Utkatasana Benefits and Steps to do Chair Pose

April 15,2024

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“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse

The above quote has been said by one of the most revered artists of the 19th and 20th century. It perfectly, and fairly efficiently, shines a spotlight on the relationship between the ability to think outside the box and the courage required to do so. Oftentimes, we may lack, or find ourselves lacking in one or both of those things from time to time. So, what should be done about it? Perhaps the answer to that question is the Yoga asana that this article talks about, which is the Utkatasana, or as it is commonly known in the West, the Chair Pose.

Let's begin a voyage into the depths of this elegant posture, exploring the benefits of Utkatasana, unraveling a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Chair Pose, delving into the anatomy of Utkatasana, addressing important considerations regarding when not to perform the Chair Pose, and addressing the common questions and doubts about this yoga pose.

What is Utkatasana a.k.a Chair Pose

Utkatasana also known as The Chair Pose is a simple warm-up-esque pose that primarily focuses on the practitioner’s hips, spine and knees. This asana essentially sees the Yogi miming the sitting on a chair action. However, in the case of this pose, the hips go considerably below the knees so that the pose can work its magic by putting pressure on the students’ leg muscles, knees, hips and spine. By doing so, this pose attempts to strengthen and warm up the previously mentioned organs, which are used on a day-to-day basis. This is all to say that this pose essentially builds up your core strength as well as helps you develop a certain amount of grittiness, which is very much required in today’s day and age.

The first descriptions of this asana were found in Sritattvanidhi, a 19th-century text that talks about the iconography of the divine figures worshipped in South India that also happens to have a chapter that talks about 122 Hatha yoga positions. Since then, it has been incorporated by many Yogis into their Yoga routine over several generations. The reason why they have done so is because Utkatasana brings a set of unique benefits along with it, which you will learn about in the section below.

What Are The Benefits Of Utkatasana a.k.a Chair Pose

There are a myriad of benefits of doing the Utkatasana also known as Chair Pose. Some of the main ones are as follows:

Utkatasana Is Great For Your Inner Core and Gut: Utkatasana helps you build your core strength by engaging your abdominals, obliques, gluteus muscles, and back by weakening them in a way that will only help them emerge stronger with a nutritious diet over time. As time passes, you will also begin to feel a sense of resilience as a result. When you feel like you have a stronger gut, you tend to be able to deal with the curveballs life throws daily with more efficiency as you will have the required amount of grittiness for it.

Utkatasana Also Helps You Become A More Effective Speaker: One of the less obvious places that a yogi feels the impact of the Utkatasana is the throat, wherein lies the Throat Chakra. Once activated, the Yogi can become a more effective and persuasive communicator over time.

Utkatasana Can Get Those Creative Juices Flowing: Feeling an oncoming of a creative block while working on that big project of yours? Utkatasana may just be for you. This asana activates the Sacral Chakra, a passageway of energy that resides at the base of the spine. Once activated, the individual will be able to think more creatively and laterally.

Utkatasana Helps Improve Concentration: Two of the main things that the Utkatasana tests are the practitioner’s focus and concentration, as this asana is also in a way an exercise in building those two things. While in position, the Yogi goes through an experience that is painful enough for the Yogi to want to tap out, but if the individual manages to persevere through it, he/she can grow into a more focused individual who will have very little chance of getting distracted.

Utkatasana Helps Improve Spinal Posture: It is safe to say that you will be easily able to say no to hunching or slouching while going through life if you incorporate and daily practice the Utkatasana. This asana achieves the same by correcting any structural imperfections in the spine, which has its own set of long-term benefits.

How To Do Utkatasana a.k.a Chair Pose

Utkatasana also known as Chair Pose is unarguably one of the simplest Hatha Yoga poses out there, hence it should be pretty easy to execute the same for anyone who isn’t suffering from any of the conditions highlighted in the contraindications section of this piece. The steps to do the Chair pose with perfection are as follows:

Utkatasana Step 1: Stand attentively on the top of your mat. Ensure that your arms are placed firmly by your sides and your knees point ahead. In addition, ensure that your spine is straight and your eyes are fixated on a particular point of your choosing right in front of you.

Utkatasana Step 2: Gently lift your heels while raising your arms with an equal amount of tenderness until your palms and shoulders begin to represent the extreme ends of a horizontal line. Make sure that your palms are facing upward and all of your body weight is on the fingers of your feet.

Utkatasana Step 3: Gently turn your palms downwards and make sure that they are facing the ground at the end of the process.

Utkatasana Step 4: Take a deep breath in, following which you should use your knees to squat until the point your rear end is below your knees.

Utkatasana Step 5: Stay in that position for up to 5 breaths or for as long as you are comfortable. Make sure that your knees are pointing ahead, your spine is straight and your eyes are locked at a point in front of you. On top of that, keep your core comfortably tight and engaged.

Utkatasana Step 6: Come out of the position after exhaling deeply and straightening your knees at the same time. Make sure that you bring your heels to the ground at the same pace.

