Yoga blog 18 May 2015

Over the last few weeks we’ve been thinking about the benefits of squatting. However, most of us find a full squat, with the heels down and feet facing forward in the direction of the knees, very difficult (me included!).

It helps to place a yoga block under the heels. If you don’t have one, try rolling up the end of your mat or fold a blanket. But before you try squatting, first prepare yourself with some gentle warm ups for the legs; for instance lying on your back and hugging one knee to the chest and stretching the other leg out; circling the ankles and hips; and the ‘sprinter’s’ pose, curling up and down off the floor from a crouch, bringing the rear heel down as you straighten that rear leg.

Squatting is something we can all do as children, but in the West, is an ability we lose quite quickly as we spend most of our time sitting in chairs. This is due to loss of suppleness and strength in the legs and flexibility in the joints of the foot, ankle, leg and hips.

Yoga can help restore what we’ve lost, utilising the range of motion in the joints of the lower body. Squats work the quadricep, hamstring, gluteal, and calf muscles of the legs, and strengthen the lower back and core. Sitting in a squat is also said to help with digestion and … taking this concept further … help us feel calmer and more grounded.

However, it’s important to practise safely, taking care not to stress the knees in particular by going out of alignment. Try chair pose (utkatasana) first from standing, and then lower the arms out in front see how far you can come down without lifting the heels. Don’t stay too long, and remember to move the knees towards the middle toes.

From the floor, sit on a block (s) with the legs outstretched, and then slide the feet in, bending the knees. Tip carefully forward into a squat. It is important that the heels are in contact with the floor or blanket in order to create the action of pressing downward. Keeping pressing down through the thighs and knees and see if you can engage muscles of the abdomen by keeping the torso upright and lifted. Extend your arms to the front. Spread your collarbones to open the chest, and try to keep length in the spine.

These notes aim to act a reminder of our practice and not a ‘how to’ guide – we’ll include a squat in this week’s class