Utkatasana (Chair Pose Yoga) – Steps, Benefits & Variations
Utkatasana (उत्कटासन – Utkatasana in Hindi), also called Chair Pose in Yoga, is a standing yoga posture that tones the entire body and gives a stretch to your upper back. It strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves and the spine. Its Sanskrit name comes from the words “Utkata” (meaning “powerful” or “fierce”) and “asana” (meaning “pose”), as it can be a fierce pose for your thighs. Practicing regularly this asana will increase your physical endurance, apart from strengthening the lower body. Also called sometimes ‘Awkward Chair Pose’, Utkatasana is a standing squat that engages your core to stabilize you in the pose and works on developing your balance.
- Spread a Yoga Mat on the floor and stand in Mountain Pose or Tadasana on it.
- Keep your feet separated hip-distance apart and parallel to one another.
- Spread your toes wide and ground them down through all four corners of your feet.
- Inhale and raise your arms overhead such that your palms face each another.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Exhale and start bending your knees, as if you are trying to sit on a chair such that most of your weight is in your heels.
- Allow your upper body to lean forward slightly.
- Try to bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as your body feels comfortable allowing them.
- Keep your weight grounded firmly through your heels and shift your hips back until your knees come directly over your feet.
- Keep your chest slightly lifted and allow your tailbone to point straight down toward the ground and maintain length along your spine.
- Gaze directly forward. To make the pose more effective, tilt your head slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.
- Hold the final pose for 5 to 10 full breaths.
- To come out of the pose, straighten your legs on an inhale, and bring your arms to your sides as you exhale.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose) Benefits
- Utkatasana strengthens the lower body – the ankles, thighs, calves and the spine. It specifically strengthens the hip flexors, quadriceps, and gluteus muscles.
- Chair pose stretches and opens the chest and shoulders.
- It engages your core to stabilize you in the pose and works on developing your balance.
- Practicing the chair yoga effectively reduces the symptoms of flat feet and pain caused in the ankles, legs, and hips due to flat feet.
- Regular practice of Utkatasana stimulates the heart, diaphragm, and abdominal organs resulting in their optimal functioning.
- Its regular practice strengthens and stretches the calf muscles.
- Chair pose strengthens mental endurance.
- Avoid practicing Utkatasana if you have a knee injury or having lower back pain.
- Patient of arthritis, insomnia, headache or sprained ankles should avoid practicing this yoga pose.
- Avoid Utakatasana if you have a low blood pressure problem or Insomnia.
Chair Pose Variations
Try these simple changes as a variation that can work best for you –
- If you have trouble keeping your arms up, extend them at shoulder-height instead.
- Further, if you can’t raise your arms due to shoulder pain, place your hands in prayer position in front of your chest and press your palms together.
- If you can balance, then you can work toward standing with your feet together and thighs firmly pressing each other.
- Pregnant women should stand with their feet as far apart as necessary for balance.
- If you have shoulder flexibility, press your palms together overhead.
- It can be challenging to bring weight into the heels at first. To learn this proper weight distribution, you can practice the pose near a wall. Stand with your back a few inches away from the wall. As you bend into the pose, you can allow your tailbone to be only slightly supported by the wall.
- To increase the strength of your thighs and body awareness in the pose, squeeze a yoga block between your thighs.
Utkatasana can build a lot of strength and stamina throughout the body when it’s done with correct alignment. Make slow and graceful moves, maintain your correct alignment and be sure to find a variation or modification that works best for you. Holding it for an extended period will build stamina and endurance. Then, enjoy the benefits as your yoga practice becomes fierce and powerful.