Chair Pose / Powerful Pose  -Utkatasana

Step by step

  • From Mountain pose / Tadasana.
  • Exhale as you bend the knees as if you’re about to sit down on a chair. Bring your thighs as close to parallel with the floor as possible. Send your hips back rather than your knees forward, so that you can still see your toes.
  • Keep the back straight as you lean forward from the hips slightly.
  • Inhale as you raise your arms up in line with your ears or in front of them.
  • Keep the neck long, slide your shoulder blades down and firm them into the back.
  • Pull your lower abdomen in and up, this helps to extend and protect the lower back.
  • Stay in Utkatasana from 5 to 15 breaths.
  • To come out of the pose, inhale, press into your feet and straighten the legs, reaching up through the fingers and the crown of your head. Exhale and lower your arms to come back into Mountain pose.

Beginners tips

  • Think about squeezing your legs together as if they are one to make them stronger. You can use a block or rolled up towel to practice this - imagine you are squeezing it and also trying to shoot it out behind you as you internally rotate the thighs.
  • However, you can also bring your feet hip-width apart to make your base a little more stable if you need to.
  • Press firmly through the feet to create more lift in the upper body. The weight is even between the heels and the balls of the feet.
  • Practice the action in the legs first with your hands on your hips or the back of a (stable) chair for support.

Benefits

  • Strengthens and stabilises the legs, ankles and feet.
  • Strengthens the abdominal muscles and lower back.
  • Opens and stretches the chest and shoulders.
  • Improves confidence and focus.
  • Great pose to practice Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha which will create lightness and also tones the pelvic floor muscles and lower abdomen.

Watch out for

  • Protect your knees: Double check that they don’t come forward over the line of the toes. You should be able to see the toes.
  • If you have discomfort in your shoulders or neck, bring your arms wider apart and/or lower. They can be pointing straight out in front of you or down to the floor. Alternatively you could bend the elbows in line with the ears and point the fingertips upwards.
  • Lower back: Ensure that your lower belly is drawn back to the spine to protect your lower back, try not to overarch the lumbar spine. If you have back problems either skip the pose or practice with your back against a wall.

Variations

  • For a pose advancement bring the weight into the left foot and come onto the toes of the right foot. Slowly step the right foot back into a lunge.
  • Practice the pose with your feet hip-width apart to create a more stable base, this is also a good variation to use if you are pregnant or if you have a larger body.

You can experiment with the arms in different positions:

  • Clasp your hands behind your back for a shoulder stretch and then move dynamically into a forward fold (hands still clasped) and back again into Utkatasana.
  • Bring your palms together into Anjali Mudra (prayer position, thumbs to chest) preparing for Parivrtta Utkatasana / Revolved Chair pose.