Pose of the Month: Chair Pose

Utkatasana

Sometimes known as "fierce" or "powerful" pose, Chair pose is part of the yogi's beloved Salutation to the Sun B. Chair pose is a relatively easy pose to learn for all abilities. Some of the best thigh and quadriceps strengthening and training can come from long chair holds.

How to: Chair Pose

Begin in standing mountain pose and observe all the alignments you normally would. Keep your feet are together with equal weight in both feet. Lengthen and strengthen the legs, gently tucking in your pelvis to avoid over arching the lower back. Lift your spine. Open your chest and shoulders. Take a few deep breaths.

Lift all your toes to bring awareness and energy throughout your body. Lengthen and lower your toes to the ground. Start to lower your hips and sit into the pose. Sit as deep as you can while keeping your feet flat. It is imperative you keep your spine neutral and back flat. In the beginning, you can practice chair with the knees together. In time and with practice you will keep a tiny space between the knees. Always keep your knees pointed over your feet.

Keep your breath steady and chest open with your chin is parallel to the ground. Begin to raise your arms over head, without lifting your shoulders. Use all your energy to extend your arms, and rotate your palms to face each other. Continue to drop the shoulders out of your ears and draw your shoulder blades down your back. From a side view there will be one beautiful line from your hip joint up through your torso, beyond your arms to your fingertips. As you sink your tailbone upon exhale, extend your body and arms on the inhale. Become aware of a great dynamic opposition.

Beginners can start this pose against a wall or lift their arms parallel to the floor.

Benefits of Chair Pose

The role of chair is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:

  • Strengthen the supporting muscles of the major joints, such as the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles
  • Develop core strength
  • Strengthen the quads and gluteals
  • Help protect the knee joint by building stability
  • Build heat in the body
  • Open shoulders and chest
  • Improve breathing
For the lay person or yogi, Chair pose elongates and lengthens the back. Chair builds vigor in the anterior and posterior spine. Additionally, since the pose opens the chest and builds power in the spine, it is a great pose for people who have breathing issues.  Whenever you open the rib cage and chest it enables the lungs to have added space to breathe as well as opening the spaces between the ribs (intercostals) for additional lung potential. It is a great pose to do for people and yoga practitioners who have or are having problems with the knees. Chair will build great strength in the quads, which the major supporter of the vulnerable knee joint.

For the athlete, Chair pose provides the benefits mentioned, as well as strengthening the quads. If your look at the pose for a moment, you will notice its resemblance to the position taken in skiing and the ready position for a fielder in baseball. It is a great pose for hockey players, and athletes in sports that require a solid thigh such as football linemen. In addition, Chair pose is utilized to build integrity in the susceptible Achilles tendon.

As you sit in the pose, it gently stretches the tendon allowing the ankle more flexibility and range. The more strong and open your ankles and feet muscles, the more power you will have to run. This pose will also open your shoulder joints and elongate the side of your body. This makes it a nice pose for basketball players who need huge range in the shoulder in order to feel comfortable reaching the arms over head to defend.

Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:

  • Those with knee problems should begin against a wall
  • Severe back problems
  • Recent ankle surgery
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body!
Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen’s unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy, nutrition and homeopathy, provide her clients, class participants and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga instructor for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, and the Pace University baseball team; as well as many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea. Visit her website at www.poweryogaforsports.com

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