Utkatasana: Chair Pose
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.
- 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.
- Stand at the top of your mat and place your feet inner-hip width distance apart with all toes facing forward.
- Reach your arms overhead, palms facing each other.
- Bend your knees and reach your seat back, so most of your weight is in your heels. Keep your knees over your feet.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hold the pose for up to 60 seconds, then release.
- Utkata = fierce, powerful
- Asana = pose
- 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.
- Strengthens mental endurance.
- Opens energetic channels in the body, especially around the heart.
Hanumanasana: Front Splits Pose
Hanumanasana (hah-new-mahn-AHS-ah-nah) honors the great leap made by Hanuman, the famous monkey god from the Ramayana, across the ocean from India to the mountains of Sri Lanka. Front splits pose demands flexibility, strength, and stability.
Philosophy + Origin
More than just an incredible leap, Hanuman is remembered, celebrated, and worshiped because of his great devotion and courage. To be devoted, one must be bold enough to stand firmly in their beliefs, selflessly serving others and putting others’ needs above their own.
Because of its physical demands, it’s easy to get caught up in “achieving” the outward appearance of the posture. As such, it’s important to keep your ego in check as you dedicate yourself to the posture. Above all, invite kindness and selflessness to flow freely from the posture. As you practice, ask yourself how you can embody Hanuman’s devotion both in your physical yoga practice and your everyday life.