Chair Pose or Utkatasana is often called fierce pose. This comes as no surprise to yogis who regularly practice this relatively basic but nonetheless challenging pose.
Holding this pose for an extended period of time, or multiple times in a sequence, calls for a fierceness of mind as well as body. Keeping correct alignment and posture in this pose is also tricky, especially as the legs begin to strain and arms begin to shake.
However, proper alignment will ensure that the knees are kept safe and that the yogi is receiving all of the amazing benefits that this pose has to offer.
Getting Into the Pose
From Mountain Pose, or Tadasana, bend the knees enough so that your finger tips can graze the floor (yes, that’s how low you your hips should be, and yes, it is hard).
Keeping the knees bent, reach the arms up to the sky, keeping the biceps in line with the ears. Turn the pinkies in slightly so that the forearms rotate inwards.
The torso should be tilted slightly forward, but the heart open and reaching up along with the arms. Tuck the tailbone in to elongate the back. The knees should be over the feet, but you should be able to see your toes.
Stay in this pose for a few deep breaths.
Common Misalignments in Chair Pose
1. Not Bending the Knees Enough
This is by far the most common misalignment in Chair pose. The thighs should ideally be parallel to the floor, and the torso should form a 90-degree angle with the thighs.
Why do so many yogis get this wrong? Because it’s really hard to do. When you first start practicing Chair pose, you might only be able to hold this alignment for five seconds, and that’s okay! This is definitely a pose that requires practice.
Each time you come to the pose, try holding it for one more breath. As you do this, you’ll start to build the necessary strength in your thighs, and slowly it will become easier.
2. Putting the Weight in the Toes
Many students will find themselves feeling like they’re tipping forward in this pose, which can make them feel unsteady. It is important to keep the weight in the heels.
To make sure that you’re doing this, try lifting the toes off the ground. This will help distribute the weight correctly and help improve balance. If balance is still a challenge, start by practicing this pose near a wall.
Stand just far enough away from the wall so that when you bend into the pose, the tailbone grazes the wall. Having this safety net can be just the thing you need to overcome a fear of loosing balance, and soon you’ll be able to move away from the wall altogether.
3. Knees Falling Open
Some student will find that their knees have a tendency to splay open to the sides. To remedy this, try holding a block between the thighs. This will ensure that the knees are moving in toward the midline, which will in turn protect the knees.
4. Shoulders Close to the Ears
There’s a lot going on in this pose, but it’s important to try and relax the shoulders down and away from the ears to achieve the intended stretch in the shoulders.
Turning the pinkies toward one another will help to widen the shoulders and move them down the back. If holding the hands overhead is just too much, try practicing with the hands at heart center. Palms can press into one another, and into the center of your chest.
This will help to release the shoulder blades and take some of the tension out of the pose.
When incorporating Chair Pose into your practice, remember that you may need to work your way up to the full expression. Take your time and be easy with yourself as you progress.
Notice how your hips get a bit closer to the floor, or how the breath is a bit less labored as time goes on. Place more importance on proper alignment than how long you can stay in your Chair.
Rushing things usually only leads to injury and further frustration. Your Chair pose will look different than everyone else's, and that’s one of the beautiful things about yoga!