What is Utkatasana?
Known as the chair pose or the powerful pose, Utkatasana is an intense core strengthening yoga asana. Sitting on an imaginary chair is far more challenging than you would think! The posture requires determination, focus and strength. Staying in the asana for just a little longer than you can allows you to strengthen the core, arms and legs.
Position type: Standing
Posture type: Low squat
Ideal for: Strength
Targets: Core, legs and arms
Pose level: Beginner
How to prepare for the Chair pose?
Legs and Core strength
Start with building leg and core strength. Practice Warrior one and two, the swaying palm tree pose, standing spinal twist, chair pose and the boat pose. Surya Namaskar practiced at a medium to fast pace is very helpful. Try to hold posture for longer, improve alignment and keep the core muscles engaged. This will help build strength. Utkatasana itself works as a preparatory posture for core strengthening when preparing for intermediate and advanced poses.
Balance and flexibility
With better balance and flexibility you will be able to hold the chair pose for longer and perform the asana more gracefully. The better the balance, the better the posture alignment and ability to hold still. Practice the standing forward fold, garland pose, low lunge, high lunge, tree pose and eagle pose to build balance and flexibility.
How to do Utkatasana
Getting into the posture
- Stand straight with your feet a little less than shoulder width apart.
- Stretch the hands out with the palms facing downwards.
- Now gently bend the knees and push the pelvis down as if you were sitting on a chair.
- Take deep breaths and hold still. Gaze in front of you. Try to imagine you are reading or working on a laptop if this helps you hold still!
- Keep the spine long, sit straight and try to relax.
Getting out of the posture
- To come out of the posture, exhale, press the feet down and slowly straighten the legs. Bring the arms down and come into Tadasana.
Key alignments in Utkatasana
- Ensure the knees do not go beyond the toes.
- Keep the hands straight and parallel to the ground.
- Do not keep too much distance between the feet. A little less than shoulder-width is good enough.
What are the benefits of Utkatasana?
Utkatasana is effective in strengthening the core and legs. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles and lower back, while bringing stability to the legs, ankles and feet. Even the knees and pelvic floor muscles get strengthened as they are engaged during the asana. The chair pose opens up and stretches the chest and shoulders, improving respiration and strengthening the chest muscles. It is effective in boosting confidence, focus and balance in the mind.
What are the contraindications of Utkatasana?
Anyone with knee, hips, back or ankle injuries should avoid the asana. Those with chronic knee pain, arthritis or damaged ligaments should also avoid the asana. In case of headaches or insomnia, it is advisable to avoid Utkatasana. During menstruation women should practice carefully or avoid the asana.
Counter poses of Utkatasana
Practice Child’s pose or simply sit in the Easy pose or Sukhasana for a few minutes. You can also lie down in Savasana for more relaxation after Utkatasana.
Variations of Utkatasana
In case of any discomfort in the shoulders or neck, bring the arms wider apart or lower them. You can keep the pointing outward in front of you or on the floor. You can also try bending the elbows or point the fingertips upwards.
Advice for beginners
Be gentle on the knees. Ensure the knees are not getting locked. They should not come ahead of the toes, but should remain in the same line. Keep the core engaged and stomach drawn inwards towards the lower back. This way, you can ensure the lower back is not overarched. If needed, you can bring your feet slightly wider apart to make the base a little more stable.
Shvasa tips for Utkatasana
- Keep the thighs engaged. If needed, keep a block between the thighs to ensure they remain engaged by squeezing the block.
- Ensure your weight is evenly distributed between the heels and balls of the feet and on both feet. Your base should be strong to hold the posture correctly.
- Start by holding just for a few seconds so that there is no excess pressure on the knees. As you practice more, you can increase the duration.