yoga poses

Chair Pose – the seat of power

Chair pose builds strength, brings stamina to the body and determination to the mind. Sitting in a chair is easy and comfortable, but sitting in an imaginary chair requires fortitude and perseverance.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras teaches us to find comfort and ease with every pose. Chair pose also invites us to find power. It requires focus and determination to mindfully hold the pose without holding the breath.

Commonly referred to as Chair Pose, the Sanskrit name Utkatasana means “intense” or “powerful”. In Bikram yoga, it is called Awkward Chair Pose.

Chair Pose invites us to explore balance between effort and release. There are opposing forces at play which pull the body apart – gravity pulling us towards the earth from the waist down, and the opposing force lifting us up from the sacrum, up the spine through the crown of the head and out through the fingertips.

It can be safely practised at home every time you are about to sit down.

Guidelines

From anatomical point of view the spine is in axial extension from the sacrum all the way up through the crown of the head. The back of the neck is long with the gaze between the hands without compressing the back of the neck. Abdominal muscles are engaged and sit bones dropped towards the floor. Once the upper body is aligned, the pose can be deepened by further bending the knees.

Common errors

  • Overextension of lumbar spine which causes ‘duck butt’ and compression in the lower back. The front lower ribs are flared up and tail bone is sticking up. To correct this ‘knit’ the lower front ribs into the body by drawing the belly button towards the spine and tuck the tail bone under. This action lengthens the spine on all sides.
  • Collapsing into gravity by over flexing hips. Engage the hamstrings by drawing sit bones forward – ‘lift the pubic bone’.
  • Weight goes too far forward and heels lifting off the floor – shift the weight towards the heels and outer edges of the feet and see if you can lift the toes off the mat.

Modifications

  • Feet and knees together or feet hip distance apart.
  • With feet hip distance apart – squeeze a block between the thighs.
  • For tight shoulders – option of hands shoulder width apart, cactus arms, eagle arms or thumbs under armpits.
  • To deepen the pose, bend the knees further taking thighs parallel to the floor, lift the heels off the floor and sit on the raised heels. Extend the arms forward, palms facing each other.

Before

After

  • Ardha Utkatasana – Half Chair Pose
  • Parivrtta Utkatasana – Revolved Half Chair Pose
  • Uttanasana – Standing Forward Fold
  • Padangusthasana – Hand to Big Toe
  • Padahastasana – Hand to Foot

Chakras

Utkatasana is believed to activate first chakra (Muladhara – Root Chakra) as it develops connection to the earth. The foundation of Chair Pose are the feet which provide stability and keep us grounded.

Muladhara poseses feminine and masculine qualities and both need to be activated. The masculine pushes downward with the feet creating stability in the hips and providing stable base. The feminine draws energy from the earth throught the feet, up the legs to the hips. Grounding and establishing firm foundation by rooting into the ground facilitates rising up from the base of the spine.

Benefits

  • Strengthens thighs, legs, ankles
  • Increases inner fire and builds energy
  • Develops sense of the core
  • Stimulates digestive and reproductive systems

Contradictions or apply caution

  • Knee injuries
  • Low blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Headache

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