|Sanskrit Pronunciation||OOT-kah-TAHS-anna; IAST: Utkaṭāsana (उत्कटासन)|
|Meaning||Utkata- intense or fierce, Asana – Pose|
|Pose Type||Forward-Bend, Stretch, Strength, Balance, Standing posture|
|Pose Level||Beginner, practice 5 to 10 minutes|
|Known as||Chair pose, Fierce Pose, Awkward Pose, Wild pose, Lightning bolt pose,|
|Beneficial In||Strengthens the thighs, butt, and hips. Pacifies all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Activates Vishuddhi, Swadisthana, Muladhara Chakras|
Though the Utkatasana is a standing pose in modern yoga practice, it is a deep squatting yogic posture in traditional hatha yoga. It is sometimes referred to as “Awkward Chair Pose,” Utkatasana is one of yoga’s heating, strengthening and stabilizing poses. It is, in fact fierce, furious and intense, during its practice and in its effects, generating upward-radiating waves of heat and energy in some practitioners. Chair Pose is recommended to practice in the morning or early afternoon, as it is an invigorating pose that can interfere with sleep when practiced too late in the day.
Chair Pose: History and Origin
In Geranda Samhita, Utkatasana is performed with a low or deep squat with your heels rising off the floor. With arms you have the option to either stretch them out in front of you, parallel to the floor, or raise them perpendicular to the floor and together in Anjali or Namaskara Mudra.
The modern chair-like pose is said to originate with Tirumalai Krishnamacharya [efn_note] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tirumalai_Krishnamacharya [/efn_note]. An older version of Utkatasana is mentioned as a squatting pose in the 19th century, Sritattvanidhi [efn_note] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sritattvanidhi [/efn_note].
Chair Pose is done frequently in Ashtanga Yoga as part of the Sun Salutation B sequence (Surya Namaskar B). In Ashtanga, the emphasis is on keeping the torso upright, even bringing a slight backbend into the upper spine, pressing the palms together overhead, and bringing the gaze toward the hands so the head drops back. Iyengar Yoga takes a slightly different approach.
In B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, the definitive source for pose alignment describes Utkatasana with the slightly diagonal torso, the open chest, and a very deep bend in the knees so that the thighs are almost parallel to the floor. For most people, a knee bend this deep precludes a vertical spine, so you have to choose which to prioritize. The version that is prevalent in contemporary classes (and described below) is a bit of an amalgamation. It allows for an angled upper body with arms overhead at shoulders’ distance apart while the legs are bent at about a 45-degree angle to the floor and the buttocks stick out behind.
Following are the sequence of Preparatory Poses that help to release the stiffness of the body and open the required muscles for the practice of Utkatasana.
- Surya Namaskar: A few rounds of the Sun Salutation stretches the muscles of the shoulders, vertebral column, and opens the hips gradually making the body warm and ready for Utkatasana.
- Vrksasana: Tree Pose is a balancing asana that helps in opening the hips and the shoulders. Practicing Utkatasana after this pose will help to get a better grip of the body.
- Garudasana: Eagle Pose also works on improving the balance and strengthens the calves, which are essential for the practice of Chair Pose.
How to Do Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
If you have severe pain in your knees and shoulders, in that case you can perform the modified version of this pose. Try performing the pose against a wall and instead of raising your arms just keep your hands at your heart. Make sure your weight is evenly divided on your feet and you can see your toes in front of your knees.
Chair Pose Steps
- Start by standing straight, with your legs together and hands by your side
- Now, push-out your feet to hip-width, and ensure that your heels are a bit wider than your big toes. Breathe in, and raise your hands straight and in front of you.
- Breathe out and bend your knees. You should maintain even weight on your feet, and keep your spine flat. Do not allow your knees to bow out or in, but keep them in line with your hips and ankles.
- Now, bend down as much as you can, until your thighs are in a parallel position to the floor. Hold the position for 10 counts and then stand up.
- Stand up high on your tiptoes, particularly the big and second toes. Breathe in, and stretch your spine upward.
- Breathe out, bend your knees forward as you lift your heels. Ensure that your spine remains upright. Do not allow your knees to bend in or out, and make sure that they are in line with your hips and ankles.
- Go down as much as you can, to the point where your thighs are in a parallel position with the floor. Lift your heels up, and then push forward the top of your feet. Now, hold the position for 10 counts and then stand up.
- Set your heels down, and push your thighs and knees together. Your heels might lift off the ground marginally. Breathe in, and stretch your spine upward.
- Breathe out, and bend your knees slowly, as you sit your hips on your heels. Continue pressing your knees together.
- Now, your thighs should be in a parallel position to the floor and your spine upright. Your knees should remain pressed together and hold the position for 10 counts.
- While pressing your knees together, stand-up slowly. (You can choose to bring your arms to the ground, and then lift-up your hips in order to safeguard your knees.)
- Finally, bring your feet together, and your arms down, and be still.
Benefits of Chair Pose
- The regular practice of Utkatasana will not only strengthen your thigh muscles but also enhance your energy level and endurance of the whole body.
- Improves focus and balance.
- Stimulates the abdominal organs.
- Boosts your immune system.
- Strengthens and tones your thighs and calves.
- Strengthens your ankles, knees and spine.
- Improves digestion.
Contraindications and Cautions
The practice of Utkatasana is not recommended for those suffering from the following problems:
- Insomnia and headache, low BP.
- Arthritis, knee, and ankle issues.
- Lower back, shoulder, or neck injury.