Stiff yoga guide: Utkatasana

First off, I have to effuse for a second.

Over at, where I get most of my asana photos (including the one below), Utkatasana — chair pose, right? — is described as Wild Posture.

I. Love. That.

So much better than “chair pose.” It evokes so well the dynamism of this pose, which is so compacted on the one hand while at the same time being expansive and outstretching.

Nothing like a chair. But wild, yes, definitely.

I like this pose, as well as I like any asana.

It may also seem like a simple pose, at first glance. But then you begin to think about the entrance and exit and… it gets more complicated.

First, our usual reminder (in case there are people just dropping into this post who haven’t been following them all):

this is my way of modifying and adjusting the Ashtanga practice to emphasis both alignment and the stretch of the pose. The goal is more physical than perhaps normal: To get more flexibility.

The tweaks and changes are based on suggestions from several handful of Ashtanga and yoga teachers. Nothing is meant to be definitive, just suggestive.

So on to chair, er Wild Posture.

Keep in mind, it begins with a vinyasa. “Vinyasa to Utkatasana,” I can hear Tim Miller say. I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly have the tendency to move too quickly through the sun salute, to not hold the down dog, to try to get to that asana as quickly as possible. So one modification: Slow down.

The jump from down dog to the start of Utkatasana is a moment in the practice I find extremely important. I find it sets the stage for all the jump throughs and backs that come during the seated poses of First Series. It’s a major bandha check. Can you land softly, with control? Can you put on the bandha breaks? Because you’ll need them in a few more poses.

I know a lot of folks sink deep down to begin this pose, probably sweeping the hands near or on the floor. I don’t. I’m thinking about creating a strong foundation, not too deeply bent at the knees (but always more deeply bent than I am when I start). And I’m blessed with enough shoulder inflexibility that trying to straighten the arms and then look at my thumbs is a stretch.

If I’m extra tight, or it is extra cold, or just extra early, I might keep the hands parallel to each other and not touching. But I do try to bring them together without having the arms bend into an “Egyptian yoga” position.

Here’s a moment for another strong bandha check. (As seems to be proving true, having broken these asanas down to their basics, I’m finding the bandhas there more than I realized.)

Five breaths, right? What? Maybe more? Sure, why not 10?

And now the exit. I’ve been sneaking two Bakasanas in here. (Based around the “up” exit from this pose.) The first one I get in as best as I can. And then hold for five breaths. The second I try to get the knees higher up into the arm pits and the arms straighter.

I sometimes shoot back from there, but if it is early morning and I’m trying to be quiet, I’ll just come out of the pose. I mention that because I find that holding plank pose after Bakasana can be tougher than shooting back into Chaturanga. Just saying — for those trying to get someone who is interested in strengthening themselves via yoga, that’s one little avenue to stressing the muscles.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “Stiff yoga guide: Utkatasana”

  1. nice! no rush suryas(big problem many people), no deep bend Utkatasana – it’s about the opposing forces not just the squat strength – and bakasana out – I’m using that last one, thanks!

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