Be honest, when your yoga teacher calls "chair pose" or "utkatasana" in class, your heart doesn't leap for joy. It's one of those banal poses with no fancy tricks to it. But it's quite often practiced, and can be quite challenging. In fact, its translation from Sanskrit is "intense" or "powerful" pose.
I must point out that this pose can be done in various ways depending on the type of yoga you practice. Chair pose in Ashtanga Yoga, for example, asks for less knee flexion (standing much taller than the pose I'm doing in the photo), with hands in prayer overhead and the gaze upward. Various vinyasa yoga styles encourage students to stand with feet hip-width distance apart, and a medium amount of flexion in the hips and knees. Power Yoga (like Baptiste Yoga) teaches students to squat lower, with knees and big toes together, and fingers spread wide. This is MY kind of chair pose, so I will outline the how-tos and how-to-nots with this specific type of pose in mind.
- Bring your knees and big toes together. Leave a little space between your heels.
- Sit back into the pose by putting more weight into your heels, and therefore most of the body weight into your hips.
- Do NOT simply bend your knees forward toward the toes as you'll end up putting too much weight into the knees (specifically compromising the ACL). Make sure you can see your toes to ensure the work is in the glutes and leg muscles.
- If you have knee issues, do not flex the knees as deeply. Work toward aligning your knees over heels, rather than your knees forward of your toes.
- Draw your tailbone down toward the heels, creating length in your spine. Slightly lift your pubic bone and contract your abs.
- Do NOT stick out your butt and your chest. This will put pressure on your lumbar spine.
- Depress (relax) your shoulders away from your ears.
- Turn the pinkies to face each other to help externally rotate the shoulders. Pull the biceps by the ears.
- Your gaze can be forward or upward, depending on you cervical spine health. Note: if you are taking your gaze upward, pull your chin back (jalandhara bandha) before lifting your eyes skyward.
- Hold the pose and the gaze steady. Breathe!