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I once heard Maya Tiwari, an expert in the Indian system of healingknown as Ayurveda, discuss the best practices for women's health."Squat!" she ordered. "Squat, squat, squat!"

This simple squat is a variation of the classic pose calledmalasana, or "garland pose." It strengthens and opens the hips and pelvis, and increases circulation of blood and energy to the inner organs, particularly the reproductive organs. It enlivens the power center that martial artists refer to as the hara, the bowl of energy between the navel and the pubic bone. In traditional cultures around the world, this is the position in which women give birth. Whether or not you are pregnant, you can use this pose to feel and feed the generative energy of your belly.

Stand with your feet a little bit wider than your hips, toes facingforward. Bring your hands to prayer position at your heart [Figure 1].Inhale and, as you exhale, lower your hips halfway down to the floor, so your buttocks are level with or slightly higher than your knees [Figure 2]. Don't round the back; instead, keep your spine long and your gaze forward.

Stay in this pose for several breaths. As you breathe in, focus your attention on your hara. As you breathe out, imagine energy flowing from your hara to enliven your legs and hips. Then, on an exhalation, lower into a full squat, releasing your pelvis toward the floor [Figure 3]. If you can, try a variation by keeping your heels flat on the floor. If this is impossible, you might support them on a folded blanket [Figure 4]. As much as possible, keep your toes pointed forward.

Keep breathing into your belly. Sense the mystery of its creative power. Notice any emotions or physical sensations that may arise.

When you are ready, release the posture by pressing strongly into your feet and return to standing [Figure 5].

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