Ashtanga Yoga Pose Explained

FIERCE POSE / Utka = Fierce or Powerful

Utkatasana, also known as intense pose or chair pose, is one of the staple poses of any yoga practice. You might call it a bread and butter pose, we call it a chapati and ghee pose. Forgive our little joke, we’ll get down to business and explain how to correctly do utkatasana, as well as its benefits, modifications, and key tips and tricks!

Benefits of Utkatasana:

Utkatasana, or chair pose, strengthens the ankles, thighs, calf muscles, as well as the spine. It is an excellent, and intense, work out for the quadriceps. It also helps to stretch the muscles in the shoulders and the chest.

To enter utkatasana, move through Surya Namaskara, but do not stay in a downward facing dog position for five breaths. You are going through a vinyasa flow here. As you are going through the vinyasa Surya Namaskara flow, you will notice that the count begins on Sapta, instead of Ekam, one. This is how utkatasana is treated in the Ashtanga Primary Series.

(7) Sapta - Inhale - Jump from downward dog between your palms. Then bend your knees nearly parallel to the floor. Raise your arms upwards, shooting them upwards in the same line as your spine. Raise your head, gaze up, and keep your feet together. Keep palms facing each other.

Hold the posture and breathe for 5 breaths.

(8) Astau - Inhale - Press the palms back to the floor and lift your body and move into half handstand.

(9) Nava - Exhale - Jump back into chaturanga dandasana.

(10) Dasa - Inhale - Urdhva mukha svanasana (upward facing dog)

(11) Ekadasa - Exhale - Ardo mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)

The eyegaze, dristi, is urdhva, upward.

Tips for Successfully Completing Utkatasana:

Try to keep your thighs as parallel to the mat as possible. Focus on keeping the arms in line with the spine, in a straight line. The arms will be completely straight, there will be no bend whatsoever in the eyebrow. Keep the feet pressed together and the thighs pressed together. Keep your tailbone tucked down towards the floor. Do not stick your rear end out in an act of lordosis. Make sure to keep your gaze upwards. 

Modifications for Utkatasana:

Before you can get your thighs nearly parallel to the mat, work on bending the legs at greater and deeper angles, so that you can work on achieving being close to parallel to the mat, perhaps at a 75-degree to 85-degree bend.