The following sections give examples and explain how to help students get a feel of the pose, develop strength in the muscles used for the pose, get into the pose, get deeper into the pose, and props/variations that can be used.
Getting Comfortable with the Pose
For beginners especially, putting their weight on their heels and pushing their buttocks back in Ukatasana might throw them off balance and make them a little wary of falling. A good way to sort that out is to have them lean their backs against a wall, then while keeping their backs flat against the wall, start lowering themselves by bending their knees to a 90 degree angle until it looks like they are sitting on a chair. Get them to lift up their toes to experience what it feels like to put the weight on their heels. If you have a swiss ball available, do exactly as written in the previous lines, except put the ball between the student and the wall. This will increase the amount of effort the student has to exert, as well as make the balancing a tad more challenging.
Exercises to Strengthen Muscles Used for this Pose
In order to execute this pose, the student will need to have pretty decent strength in their legs, glutes, arms, rhombus and core. Well…pretty much everywhere. Some of the exercises you can use to help lesson common mistakes in the pose:
Squats – develops strength in quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Also lets student experience pushing buttocks back and keeping weight on heels. Can be done with just bodyweight, or using swiss ball against wall. To get the inner thighs working, your student can squeeze a yoga block between their knees and do narrow stance squats.
Arm Raises – for some reason, it’s quite challenging to raise your arms and take them in line or behind your ears when you are in Ukatasana. You really have to squeeze your shoulder blades together (using your rhombus) and activate your biceps and triceps. A good exercise is to take a yoga block and place it between your forearms. With your arms straight, squeeze the block and raise your arms up taking the block over your head (make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together), hold it there for a few seconds.
Getting into the Pose…and Checking It
- Start in Tadasana
- Inhale and take your arms up over the head, palms together, thumbs interlocked.
- Exhale, bend the knees, push the buttocks back and down. Make sure your weight is on the heels…lift up toes to check.
- Tighten your core to bring your body back.
- If your back is arched, tuck your tailbone in.
- Take note of your arms, if they are not vertically upright and stretched over your head, squeeze your shoulder blades together, keep your arm muscles active, and try to keep your arms at least in line with your ears.
- Look up at the thumbs.
- Feel the burn! Take 5 breaths.
- Inhale and come on back up.
- Exhale and put your hands at heart centre in prayer.
If your student is having a bit of a challenge with this pose, you can try the following:
- Have the student do the pose with his/her back against a wall
- Use a swiss ball. Have the student sit on a smallish (or suitably sized) swiss ball as they would in Ukatasana, and execute the rest of the pose – raise arms overhead, keep weight off heels, tighten core, tuck tailbone in.