Chair Pose, or Utkatasana is not just a beginner pose, but it is also part of the Sun Salutations and is often used as a transitional pose. It can also be practiced on its own to build strength and stamina throughout the whole body.
Utkatasana comes from the Sanskrit words utkata meaning powerful or fierce and asana meaning pose. Many yogis may skip this pose or they will not hold it for long because it can feels tiresome, and it is not the most “glamorous” of postures. However, practicing Chair Pose is good for you, not only because of its physical benefits, but because it advances your practice physically as well as, emotionally.
Modifications & Variations
Utkatasana can be an excellent full-body strengthener when practiced correctly. It can take time to build enough strength to hold the pose for more than a breath or two. Take it slowly and be careful not to over-stress your knees or shoulders. To deepen or modify the pose, try these variations:
Utkatasana can build a lot of strength and stamina throughout the body when it’s done with correct alignment:
Maintain a slight arch in your back.
Squeeze your thighs as close together as possible.
Bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible.
Draw your chest back and up, instead of reaching your torso forward.
Keep your weight evenly distributed in your heels. Shifting the weight forward can over-stress your knees..
Remember to breathe evenly throughout the pose! If your breath becomes strained, come out of the pose until you can breathe deeply again.
For many people their daily lives consist of a lot of sitting; whether that comes from work, school or driving, we sit for many hours these days than previous times. Some people try to balance that with exercise, such as walking, running, cycling swimming or cardio, but how many of us spend quality time stretching our muscles, tendons and ligaments? Lack of stretching leads to immobility of joints, mainly the hips and shoulders, causing stiffness and, often at times, pain. How does your lower back feel? How about the muscles between your shoulder blades? Where do you carry your stress? We spend a lot of time on our cell phones, computers and tablets, hunched over. This shortens the muscles in the front of the shoulders, this atrophies the hip flexor muscles. To combat this, practicing the above yoga poses on a daily basis can begin to reverse the effects of tight hips and shoulders. Just a few minutes of yoga can make a big difference for your overall well-being!
Parsvottanasana comes from the Sanskrit words Parsva meaning side, Ut meaning intense and tan meaning to extend, stretch or lengthen. Hence the name Intense Side Stretch Pose. This pose is also called Pyramid Pose, which emphasizes the powerful foundation and strength created in this pose.
Getting into the pose:
Caution: Do not practice this pose if you have a hamstring injury. If you have a shoulder or wrist injury, do not practice the full version of the pose. Women who are pregnant and those with back injuries or high blood pressure should practice the pose against a wall. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. As with any exercise regimen, including yoga, talk with your doctor before practicing.
Uttanasana, or intense forward-bending pose, is a component of Sun Salutes and vinyasa, as well as, a dynamic part of the transition between standing and Chaturanga Dandasana. In Sanskrit, Ut means Intense, Tana means stretched and Asana means a yogic pose.
Uttasana is often dismissed as an uninteresting and basic pose; yet it offers a wealth of opportunities to develop muscle actions that support other standing poses like Warriors and Pyramid Pose. Practicing this foundation pose brings numerous benefits. Uttasana is also an inversion. Albeit a much more accessible inversion than head stand or handstand but with many of the usual benefits and more. Personally, I lovepracticing Uttansana because the weight of the head hanging heavy is enough to give my neck a gentle stretch. The stretch decompresses the spinal joints allowing a little stretch of the muscles and ligaments as well as a burst of nourishment.
Beginner’s Tip: If you cannot touch the ground, hold onto the backs of the legs wherever the hands fall (except for the knees) or cross the arms in front of the body holding onto the elbows. Let the head hang with gravity. If this is still too intense, take tension off the hamstrings and low back by bending the knees. Working with the breath, try “inhaling, bending”, “exhaling, straightening”. Deepen the Uttanasana pose to increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book or lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, and then, from the height of the groins, lengthen your heels back onto the floor.
Caution: Uttanasana requires patience and practice. It can take a while to reach the deepest variation of the pose. Those with back injuries can practice this pose with bent knees, use a block for support under the hands, or substitute Half Forward Bend instead.
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