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


Friday asana aid: Bakasana

After a bit of a hiatus — and maybe before the start of another — here’s a semi-return of our weekly look at how different teachers online demonstrate yoga poses.

One of the troubles with this series is there are really only a certain cohort online. Another is there are only so many yoga poses featured online. (I know there are thousands and thousands not online.)

This week, let’s look at bakasana. Yes, it’s a Intermediate Series pose, but for some of us it shows up in Primary during the standing series transition after utkatasana.

First, Maria Villella (sorry it starts with an ad):

Then David Garrigues:

Kino MacGregor:

And, finally, Baba Ramdev, which I share because it has almost as many views as Kino’s — I know he says to hold the breath:

Posted by Steve

Loofa your subconscious and get help, more easily, from David Garrigues

Two quick Labor Day items for you — we labor so you don’t have to!

After a self-admitted hiatus, Eddie Stern is back to his blog and dropping quick and hilarious posts. With Ashtanga Yoga New York closed through this weekend, ’til Tuesday in fact, he posted a video of “Voices Carry” by the 1980s band of the same name.

And then on Sunday he posted one with this title: “My Subconscious Could Use a Good Exfoliation.” Here’s the link to the best dayspa imaginable. Enjoy, and book early!

A bit more substantial is the fact that David Garrigues — who is on our short list of Ashtanga teachers we most want to practice with — has redone his YouTube page. And we agree with him. It looks better and is much easier to navigate. He has poses broken down into a variety of subcategories such as “New to Ashtanga,” “Transitions,” “Arm Balances” and “Backbends.”

Here’s the link. It might now be the best resource for “asana aid” out there. (Anyone know of one better?) Here’s the Bakasana video, just for fun:

Finally, a programming note. Bobbie’s got lots more to talk about from her Second Series teacher training with Tim Miller. Stay tuned; she just needs the time to sit in front of the computer, and I’ve been keeping her too busy since she got home.

Posted by Steve