Malasana has so many wonderful benefits, it's hard not to like this asana! It may not be easy at first, but with practice, patience, and some help from a trained professional this pose will be your next best friend. Let's explore some of the awesome-sauce benefits this pose has for us, and some modifications if the fullest extent isn't available to your body.
Hip Opener As you can see, this pose is a massive hip opener. It's certainly the first thing you see and feel in this asana. But it's not a lazy hip opener. Once you settle in, make sure the knees are actively pressing together, while the elbows are actively pushing out. At the same time, the heels of the palms are also actively pressing together, this should fire up the biceps making this a really nice active pose for the body!
I love, love, LOVE grounding. Settling into malasana, you should feel the weight of your hips melting you down, connecting you to the earth. I love to sit and meditate in malasana, which people think I'm NUTS for as it's neither the simplest, nor the most comfortable pose for some. But there's always ways to support ourselves. I recommend sitting on a block or bolster ( but you don't have to be rich or have all the "right" equipment to to do yoga, a stool, cushion, pillows etc. will do just fine as well!) in order to give yourself the space to really settle in.
Ok, so malasana itself isn't a shoulder opener, but there's lots of ways we can get some shoulder work in! I always remind my students to actively pull the shoulders down and back after settling in. After this simple cue, almost the entire class instantly aligns and lifts! Not only does this make the pose feel better, but you're correcting all that slouching that is unfortunately so present in the body.
Whenever I see students step into this pose, their chest immediately shrinks to make room to place the arms between the knees. This is fine as we're settling in, but it's not great long term and isn't really giving you any benefits. Traditionally, the spine is long, tailbone melting down, crown of the head reaching up. Think about lifting your sternum to your thumbs, rather than bringing your thumbs to your sternum. This will create that lift in the chest and naturally align the spine. If malasana is one of those "oh F me" poses, try it lying down! This will also help the spine stay nice and long while teaching the rest of the body how to move and activate.
One of the main questions I get about malasana: "Are my heels supposed to touch the floor?" THEY DO NOT. If you're feet don't touch the floor, there could be a million reasons and tbh it doesn't matter why. All that matters is how it feels. What are your goals? Is your goal to really stretch the hips? Then don't worry about your heels! Focus on how your hips feel and how you can get what you want out of this asana. If your goal is stretch out your calves, then absolutely fuck the hips and focus on getting those heels to the floor!
Each and every asana has so much going on, so many things to focus on, it's impossible to find the fullest extent in one go! And then, once you hit that "fullest extent" of the posture, then you get to really explore!