Utkatasana (Chair Pose) gives strength to your thighs and ankles, while elongating the shoulders, butt, hips, and back. It gives lots of stretching to the Achilles tendons and shins, and can be therapeutic for flat feet. Utkatasana also stretches the shoulders and opens the chest area.
Chair Pose was so hard for me at first! I can remember a love/hate relationship with this pose. Now, I have grown to love it and you can too. You will find great rewards in Chair Pose.
The name alone is a little deceiving, Chair Pose is a strong, active pose that strengthens the ankles, thighs, and calves, as well as the spine. Chair Pose also promotes healthy feet and creates a stretch through the chest and shoulders. There are also modifications for this pose, so don’t get discouraged. Strength and progression come with lots of practice and patience.
1. Let’s start with standing long straight and strong, with your feet separated hip distance apart and parallel to one another. Separate your toes wide and ground down through all four corners of your feet — the big toe mound, pinky toe mound, and the two outer edges of the heels.
2. Inhale, sweep your arms overhead with your palms facing one another. Keep your ears in line with your arms and relax your shoulders low.
3. Exhale and bend your knees deep or as far as you can go without any strain, as if you are sitting into a chair. Bring your thighs as close to parallel with the floor as your body feels comfortable allowing, and keep your knees about a hip distance apart.
4. Keep your weight grounded firmly through your heels and shift your hips back until your knees begin to stack directly over your ankles.
5. Notice also if your torso begins to collapse forward, and instead keep your chest slightly lifted and your collarbone broad. Firm up the low belly to create a sense of tone.
6. Bring your belly button to your spine and allow your tailbone to point straight down toward the ground and maintain length along your spine.
7. Hold the pose for two to five full, deep breaths. To come out of the pose, straighten your legs slowly on an inhale, and bring your arms to your sides- exhale; alternately, use an exhale to fold forward into Uttanasana for a more subtle exit.
Give yourself grace. One breath at a time can help with patience and progress.
Practicing Chair Pose standing with slight bends at your knees or at a wall is a great way to develop the strength and practice to really do a fully expressed pose.
To progress in the pose you can place a block lengthwise between your thighs and squeezing the block as you hold the pose.