Being as strong as a chair

Utkatasana, or chair pose is also known as the fierce or intense pose. It is an asana which targets a whole range of muscle groups. After all, if someone is going to sit on a chair, the chair needs to be strong, right? However with many people spending too many hours sitting down in an office, the gluteus and hamstrings become weak and our quadriceps and hip flexors become dominant. Doing Utkatasana properly is a good way to rebalance these muscles.

Getting into Utkatasana

1.  Stand in Tadasana with your feet together, chest lifted and shoulders relaxed down

2.  Exhale bend your knees but keep your heels grounded. Activate the psoas and pectineus muscles to flex the hips, and lower your sit bones towards the floor. Imagine that there is a chair behind you – that is how far down you need to bring your thighs down. Use your gluteus maximus to tilt the pelvis downwards and back.

3.  Check that your knees are not going beyond your feet – you need to make sure that you can see the tip of your toes. Squeeze the knees together by actively engaging the adductor group of muscles in the inner thighs.

4.  Lift your arms up by using the anterior deltoids. Straighten the elbows by engaging your triceps and think about externally rotating your shoulders. If your elbows are straight, you can bring the palms together.  If you have tight shoulders, palms can be kept shoulder width apart.

5.  Engage your serratus anterior and pectoralis minor to bring the chest forward.

6.  Tilt your head slight back so that your drishti is up past your hands to the ceiling.  If you have any neck problems, gaze straight ahead

7.  Hold Utkatasana for 5 breaths

8.  Exhale and come back up to Tadasana.

Modifications:

  • Use a block between your thighs to make sure you are activating your inner thigh muscles.
  • Beginners may want to practice near a wall, 2 feet away from the wall, with your back towards the wall. When you come down your tailbone will touch the wall and be supported by it.
  • If your find it difficult to ground your heels, roll a small towel or a little of your mat, to support your feet.

Benefits:

  • Good chest and shoulder opener
  • Improves balance and stability
  • Strengthens the spine, thigh and gluteus muscles
  • Strengthens ankles and good for flat feet
  • Stimulates heart and diaphragm

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