How to Do Chair Pose—Yoga Poses 101

Utkatasana yoga pose strengthens the body physically, mentally, and emotionally. This basic yoga pose is challenging yet deeply stimulating.

Utkatasana may be called the Chair pose, but as you know, it’s much harder to sit in an invisible chair!

Utkata = Powerful, fierce, intense

Asana = Pose

Utkatasana is a pose that works to strengthen the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine. It also stimulates the abdominal organs. Utkasana appears in Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B), and is the third pose of the Ashtanga Primary Series before moving to the seated postures.

Step by Step into Chair Pose

Start from Samasthitihi, Mountain pose. You can have the feet separated hip-width distance or have the big toe joints touching, with a little space between the heels. Feel the connection to the ground, have the four corners of the feet—the ball of the big toe, the pinky toe mound, the inner and outer heels—rooted down.

You can also come into this pose from a squatting position; this will help to activate the muscles in the pelvic floor.

Whichever way you choose to come into it, get a nice bend in the knees and feel springy here, ensuring that the knee and ankle joints are loose, mobile, and not locked.

Let your bum stick out like it’s really looking for a chair.

Then swing the arms back and forth a couple of times, finally raising them in the air with the palms facing each other. As the arms reach and lengthen, let the shoulders be relaxed and away from the ears. Keep the arms strong and straight, try to get an internal rotation with the arms, and get a sense of the arms wrapping around the shoulders.

Hands can be apart. Or if the shoulders are down the back, the palms can touch.

Keep the ribs over the pelvis, try to sit tall, shift the weight into the heels and keep lengthening, especially between the hips and ribs. Keep the shoulders over the hips. Try to avoid bending over.

Let the eyes gently gaze up towards the thumbs, keep the integrity and length in the spine, which includes the neck. So the neck—cervical spine—stays lengthened. The crown of the head lengthens, and eyes move upwards as opposed letting the head fall back. If it hurts to look up, just look straight ahead.

Draw the lower belly in to protect the lower back and spine, let the tailbone root down and sit deeper if you can.

Keep the breath smooth and the mouth soft and relaxed. Let the work be in the lower body. Hold for five long breaths, or for however long you wish.

To come out of the pose, exhale while straightening the legs and release the arms down by the sides, coming back to samasthitihi. Or you can fold over, then jump or step back into Plank and lower down into Caturanga, do upward dog and downward dog, and continue on to Virabhadrasana A (Warrior A) or continue on with your own sequence.

Benefits

Regular practice of Chair pose brings several benefits to the body and wellness.

  • Strengthens ankles, thighs, calves, and spine
  • Strengthens lower back
  • Stretches shoulders and chest
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart
  • Reduces flat feet
  • Cultivates balance and determination in the body and mind

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Modifications

Switch up your Utkatasana with one of these modifications.

With the feet hip-width distance apart, hold a block between the knees. Keep the block in place for the entire pose. This will train the muscles of the inner thighs to work.

Instead of raising the arms up, place the hands on the knees and push against the knees to lengthen the arms, and lift and open the chest.

Raise the arms and open into cactus arms, with a 90-degree bend in the elbows. This is a great heart-opener, just make sure the shoulders are still relaxed

Use the wall. Have your back to the wall, position yourself so that when you bend the knees, the bum touches the wall and supports you just enough.

Advanced Options

From Utkatasana, shift the body weight forward and lift up onto the balls of the feet. Balance here with the arms raised overhead, palms touching, gaze upwards. Stay for five long, deep breaths.

From Utkatasana, move the hands into prayer at the heart centre. Inhale and lengthen. As you exhale, twist to the right. Stay with the knees bent in a squat position, use the inhales to lengthen and the exhales to twist deeper. Look over the right shoulder. Hold for five long, deep breaths and do the left side.

Cautions & Contraindications

As with all practices, there are certain times when Chair pose should not be done.

  • Recent or chronic injury to hips, knees, or shoulders
  • Take care if you have low back pain, only go as deep as you can while maintaining the natural lumbar curve in the spine
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Sprained ankle

 

Modelled by: Agnes Goh
Yoga mat: MADANA Yoga
Photography: Jinwen Tho

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About Summer Dien

Summer Dien is an international pranayama and ashtanga yoga teacher. Summer completed her training in 2013 with Paul Dallaghan. She worked at Samahita Retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand for two years, where she taught pranayama, mysore/ashtanga, restorative, and guided meditation. Summer continues to study extensively with her teachers Sri OP Tiwariji and Paul Dallaghan in the areas of pranayama and asana. She is trained in the classical pranayama practices of the Khaivalyadham lineage and in the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa system. Summer has a liberal, non-dogmatic approach and believes in using the body in the most intelligent way possible. While non-traditional in some ways, she adheres to the general principles of the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. She advocates modifying the poses to suit the student’s current needs and abilities. Summer is committed to the path of yoga and dedicates her life to fully supporting and uplifting others by passing on the ancient yogic practices of asana and pranayama. Full Profile

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