Yoga Pose 101: Utkatasana Or Chair Pose

Daniel Scott
Yoga Pose 101: Utkatasana Or Chair Pose

Pronounced OOT-kah-TAHS-anna

utkata = powerful, fierce

Fun Fact: The inventor of the electric chair was a dentist. Chair pose, the common name for this asana, was most likely conceived by a yoga instructor. In both cases, a trusted professional known for their capacity to heal, created chair—widely feared as a device for intense torture.

Drishti: Broomadaya (third eye)

Benefits

  • You will always have somewhere to sit
  • Strengthen and tone those legs, back, and hip flexors
  • Open up chest and shoulder girdle
  • Said to combat fallen arches / flat feet
  • Helps you learn to deal with it. All of it, whatever it is. You’ll deal.

Contraindications/Cautions

  • Chronic knee pain? Going too deep or spending long periods of time in this pose will aggravate that.
  • High Blood Pressure? When raising your arms, keep them arms open and lower than your heart.
  • Strong Tendency to Whine? Keep it to yourself while in class. You got this.

Step-by-Step

From Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

  1. Start with feet parallel.
  2. EXHALE: Slowly bend knees while keeping thighs together, lowering hips toward heels with arms extended towards the floor (imagine a robot sitting down into a chair).
  3. INHALE: Raise your robot arms forward and up towards the ceiling. Keep your gaze forward and neck long.
  4. Keep weight spread throughout feet, with a strong awareness in the heels.
  5. Draw your robo-belly-button in towards the spine.
  6. Imagine your lower back as a downhill slope instead of a ski jump (angle tailbone towards heels).
  7. Move the muscles that move the bones.
  8. Lengthen from tailbone to the top of the head, drawing shoulders drawn down the back to elongate neck.
  9. Draw shoulder blades down the back and in towards the spine as the arms extend and palms turn in towards each other.
  10. Sit with it.
  11. Keep those thighbones parallel and those legs engaged the whole time.
  12. Focus on stability and grounding, and for goodness sakes just don’t rush through this.

Modifications

  • Wobbly legs? Hug something between the thighs, such as a yoga block or bag of cash, as a tangible reminder to keep the thighs engaged.
  • Tight shoulders? You don’t have to touch the palms together. Try having arms shoulder-distance apart, or wider, to help keep neck long and back straight.
  • Tight Hips / Calves? Widen your stance and take your feet hip distance apart.
  • Neck hurts? Try keeping the neck neutral instead of lifting the chin.

Beginners Tip

If you are having trouble relaxing into this pose, stop trying to force yourself into a shape your body isn’t ready to make. Try one or more of the above modifications to help find the right chair for you.

Deepen the Pose: Sit deeper.

Image Credit: BeyondDrishti