I have fond memories of Chair pose (Utkatasana). As a beginning yogi, I hated the effort required to hold myself up using only the strength of my legs. I would try to cheat my way out of it whenever I could by only bending my knees the minimum amount required to make it look like I was actually doing something as opposed to actually challenging myself to move deeper (sound familiar, anyone?). One day I realized that the only person I was fooling was myself — our output is directly related to our input, and mine was getting me nowhere. The more that we play with our edges, the more that we can begin to realize and honour the power of our own strength and capabilities.
Benefits Of Chair Pose
Contrary to its name, Chair pose is a strong, active pose that strengthens the ankles, thighs, and calves, as well as the spine. Chair pose also promotes healthy feet and creates a stretch through the chest and shoulders. If we all sat in Chair pose all day instead of in chairs, imagine how much stronger our bodies would be!
Chair Pose Step-By-Step
- Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), with your feet separated hip-distance apart and parallel to one another. Spread your toes wide and ground down through all four corners of your feet — the big toe mound, pinky toe mound, and the two outer edges of the heels.
- On an inhale, sweep your arms overhead with your palms facing one another. Keep your ears in line with your arms and relax your shoulders.
- Exhale and bend your knees deeply, as if you are sitting into a chair. Bring your thighs as close to parallel with the floor as your body feels comfortable allowing, and keep your knees hip-distance apart.
- Keep your weight grounded firmly through your heels, and shift your hips back until your knees begin to stack directly over your ankles.
- Notice also if your torso begins to collapse forward, and instead keep your chest slightly lifted and your collarbone broad. Firm up the low belly to create a sense of tone.
- Allow your tailbone to point straight down toward the ground and maintain length along your spine.
- Hold the pose for 5 full, deep breaths. To come out of the pose, straighten your legs on an inhale, and bring your arms to your sides on an exhale; alternately, use an exhale to fold forward into Uttanasana for a more passive exit.
- Feel free to explore your edges in this pose by bringing your big toes together to touch and your heels slightly apart, or by bringing your palms together to touch.
- Practicing Chair pose at a wall is a great way to develop the strength and stamina required to come into the pose with integrity. To do so, bring your back to rest against a wall and step your feet approximately a foot and a half away from the wall (depending on how long your legs are). Keep your feet parallel and hip-distance apart. Begin to bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until your knees are bent to 90 degrees. Hold here for as long as feels comfortable for your body, then press into your feet to straighten your legs and slide back up the wall.
- For an added challenge, turn up the heat in your legs by placing a block lengthwise between your thighs and squeezing the block as you hold the pose.