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Utkatasana: Chair Pose


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:

  • 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.

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.

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. From standing, 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, lowering until your thighs are just about level with the floor (stop sooner if you feel discomfort in your knees or lower back). Your knees should be just forward of your heels 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 approximately create a right angle.
  4. Draw your shoulder blades gently toward each other and down, keeping the shoulders away from your ears. Lengthen through your tailbone to encourage the lower back to stay long.
  5. Hold the pose for up to 60 seconds, then release.

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PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Utkata = fierce, powerful
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL 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

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

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

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 (prayer gesture). 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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