Utkatasana: Chair Pose

chairpose nicoluce

A challenging pose with hidden benefits, 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:

  • Roll up a blanket and place it 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 while also strengthening your thighs and legs.
  • Bend your knees only as much as is comfortable for your low back.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Stand at the top of your mat and place your feet inner-hip width distance apart with all toes facing forward.
  2. Reach your arms overhead, palms facing each other.
  3. Bend your knees and reach your seat back, so most of your weight is in your heels. Keep your knees over your feet.
  4. Allow your upper body to lean forward slightly. If you were to look in a mirror, the line of your torso and the line of your thighs would approximately create a right angle.
  5. Draw your shoulder blades gently toward each other and down, keeping shoulders away from your ears. Lengthen through your tailbone to encourage your lower back to stay long.
  6. Hold the pose for up to 60 seconds, then release.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Utkata = fierce, powerful
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

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

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Strengthens mental endurance.
  • Opens energetic channels in the body, especially around the heart.


Uttana Shishosana: Extended Puppy Pose

anahatasana stephschwartz

ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS   |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

An intelligent pose to help lengthen the spine and relieve mental stress, uttana shishosana (OO-ta-NAH she-SHO-sahna), is a hybrid pose — a cross between balasana (child’s pose) and adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog). Uttana shishosana is a great way to energize the physical and subtle bodies for when you’re feeling fatigued, or when you’ve been stuck behind a desk or in a chair all day. Energetically, the posture has the benefits of increasing both self-confidence and self-love.

Philosophy + Origin

Uttana shishosana is a great reminder of why we practice yoga: to feel better and to find tools to help us live our best lives. Named because of the way dogs and puppies stretch, this posture, while far from fancy, is effective in its simplicity. As humans, it’s easy to want to complicate life, always looking to the past or future in order to find meaning.

Dogs, on the other hand, are great at being present. Loyal and playful, our canine companions have a lot to teach us about relaxing and taking care of ourselves and those we love. As you practice extended puppy pose, allow yourself to settle into your senses. Allow yourself to linger (and lengthen) in the feel-good sensations.

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