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Get Down - The Benefits of Squat

My yoga students often think I'm joking when I suggest taking their asanas into daily life, such as grocery shopping or doing chores at home, but since most of them do not have a home practice, bringing a pose or two into an average day is a reminder to bring it off the mat and into the world.

Squat is one of the poses I often suggest. It is an easy one to practice at the market when you need something from a lower shelf, or at home to support opening the hips and strengthening core muscles. There are so many aspects of squat that help your body, as long as your knees are healthy and don't trouble you in that position.

If you watch young children, you'll notice how easily and fluidly they move into squats. Little ones are some of my favorite teachers, as they haven't habituated their bodies yet to unhealthy patterns of movement. They naturally come into squats without thinking about it, and we can too, with practice.

To come into a squatting position, bring the feet comfortably apart and as parallel as you can. If you're at home, support the heels on a solid surface, either with a folded blanket or directly on the floor. Lower the tush until the hips are lower than bended knees, keeping the spine nice and long. Knees extend beyond the ankles, but not farther than the toes. Be aware of keeping the neck in neutral spine, so the head is supporting neck muscles. Bring hands into prayer position with a light cupping between the palms, placed in front of the heart center. Find ujjayi breath and breathe deeply into this stretch.

If your knees bother you in a full squat, stand against a wall and slide down to your edge, just before the knees are feeling stressed. Be respectful of your body and listen to your knees, ankles and back in squat, making sure they are okay in this position.

The benefits of squat are significant. It calms the nervous system, opens hips, groin and Achilles tendons. Squat strengthens core muscles, which supports the lower back. It tones legs, feet, and ankles, and massages internal abdominal organs. Lengthening the spine creates good posture, allowing the breath to move more freely in the body.

Obviously it would be a little strange to bring your props to the supermarket..... so heels lifted there are fine. The important thing is to practice, not just once or twice a week in class, but several times a week to open up and fully enjoy the benefits of squat.

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