Utkatasana – Chair pose

This pose is also known as powerful or fierce pose, this signifies the importance that every part of your body tries to attain. Here an imaginary chair helps you to find that power. This is a basic standing pose, however when I started my teacher training and Paluu adjusted me in this position I realized it was much more difficult to hold this asana then I originally thought. Such a simple looking pose is actually very difficult from an engineering perspective, gravity ensures holding this posture will give your muscles a good isometric workout.
The key structures involved in this pose are the shoulder girdle, quadriceps and hamstrings (to balance each other), knees (adductors and medial rotators). To protect the knees, minimize external rotation as the hips flex. The spine, shoulders, arms and legs are all working within this pose.
Maintaining axial extension (which minimizes breathing shape change), while engaging the largest most oxygen hungry muscles of the body presents a challenge that requires efficiency and breath. Otherwise the body’s oxygen demands will make the breath too labored to continue to maintain the axial extension.
People will find obstacles to this pose if they have weak latissimus dorsi, or weak quadriceps, knees falling out of alignment, over-arching lumbar spine or over flexing hips. This pose can be strengthened by working on these areas separately using targeted asanas or by building general overall body strength. It may be also beneficial to practice this asana against a wall to get the correct alignment before attempting to hold the pose free standing.
Other points to be aware of are that the knees are vulnerable in this position (partially flexed), if there is excessive knee rotation. Gravity should be the main source of resistance in this pose, not the resistance of agonist and antagonist contraction. Beginning students in this asana tend to feel a lot heavier. Low blood pressure; headaches and insomnia are contra-indicators to this pose.
Benefits of this asana are that overall body strength and tone is improved (particularly the ankles, spine, calves and thighs), your pelvis opens up helping to strengthen your spine and back.  This pose can also help to provide relief from menstrual cramping and can help to reduce flat feet.
Utkatasana is very beneficial to aid digestion and other problems faced by the immune system. Regular practice can also help to alleviate arthritis in the knees and alleviate pain from sciatica. This pose massages the liver, intestines and pancreas and stimulates the diaphragm and heart, which enable them to work more efficiently. Overall a very simple looking posture, with a whole host of benefits!

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