This is a base pose used in different flow yoga sequences that resembles sitting in an invisible chair. It is a way to boost the body’s energy, and kickstart your third chakra (power, expression and self-esteem).
Exploring the Pose
The chair pose, or Utkatasana, is the first in the Sun Salutation B Yoga Series. While this asana resembles sitting in an invisible chair, Utkata in Sanskrit stands for severe, violent or fierce. If you feel like you don’t have the willpower, or that your third chakra (solar plexus, above the navel) isn’t strong, the chair pose sequence can boost your circulation, create heat, and harness your inner warrior.
Those with strong quadriceps will benefit from the yoga chair pose the most. The knees and hips need the right amount of support to achieve this asana. Hence, the chair pose can ignite your inner spark as you align your hips, pelvis and knees, which are essential to holding this position.
Benefits and Precaution Linked to the Chair Pose
Chair yoga can help build muscle groups in the knees, hips, low back, shoulders and arms. You should include this pose in your yoga sequences to strengthen the quadriceps and pelvis.
The pose is inadvisable for people with certain pre-existing health conditions, such as low blood pressure or headaches. Speak to your physician about this particular asana if you are starting a new yoga routine, are injured, or have had recent surgery. People with damaged knees, or who suffer continual knee pain, should not attempt this pose, given that it can add pressure on the kneecap and knee.
Additionally, this pose may also be difficult for anyone experiencing low back pain or those that have an injury or are recovering from surgery. Attempting this pose when you have back pain can lead to increased muscle stiffness. The chair pose is also not recommended for those with severe arthritis, or those with injuries to the foot, ankle or heel. The position can increase pain, discomfort or stiffness.
Learning to Balance During the Chair Pose
Chair yoga sequences are challenging balancing poses because they put a strain on several muscle groups in the body at one time. In addition to the lower body and back holding this standing asana, you also have to hold your core and keep your arms raised. The good news is that there are modifications that can help you to build a stronger core. Use the tips below to make any necessary corrections if you have weak calves, thighs, shoulders, arms or tight ankles.
To modify chair yoga sequences for correcting weak thighs, use a strong box or block. Place it between your thighs and squeeze it for better balance. As you gain more thigh strength, use books or heavier blocks with this pose.
If you need to correct your core, avoid looking forward. Instead, look up at your hands as this can help you stretch and strengthen your core. Use your hands to reach and focus on your breathing. To correct weak upper body strength, an option is to pull your hands toward your heart instead of holding them straight in front of you.
For tight or stiff ankles, a towel between your heels or a rolled-up mat can offer relief. This provides support for the ankles and can give you more balance. If your calves are weak, don’t shift your weight to the backs of the heels. Shift your weight forward slightly to the balls of the feet. Then, with your arms pointing out in front of you, try to maintain this posture without collapsing or slouching.
Breathing Through Chair Pose
Breathing plays a crucial role in achieving this asana. You may want to use Breath of Fire, which is continuous breath fueled by contractions in your stomach when you exhale. Rhythmically push the air out and in through your nose.
Mastering Utkatasana is tricky for beginners. Start slow, be patient, and build up a rhythm that you are comfortable with. Use consistent breathing to ensure a healthy asana routine. Once you become comfortable with your breathing, stop after 10 rounds, but try to hold your pose for 30-60 seconds. For breath awareness during these yoga chair positions, first start by inhaling and exhaling a few rounds as you stand in Tadasana (mountain pose). Then, exhale as you bend down and expand the hips while raising your arms upward. You’ll exhale again as you look up at your fingers.
Once in the asana, work on your inhalations and exhalations. Every time you inhale, let your body go loose, then stretch your arms and push your hips and tailbone whenever you exhale. Inhale again when you release your pose and lower your arms, then exhale once you go back to Tadasana.