting on a block (or bolster or phone book or whatever) can help support the bum. That way, the hips and groins are opening, but the torso is supported in the pose.
- Heels on a roll: If the heels don’t come all the way to the floor, resting them on a rolled blanket/mat/towel/whatever can offer them support while engaging pelvic lift.
- Also totally reasonable to combine props and modifications for whatever works for your needs and anatomy.
I realize this might be a whole lot more about my inner pelvic workings than anyone really wanted to know (but PS, if I wrote a post called Gushing, can you really be surprised?) but in my experience, malasana is a fairly (though not perfectly) accessible pose that allows folks to experience what pelvic floor stretching and relaxation actually feels like. For most poses — and maybe especially pelvic floor poses — I think it’s important to feel the muscles relaxing before feeling them engage and contract.
Very often, folks who are assigned female and/or who identify as women are taught that pelvic floor contractions — a la kegels — are the best (or the only!) work there. Not only is this not universally true, but sometimes, feeling relaxation is necessary for recognizing the sensation of a conscious pelvic floor contraction.