Chair pose is a defiance of spirit, showing how high you can reach even when you’re forced down.
-The Quote Garden
Chair pose is one of the most popular yet challenging yoga poses. In Sanskrit it is Utkatasana pronounced OOT-kah-TAHS-anna. Like many Sanskrit words, it has multiple translations including Chair Pose, Fierce Pose, Lightning Bolt Pose, and Awkward Pose. If you practice Utkatasana, you will agree that all of these make perfect sense!
This fun and taxing pose has many physical benefits. It tones the leg muscles and strengthens the hip flexors, ankles, calves, and back. Simultaneously it stretches the chest and shoulders. From the perspective of functional fitness, Utkatasana mirrors the muscles need to sit down and stand up from a chair and makes avoiding that public potty seat less laborious!
To perform Utkatasana, beginners or those with back issues will separate their feet hips distance apart and then bend the knees while sitting back as if about to sit in a chair. Others will do the same with their feet together. The idea is to sit far enough back that weight is in the heels and the toes are visible. As the chest and arms reach up toward the ceiling, the navel pulls towards the lower front ribs to lengthen the lumbar spine.
In Utkatasana while the upper body reaches high, the lower body sinks low. It is this duality, lifting while sinking, that makes this pose difficult. Lifting when you feel like you are sinking is tough in both yoga and life. Can you reach up when life takes an ugly or unexpected turn or when you are feeling down or depressed? Practicing Utkatasana is a gentle reminder that when you are feeling low, you have the power to lift yourself up.