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Focus of the Month


Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Utkatasana's name comes from the Sanskrit utkata, which means “fierce, proud, high, haughty, superior, immense, large, difficult”.

It is often called "chair pose" because it looks like you are sitting back into a chair, but we like to think of it as your throne.

Getting into Chair Pose

  1. Stand straight, with your feet slightly wider than hip­-width apart.
  2. Inhale, lift your arms alongside your ears. Lift your shoulder blades and rib cage along with your arms to avoid creating tension in your neck and shoulders. Stretch your elbows straight; keep your wrists and fingers long and easy. Imagine your arms extending from the center of your waist to your fingertips.
  3. Exhale, bend your knees, and move the tops of your thighs back. Your knees will extend beyond your ankles.
  4. Lift your rib cage until it is as nearly vertical as it will go while still keeping your knees bent. Release the top rim of your buttocks down. You will resemble someone sitting in a chair and leaning slightly forward.
  5. Draw your low belly in and up. Let the front body support the back body. Keep your front ribs parallel with your back ribs; don't poke them forward or arch your lumbar spine in the attempt to lift your chest. Balance the lift of your chest by extending a long, imaginary tail along the floor behind you.
  6. Keeping the back of your neck long, lift the base of your skull and the crown of your head—as if you were wearing a crown. Keep your eyes calm and your forehead broad. Occupy your throne with attention and poise, even though the pose requires effort. Check your eyes, jaw, and tongue for tension. Release any held tension on your out breath. Stay in the pose, breathing quietly, for ten breaths.
  7. To come out of the pose, exhale, lower your arms, and straighten your legs.

If you are restricted in lifting your arms fully, take the heels of your hands to the very tops of your thighs and press down. Imagine the tops of your thighbones connecting with your heels. Lift your spine and rib cage. Roll the skin over your collarbones up, over your shoulders, and down your back.

Health benefits of chair pose include strengthening the legs and ankles, stretching the chest and shoulders, and stimulating the abdominal organs and heart. Chair pose is quite stimulating, so don't practice it just before bed, especially if you have trouble sleeping. It is also warming, making it a great choice for cold winter mornings!

Reflection: Have you ever been in a position to assume responsibility greater than you felt prepared to handle? Like Bharata, you may have been called upon to take a job that you believed would be better filled by someone else—and yet you were the one who had to do it. How did that feel? Did it, or might it help you to invoke the aid of some transpersonal authority or higher power? Imagine finding ease in the knowledge that you are not the doer but simply the placeholder for dharma, the one through whom a worthy purpose is accomplished. Read more of the story behind chair pose here;