Yoga Pose of the Week: Utkatasana, Chair Pose


Genevieve Oswald in Utkatasana, Chair Pose; by Zoe Zimmerman for Sundara Studios, 2013

This past week B.K.S. Iyengar, considered by many to be the grandfather of yoga in the western world, passed from this Earth. .

In his book Light on Yoga, he demonstrated hundreds of yoga poses with such exquisite grace they looked easy, even in the pure awkwardness of some of the shapes his body takes. Flipping through the pages of asana, the unknowing eye can be deceived into believing the simple forms are accomplished with ease. Simple, however, does not always mean easy, as is the case with the extraordinarily challenging form of Utkatasana (chair pose).

To test your capacity for simple but not easy, begin standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), feet touching, with your hips, shoulders, head and ears stacked mindfully in a line with each other. Inhale to draw the muscles of your body into your hips on a vertical (up and down) axis, simultaneously drawing into the midline of your body, squeezing side to side with your legs and arms. Exhale to bend your ankles, knees, and hips, bringing your thighs (femurs) parallel, or close to parallel, to the floor. While sitting low, inhale to lift your heart and extend your arms upward toward the sky, hands where comfortable, touching or wider. Exhale to engage the lower abdominal muscles and lift them toward your navel. This drops your tailbone toward the floor and weight into your heels.

The intensity of this posture is as undeniable as the presence of the burn it creates in your thighs and upper back. In his book, Mr. Iyengar noted that in Utkatasana the diaphragm lifts and massages the heart, which is a wonderful meditation to hold while the posture strengthens and opens the muscles and joints of your legs, and supports a deeper practice of patience and inner composure.