When To Practise Utkatasana a.k.a Chair Pose

Almost all of the yoga experts believe that one should ideally do the Utkatasana also known as Chair Pose in the morning and in an open space to get some Vitamin D at the same time. However, if you are unable to take out time in the morning due to any reason, evening time is perfectly fine as well. Whatever time you choose, make sure that your stomach and bladder are empty since the Utkatasana puts a decent amount of pressure on your bladder and organs found in and around the abdominal area.

Utkatasana Contraindications

There are certain scenarios under which you should either not do the Utkatasana also known as Chair Pose at all or at least consult your respective healthcare professional and/or a trained Yoga instructor before taking the final call. The main Utkatasana contraindications are as follows:

  • If you have recently injured your knees and/or any muscle tissue around it. Especially consider avoiding this pose if your knees or any tissue around it have been operated on.
  • Preferably stay clear of Utkatasana If you have an injured, recently operated on or a weak spine.
  • Think twice before slipping into the Utkatasana if you have injured your shoulders. You should also consider skipping this pose if they are weaker than the shoulder of someone your age as well.
  • Consider getting a second opinion from a doctor or a Yoga instructor as well if you have weak thigh muscles. In this case, you might be asked to do one of the easier Utkatasana variations that you will find below, but it will certainly behove you to get an additional opinion before doing anything.
  • Experts recommend that you strictly avoid the Utkatasana if you have very little body balance, although, if that is the case, you can consider doing one of the simpler Chair Pose variations which you will find below.

Anatomy Of Utkatasana a.k.a Chair Pose

To appreciate the Utkatasana also known as Chair Pose, one must be taken through an anatomical exploration of the pose, which can be found below.

When in the starting position, you are letting all of your body relax, with the two minor exceptions being your arms and your trapezius (Upper back) muscles, which are engaged to keep your palms and head in position respectively.

When you lift yourself a little bit higher from the ground and balance yourself on your foot fingers while raising your arms as directed, in addition to the obvious muscles in the feet, you are expanding your calves and tibialis muscles. But, it does not stop there. Within a second, you will feel the contracting sensation travelling through the posterior side of your legs, starting with your PCL, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, and then finally, your lower back.

Extending the arms, on the other hand, causes an expansion in the middle section on your back while your shoulders, biceps, and the muscles at the base of your neck are feeling contractions. Not to mention that during the process, the spine is also feeling the contracting pressure. You can choose to stay in this pose for a second as an exercise in understanding your anatomy and limits better. In addition, this starter position will also give you a sense of the body parts that are going to be impacted during the final pose.

Now, coming to the pain pose, the eventual drop in your torso will activate numerous muscles, with the most important ones being your inner thighs, hamstrings, abductors, adductors, your core, your obliques, and even your chest. All of the muscles that have just been mentioned will contract and it will start with your lower body, post which the upper body will join the party.

Once you get into this position, it is important to stay in it as well for the recommended amount of time. You will want to come out because of the pressure being applied to your core, but being able to endure all of that distress is essentially the point. While in the process, this asana also tests your focus, determination, and inner strength. You are also supposed to feel every part of your body strengthening in addition to a sense of balance being developed in your center.

While exiting this pose, you will feel all of your muscles relaxing at almost the same time. At the end, you will be left with a certain amount of heat that has built up in the affected areas. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Utkatasana

Why Is It Called Utkatasana

Utkatasana is a name that is of Sanskrit origin. It quite literally means “The Chair Pose”. The word can be broken down into two parts, namely Utkata and Asana, which respectively translate to the terms “Chair” and “Pose”. This pose has been named as such because upon achieving the final pose, it seems like the Yogi is sitting on an invisible chair. Due to its translation, Utkatasana is more commonly known as “The Chair Pose” in the West.

What are the techniques of Utkatasana?

Some of the alternative techniques of the Utkatasana also known as Chair Pose are:

Ardha Utkatasana or The Half Chair Pose: This incarnation of the Utkatasana requires the Yogi to only cover half of the distance stated in the Utkatasana step-by-step guide in terms of bringing your torso closer to the ground. This variation is done by those who lack the strength required in the leg muscles for executing the proper Utkatasana. This variation is also done by those who would like to simply warm up their legs, knees and hips for the main Utkatasana.

Utkatasana With Feet Wide Apart: In this version of the Chair pose, the student is allowed to keep their feet a little wider apart while keeping other aspects of the pose unaltered. This asana is done by those who would like a more stable base while doing or transitioning into the Utkatasana.

Utkatasana With Wide Arms: In this version of Utkatasana, the student raises his/her arms to their side instead of the front. This version is done by those who feel an unusual amount of pain in their shoulders while doing the Utkatasana in its original form.

Utkatasana With A Low-Rise Chair: This is your standard Utkatasana pose, with the only difference being the presence of a low-rise chair. This iteration is done by students who are not too confident about being able to do this asana properly and fear rapidly landing on the ground in an uncontrolled manner.

Utkatasana Against A Wall: This too is your standard Utkatasana, but this iteration is done with the back on the wall. This incarnation of the pose is done by those who want to provide more support to their lumbar and sacral region.

How Can One Get Better At Utkatasana?

You can get better at Utkatasana with practice and keenly paying attention to every single part one must perfect to do the Utkatasana right. For a refresher on the exact technique of doing so, feel free to revisit the step-by-step guide for the Utkatasana higher up in this article.