The prayer squat pose, also known as namaskarasana, is a variation of the famous prayer pose in yoga. Rather than sitting cross-legged on the floor, the prayer squat pose is a squatting position that activates the thigh muscles.
It is a popular pose for those experiencing back pain, and encourages students to focus on breathing.
The prayer squat pose is used in a range of yoga styles, including Hatha and Vinyasa, as it fits well into a variety of asana sequences. It is intended to strengthen the thighs and hamstrings, while also improving flexibility in the hip flexors.
Plus, when you master the position, it becomes surprisingly comfortable.
If you’re new to the world of yoga and want to know how to master the prayer squat pose, you’ve come to the right place. Here is the ultimate guide to the prayer squat pose!
What Is The Prayer Squat Pose?
Firstly, let’s take a look at what the prayer squat pose actually is before we go into how to perform it.
The prayer squat pose is a variation of the prayer pose that is designed to open the hips. It is affectionately referred to as “the pose of youth”, because the nature of the deep squat will tell you a lot about how old your body actually is (for more deep squat poses, check out our guide to the Horse Pose).
The easier it is to deepen into the squat, the younger your body is said to be.
Of course, this isn’t to humble students about their age. Instead, it’s to give people an idea of their range of motion and flexibility, and what they should look to tackle in their yoga journey.
As a result, this is a fairly tricky yoga pose to master for beginners, and takes time to get as low as the yoga instructors show.
How To Do The Prayer Squat Pose
On the surface, the prayer squat pose looks fairly simple to perform – especially if you’re copying the actions of a yoga instructor. However, it’s important to go at the speed and depth that you are most comfortable with to prevent injury.
- Begin in a Tall Mountain pose, with your feet shoulder width apart. Control your breathing into a deep and rhythmic state. Position your feet into a 45-degree angle, with your toes pointing towards the outer corners of the mat.
- Bend your knees slowly to come into a low squat position. Your needs shouldn’t bend inwards or forwards – instead, angle them slightly outwards, following the direction of your feet.
- Position your elbows by your knees, so your knees are pressed against the back of your upper arms. Your hands should be in a prayer shape to help you concentrate on your center of gravity.
- Bend into a squat as deep as you can go without your buttocks touching the floor.
- Find your balance by controlling your breathing, activating your core muscles, and pressing your elbows into your inner thighs/knees.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, or as long as you can. Experienced yogis can hold this pose for up to 5 minutes if comfortable.
- To come out of this position, put your hands in front of your feet on the mat. Inhale, and bring your weight onto your hands and arms.
- When you’re ready, exhale, and slowly extend your legs upwards with your hands on the floor.
- Inhale and slowly roll your body upwards back into the Tall Mountain pose and allow your body to relax.
Prayer Squat Pose Tips
As mentioned earlier, the prayer squat pose is easier said than done. It can be awkward to perform, let alone master, for beginner yogis.
Fortunately, yoga teachers will identify problems as they deconstruct the necessary steps to complete this pose, to make settling into the squat easier.
The key is to focus on your breathing. The same can be said for any yoga pose – once you master your breath control, you will find it easier to gently melt into a range of poses.
You have to be completely relaxed and accepting of your limitations to achieve your full potential, even if it takes several tries.
Controlling your breathing will also prevent you from toppling over in the prayer squat pose, which is common if you don’t control your balance properly.
It’s important to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, and resist the temptation to lift yourself onto your tiptoes. Lifting yourself onto the balls of your feet will only ruin your balance – even if it feels easier to get into a deeper squat this way.
Students must also be aware of their posture. It’s best to keep your back as straight and as aligned as possible to prevent back pain, which is when pushing your elbows into your knees comes in handy.
Plus, make sure to not let your bottom drop to the floor or your heels. You also don’t want your bottom to be lifted into the air, which can happen when your feet aren’t firmly flat on the ground.
If this happens, bring the weight more onto your heels and draw the tailbone downwards.
Fortunately, there are ways to use props and create modifications for those who struggle with the prayer squat pose.
If you have Achilles tendons or tight hips, you might find it hard to keep your heels flat on the floor.
In the event of this, you can try placing a block or folded mat underneath your heels to provide a bit of support, so your body weight isn’t just on the balls of your feet. This encourages the tendons to release tension without being strained.
If you’re in the later stages of pregnancy, this is a great pose for releasing the tension of lower back pain. However, as you are carrying more weight than the average person, you might need to place a block underneath your bottom for extra support.
This can just be used for safety in case you can’t hold yourself up in the squat position.
One of the best ways to modify this yoga pose for those struggling with the deep squat is to spread your feet wider than hip-width apart. This will help to release tightness in the hips, which is usually what restricts people from deepening the squat position.
Prayer Squat Pose Benefits
The prayer squat, while difficult, comes with an array of benefits. Firstly, this pose is designed to strengthen the thighs and hamstrings, making it a good pose for toning these areas.
It activates the core muscles when students are conscious of their posture, and increases flexibility in the hip flexors.
When the hips are more flexible, you will feel the effects in your daily life – especially if you find yourself sitting down a lot during the day.
It also helps to aid the digestive system, so if you struggle with constipation or trapped wind, the prayer squat pose will help to activate your bowels.
Not only this, but the prayer squat pose is good for improving your balance, which is essential for mastering other yoga poses. It’s not the easiest yoga pose for beginners, but if you can master this one early, you’ll find other difficult poses easy to perform.
Prayer Squat Pose Drawbacks
Of course, there are some drawbacks to the prayer squat pose. It’s not a good pose to try and master if you have existing knee injuries or sciatica, due to the nature of the deep squat.
Also, if you struggle to master this pose, or the yoga class doesn’t allow enough time for you to comfortably come into and out of the pose, this can cause more harm than good. It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself into the pose if your hips won’t allow it.
Prayer Squat Pose Variations
One variation of the prayer squat pose is the chopping wood pose. This is a dynamic low squat that involves more movement than the prayer squat pose, making it a good option for those who need to loosen their tight hips before squatting for 30 seconds.
To do this pose, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands above your head, fingers intertwined. On the inhale, look up to your hands to stretch the spine.
When you exhale, drop your arms to the ground in a swift, swinging motion, while squatting. It should look like you’re chopping wood. Repeat this 3 to 5 times.
If you’re struggling with hip tightness during the prayer squat pose, try a high squat instead. This is when the feet are placed wider than shoulder or hip-width apart. Spread your legs as far as you like and squat as low as you can go without toppling over.
You can also add a side angle stretch to a high squat, which includes bringing your right forearm to your corresponding thigh. On the inhale, lift your left arm over your head, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat this on the other side. This helps to stretch the torso and abdominal muscles.
So, there you have it! The prayer squat pose isn’t an easy position to perform, but once you’ve mastered this pose, you’ll find it much easier to tackle other difficult poses. Just make sure to practice regularly and not to push your body.
Frequently Asked Questions
The prayer squat pose has a lot of benefits, including:
– Stretching the hip joints
– Toning the thighs
– Improving flexibility and balance
– Compresses the stomach to aid digestion
– Increases concentration and deep breathing
– Relieves hip pain and lower back aches
– Beneficial for pregnant people and those with menstrual pains
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