chair pose: utkatasana


A challenging pose with hidden benefits, Chair pose, or Utkatasana (OOT-kah-TAHS-anna) works your body inside and out. Aside from strengthening your legs, this powerful pose also improves the health of your diaphragm and stimulates your heart. Practicing regularly will not only increase your physical endurance, it also encourages your chest and arms to open, creating more space in your body energetically.

Philosophy + Origin

While sitting in a chair is a common act for most of us today, chairs were once, and in some locations still are, considered a luxury. A throne in particular is a seat of power, one assumed by leaders around the world. The pose Utkatasana, translated to mean powerful pose, invites individuals to sit on their throne, their seat of power. Embracing the challenge of the pose, and recognizing the strength that is generated when assumed thoughtfully and in proper alignment (physically and spiritually), you can begin to refine all aspects of your life, allowing yourself to step into roles of leadership and responsibility with clarity and confidence.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

  • A blanket can be rolled up and placed beneath your heels if they’re tight or if stiff ankles prevent you from reaching the mat comfortably
  • Keep your gaze straight ahead to prevent pain or discomfort in the neck
  • Place a block in between your thighs to practice proper alignment and posture while also strengthening your thighs and legs
  • Only bend your knees as much as is comfortable for your low back

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS

  • Low back pain or injury
  • Shoulder pain or injury
  • Neck pain or injury
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure

TIPS

Avoid rounding the lumbar spine to mitigate stress on the discs between the vertebrae. For best alignment, think about releasing the tops of your thigh bones firmly down toward your heels. To learn this action, take your hands to the tops of your thighs and push down where your thighs meet the creases of your groin. Simultaneously, root through your heels as you draw your sit bones up and into the bowl of your pelvis.

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Begin in Tadasana, Mountain pose. As you inhale, extend your arms forward so they are level with the floor, palms facing down.
  2. As you exhale, begin to bend your knees, lowering until your thighs are just about level with the floor, stopping earlier if you feel discomfort in your knees or lower back. Your knees should be just ahead of your feet with your upper body leaning forward slightly. If you were to look in a mirror, the line of your torso and the line of your thighs would make close to a right angle.
  3. Draw your shoulder blades toward each other and down, keeping the shoulders away from your ears. Lengthen through your tailbone to encourage the lower back to stay long, but do not overemphasize this action.
  4. Hold the pose for up to 60 seconds. To release, inhale as you straighten your legs. Exhale and return to Tadasana.

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PREPARATORY POSES

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Bhujangasana
  • Virasana

FOLLOW-UP POSES

  • Parivrtta Utkatasana
  • Tadasana
  • Uttanasana

SANSKRIT

  • Utkata = fierce, powerful
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Expands chest and shoulders
  • Strengthens the legs, specifically hip flexors, quadriceps, inner thighs, and gluteus muscles
  • Strengthens and stretches the calf muscles
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Improves arches in feet
  • Stimulates the heart and diaphragm

ENERGETIC BENEFITS

  • Strengthens the legs, specifically hip flexors, quadriceps, inner thighs, and gluteus muscles
  • Strengthens and stretches the calf muscles
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Improves arches in feet
  • Stimulates the heart and diaphragm

MANTRA

“Om”

The sound of the primordial seed of the universe, chanting “Om” is said to reveal the true nature of your soul, the vibration opening up your throat chakra for clear communication.

MUDRA:Shankhavarta

Tap into your inner wisdom to find the clarity and guidance you need to lead with power and poise by practicing Shankhavarta mudra, the mudra of inner wisdom. To begin, bring the palms of your hands together with your fingers connected, just like anjali mudra. Keep your fingertips touching as you separate the palms of your hands. Lower your thumbs, keeping the tips touching, so that your index fingers and thumbs form a triangle. Release your right index finger down, resting in the center of the triangle.

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