Utkatasana (also known as Intense or Fierce pose) – used to be one of the ‘easiest’ pose to do (in my world, at least). Little did I know, though aesthetically it looks easy, it is a tough pose when you engage the correct muscles and boy did I struggle when I first started doing yoga.
We have a love-hate relationship – me and my chair. I love how it helps me build up strength in the quadriceps, adductors, gluteus maximus, soleus, anterior deltoids, the rotator cuff (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor), triceps, errector spinae of the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine, transverse abdominus and rectus abominus, but hate that I feel the burning sensation when I have to hold in this asana for what seems like forever (actually just 25 breaths -.-). I also like that it builds up heat in my body!
Muscles that are stretched in this asana: latissimus dorsi and teres major (if the shoulders are tight) and soleus (if the calves are tight).
This is how I test my body awareness:
– Is the spine in neutral alignment? Be especially mindful of the lower back. There should be a slight inner curve but not too much.
– Dhristi at the thumbs with the chin slightly lifted
– Are the upper arms externally rotated at the glenohumeral joint? You should feel a sense of stability and lengthening through the shoulders.
– When lifting your arms, feel a sense of broadening of the shoulders and perhaps also of the collar bones and heart.
– Can you see your toes? If not, shift the knees back. They should be lined up just slightly forward of the ankles
– Keep the navel drawing in toward the spine and engage the muscles of the pelvic floor, holding both at about 25% of your maximum.
– Stay relaxed in the neck and jaw (though I swear it is tough to do so!)
For Beginners: The legs can be kept hip-distance apart. If the shoulders are tight, keep the arms horizontal to the floor, keep the chin level and look ahead.
For Intermediate yogis: Lift the heels and do this asana on tiptoes for more strengthening of the lower leg muscles (oh my gastrocnemius!!!!) and for a greater challenge to balance.
So I now have a whole new perspective on this asana – a chair is not just a chair, especially when you do it right. Like they say – no pain, no gain ☺
Yogi Glam (aka Samantha Dorai)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *