UTKATASANA – the literal translation is ‘Powerful’ and ‘Fierce’, and it’s often referred to as ‘Thunderbolt or awkward pose’ too. In western yoga, we call it ‘Chair Pose’. It’s a heart starter and you can actually feel the fire igniting in your body and shooting up your arms, back, shoulders and then down to the glutes, ankles and feet. Your output depends on your input and how much you want to sit in that chair and play with your edges, using all the muscles of the body and breathe to find some ease. If you don’t feel a thing when you are in chair then you are probably not honouring the strength and power of your own body, heart and breath. Trust your capabilities and find your seat of power. To learn more about this powerful pose, read on:
Benefits of Chair Pose
Chair Pose is a strong, active pose that strengthens the ankles, thighs, and calves, as well as the spine. Chair pose also promotes healthy feet and works your arms, shoulders and core. Being able to get into and out of a chair without using your arms is quite powerful – try and sit down and get up off your couch without using your hands – if you struggle, keep working on your chair pose!
Chair Pose Step-By-Step
- In Hot Yoga, we use several styles of chair pose, including the ‘awkward series’ in Hot 26 to the ‘Ashtanga’ chair in Hot FG. In fact there are apparently 43 variations in total!
- Whether your feet are together or hip width apart, spread your toes wide and ground down through all four corners of your feet—the big toe mound, pinky toe mound, and the two outer edges of the heels. Making this connection first, will keep you grounded.
- Sit down in your chair and try to get your thighs parallel to the floor – this will be easier for some, especially those who have good flexibility. If you are super flexible, then don’t go too low and sit your hips below your knees – in other words ‘resting’. It’s not a comfortable pose and you should feel the intensity, so if you are flexible, you may need to come up slightly to feel the ‘burn’.
- Check that you can just see your toes in front of your knees – if not, pull your knees back slightly. If you weight is too far forward, you may stress the knees and fatigue quickly.
- Lengthen your tailbone down towards the floor – a slight arch in the back is fine, but not too much. Really tuck your belly in to engage your core and protect your lower spine.
- Arms may be out in front, like in awkward, or above your head and separated or hands and palms together. Your upper body is leaning forward slightly as a ‘counter-balance’ with your chest lifted and open. If your shoulders are tight, take your arms wider and don’t bring your palms together.
- Concentrate on dropping the shoulder blades down and back, almost feel a sliding sensation down your back, so that the shoulders are not up around your ears. Engage your arms and shoulders down.
- If you feel like you are tipping forward, ground down firmly into your heels and shift your hips backwards. If you start collapsing forward, keep lifting your chest up and broaden your collarbone whilst firming up the lower abs.
- Try not to ‘shoot up’ out of the pose as soon as you hear the words to come out, really use your lower body to push yourself up slowly and release the arms to your sides.
- To intensify chair, we take the heels off the floor and balance on the balls of the feet or the toes, working on balance and strength in the lower body and core. If you are a runner, this pose is fantastic for working all the muscles (big and small) required to move you forward. If you are in chair and we bring the heels off the floor, your hips should not move an inch.
To find some ease in the pose, look for softness in the neck and shoulders, drop them down and breathe. Keep your gaze forward and find a focus point to aid your balance and concentration. Keep breathing and know that it will be over very soon. You’ll know you’ve nailed it when you can find the balance between effort and ease! Enjoy!