Based on the English name, you might think that the chair pose in yoga is as easy as sitting down in your favorite recliner. This pose (utkatasana in Sanskrit) mimics the position of sitting in a chair, but since the chair is missing, you have to rely on the strength of your lower body to keep from falling to the ground.
In fact, the Sanskrit word “utkata” has a lot of meanings, including fierce, powerful, and awkward. (The exact translation of utkatasana is actually “powerful pose.”) And when done correctly, utkatasana chair pose is all of those things combined, especially if it’s held for multiple breaths.
How to Perform Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Here’s how to do utkatasana with proper form, so you can get all of the benefits from it and progress in your yoga practice.
- Stand in Mountain Pose, so your toes are together and your heels are slightly separated.
Getting into the pose
- On an inhale, raise your arms above your head and alongside your ears, so your palms are facing one another. Then bend your knees to lower your hips down and back, like you are sitting in a child- sized chair.
- Keep your arms extended, with your shoulders press down and biceps by your ears. Keep your chin slightly tucked and your chest lifted to maintain a straight spine. Bend your knees deeply so that your hamstrings are parallel to the mat. Put your weight back into your heels, so that you could lift all 10 toes.
- If you have tight shoulders or lats, extending the arms can be difficult. Reach your arms up as far as is possible.
- If you glance down, you should be able to see your toes in chair pose. If you can’t, rock your weight back into your heels.
- Pull your belly button into the spine, which will help take the curve out of your lower back
Make it easier
- Start out with a wider stance and don’t bend your knees as much.
- If reaching up is impossible, you can always reach straight out in front of you, or bring your hands together in a prayer position at your chest.
Make it harder
- Bend your knees more, so you sit deeper into the pose.
- As you reach your arms up alongside your ears, touch your palms together and gaze up to the sky as you lift your chest.
- Hold the pose for multiple breaths.
Chair Pose Benefits
This pose is excellent for strengthening many muscles in your lower body. It engages your calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. It also helps to strengthen your core and challenges your balance. As for your upper body, raising your arms up by your ears can help to increase the range of motion of your shoulder and upper back muscles.