Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Pose of the Month: Chair Pose May 18, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:41 pm
Tags: ,

Chair PosePose Name:

Chair Pose (also known as Awkward Pose or Fierce Pose)

Sanskrit Name:

Utkatasana

Steps:

  1. Begin by standing in mountain pose (tadasana) with hands in prayer.
  2. Breathe in and reach the arms overhead. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or press the palms together.
  3. Breathe out and bend the knees deeply so that it looks like you’re sitting on a chair. Try to bring the thighs to be parallel to the floor. Press your knees together and keep them facing straight forward – don’t allow them to fall out to the sides.
  4. Tuck your tailbone under (this protects your spine).
  5. Balance your weight evenly over your feet. You should be able to lift and flex your toes – if you’re pressing all your weight into your toes, redistribute!
  6. Tuck the chin slightly; roll the shoulders down the back; keep the spine straight (don’t hunch!). Engage abdominal muscles to help support you in the pose.
  7. Keep your breath steady and even! Bend your knees a little deeper and stretch the arms a little farther.
  8. To come out of the pose, breathe in and straighten the legs, rising up. Breathe out and bring the hands down to prayer in front of the heart.

Benefits:

Chair pose builds heat in the body and works and strengthens the legs, especially the thighs, as well as the extended arms. Chair pose can improve balance and is also good for the feet.

Contraindications:

Contraindications include headache, insomnia, and low blood pressure. Those with knee problems should take care to keep knees aligned properly in this pose to avoid injury.

My Experience in Chair Pose:

Chair is one of my least favorite poses to do. My thigh muscles always burn and it’s very uncomfortable to stay in the pose. In addition to the burning muscles, the pose also makes my ankles hurt. I almost always have these experiences of discomfort, even when I practice the pose regularly, which I find discouraging – it’s nicer when I can see myself improving, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. With chair pose, I often feel defeated before I even begin.

Of course, this pose is awkward to do and it feels awkward to hold. With so many things to remember in the pose, I find it difficult to relax or find any ease in the pose – it’s all work. I also worry that I’m missing something and not doing the pose correctly. In hatha yoga class, I’ll look around and it always seems as though everyone else is bending deeper than I am, and then I feel embarrassed.

I need to remember that it doesn’t matter how anyone else does the pose. Looking at other can inspire me to push myself further, which is good, but it shouldn’t make me feel badly about myself. If I can only bend a little bit that day, that’s okay. Also, I should keep in mind that I am tall, and, practically speaking, someone shorter is going to look as though they’re bending deeper in the pose, since the shorter person already has a head start, so to speak. If I’m looking at the tops of my classmates’ heads in chair pose, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole class does the pose better than I do. We all have different bodies and it doesn’t do any good to compare my chair pose with anyone else’s. What matters is staying focused on my own experience of the pose and practicing tapas to stay with the pose, continually working to improve.

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22 Responses to “Pose of the Month: Chair Pose”

  1. heather Says:

    I’ve had some teachers who have mentioned not bending knees past toes as a protective measure. Is that something you’ve encountered as well?

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      I hadn’t heard that before, but there’s some discussion about that on Yoga Journal’s page for this pose (I hit YJ as part of my research for these things). Is it the same sort of thing as not bending knees past toes in, say, Warrior 2, do you think?

      • birdmaddgirl Says:

        I assume so – I’ve never actually thought about the cue until you posted. It’s something I can ask about when I go into my last 9 days!

      • R. H. Ward Says:

        OK, F and I just did chair pose to experiment, and I think keeping the knees over the heels is better for the ankles. My ankles hurt when I let my knees slide farther forward, possibly because it puts more pressure on the ankles?

  2. omtrekker Says:

    This is one of my personal hardest poses. I have purposely skipped it in my routine in order to not do it. I need to embrace this pose.

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      I feel the same way, Kevin! It’s frustrating. I want to do better at it too.

      Nice to see you here! Hope you’re enjoying the blog – I’m looking forward to reading about your yoga travel adventures!

      • omtrekker Says:

        I’m very new at this blogging. Any tips you can give me would be great and appreciated. Im trying to go to around fifty different yoga studios this year around the U.S. and post about all of them.

      • R. H. Ward Says:

        I just started a few months ago myself. It seems like you’re on the right track, though! I read your first post and there’s lots of good stuff there. Just keep writing! 🙂

  3. Missy Says:

    Rox,
    I am not a fan of chair pose either and find myself looking at others enviously. BTW…loving this blog! Great job!
    Missy

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      When they told me I had to do write-ups for four of my least favorite poses, chair was the first one that came to mind. 🙂

      Glad you’re liking the blog!

  4. Ah, the dreaded chair pose. It is most definitely the most difficult pose for me, especially because I have tight ankles.

    As I practice at home, I can’t compare the depth of my bends to anyone else, and for chair pose I’m quite glad of it.

    I keep doing it, even though I don’t like it. I suppose I see it as a challenge!

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      It’s definitely a challenge! Good for you that you practice it at home even though it’s difficult – I have trouble making myself do that!

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      F and I just tried doing chair pose to experiment, and I think it helps the ankles some if you keep the knee right over the ankle (rather than letting the knee dip out past the toes, like I’m doing in the picture). Chair has always bothered my ankles too but maybe this alignment trick is something to play with.

  5. Sophie Says:

    I really love these posts – it’s really interesting to see what you think about the poses, and I’ve been more conscious about my feelings regarding my poses as well. Chair pose is one of my least favorites, too, for the reason you mentioned – I find myself having to check all the different variables and it makes it hard to just be in the pose.

  6. Rox Says:

    Hi Rox! Love your domain name… now why didn’t I think of that?!! I think we’re twins: I’m Writing with Rox (.com and .blogspot.com) , also a yogi AND… and… cannot do chair pose or squat. I just can’t make it happen. I have been doing yoga ten years and am quite strong and flexible. For that matter, I also cannot do crow or any arm balances (forearm stand, yes, but nothing sophisticated). Hows’ yours going? So fun and funny to find this site. We need a Rox conference I think! Thanks! Love, Rox

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      Thanks, Rox! It’s great to “meet” another writer and yogini Rox. Chair pose is a huge challenge for me too, and I’ve always found arm balances to be tricky. But it’s good to have something to strive towards, right? Thanks for commenting (and sorry for taking so long to write back – it’s been a crazy month!). Best, Rox

  7. […] I really appreciated, since Chair is one that I struggle with a bit (see the comments here and my write-up from last year here). They describe the alignment bit by bit – getting the top half of the body aligned […]

  8. Lu Says:

    Can your knees go past ankle / toes in chair pose?

    • R. H. Ward Says:

      I’ve heard different opinions on that. I find that the pose feels different depending on whether you keep your knees over your toes or whether you let them go out farther. I’d recommend trying it both ways, especially if you usually have discomfort in the pose, and see what feels better for you.


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