Utkatasana – “Fierce” Pose or Chair Pose

Utkatasana – “Fierce” Pose or Chair Pose

{NOTE: originally posted January 27, 2010 here: http://faern-in-the-works.com/2010/01/27/pose-of-the-month-utkatasana-fierce-pose-or-chair-pose/

it was written as a NEW YEAR post- its still close to the new year now so enjoy!}

Writing: Chrisandra Fox

Photography: Faern

It’s the New Year, and a common time to “renew’ commitment to our practice, which may have become uninspired, or difficult to maintain throughout the holiday season. Even the ancient texts recognize a number of obstacles to yoga (overeating, exertion, illness, doubt, laziness), and offer ways to overcome them.

Iccha shatki refers to the desire of manifestation, the impulse of creation that permeates and lives within manifest form. In our hatha yoga practice, when the energies of the body, including desire, are channeled and brought into balance, we enjoy steadiness in our body’s metabolism, our mental acuity, emotional health, and sense of connection to the world around us. Steadiness in body and mind also leads to unwavering willpower. When our personal will is aligned with the will of creation, we may be fortified in our efforts, and carried along the rivers of grace.

Meaning “fierce”, “powerful”, or “uneven”, a steady practice of utkatasana can ignite the willful desire that fuels our practice and keeps our inner fire bright.

Utkatasana is a challenging posture, placed at the beginning of Surya Namaskara B in the Astanga Vinyasa system. Chair pose is also described in Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, and prescribed in The Gheranda Samhita for conducting water enemas as a purification taken before beginning a practice in hatha yoga.

This powerful posture develops the ankles, calves, and thighs, opens the shoulders, tones the abdomen and diaphragm, strengthens the back, and increases capacity in the chest, for better breathing and circulation to the heart.

Utkatasana builds heat in the body, and can increase and fortify our will. As uncomfortable sensations arise, as we find ourselves in this new, unchartered territory of “sitting” in space, we have the opportunity to witness and surrender our doubts and to remain powerfully “seated” in strength and grace.

The Pose

Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose) with your hands in anjali mudra (prayer) at your heart. Beginners, try this with your feet a hip’s width distance apart. Spread your toes, and align your head, shoulders, and pelvis so that your weight is shifting evenly through both legs, and you feel a sense of spaciousness across your chest.

On an exhalation, release your arms to both sides. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead. As you exhale, bend your knees and lower your pelvis towards your heels, so that the thighs are moving towards parallel with the floor.

The Work

Deepen the fold in the front of your ankle, so you feel your heels taking root on the ground, and a sense of grounding through the lower legs. For some us, the bones of the ankle and foot compress during dorsiflexion, and that will be the edge we meet in the ankle.

Hug your thighs in towards one another, as though you are squeezing a block between them. Lengthen the sides of your sacrum towards the earth, taking your tail gently towards your pubis to draw the length out through your low back. Tone your abdomen towards the spine to maintain internal support, and to awaken your core body in the pose.

You can work your arms and neck in several ways. Do keep your arms drawn back in the shoulder joint, and your shoulder blades actively engaged on your back ribs. Soften your front rib cage, so that your torso follows the alignment of your pelvis and your chair pose doesn’t become a bent-knee backbend.

Postion 1
Keep your neck in the line of your spine and draw your chin slightly towards the center of your throat. Gaze towards the tip of your nose. Separate your hands to the width of your shoulders. Relax the tops of your shoulders as your spread your fingers widely.

Position 2
Press your palms against one another firmly, and draw back through the crown of your head, lifting the base of your skull lightly off the upper spine, so there is no collapse through the back of your neck. Gaze towards your fingers, keeping your forehead and eyebrow center soft and relaxed.

Postion 3
Bring your arms alongside your ears, with your head in a neutral position, and gaze towards the horizon. To increase the power in your pose, lift your heels off the floor, drawing up through the arches of your feet. Then lower your pelvis to your heels. The Gheranda Samhita describes this as The Utkatasana, or hazardous pose.

Have your feet tensed up? Soften the spaces between your toes, so that your feet remain steady, yet happy as you deepen in your chair. Breathe rhythmically and hold the pose for up to a minute, with a soft and steady gaze, and the hint of a smile to release any interior gripping in the brain. Allow yourself to feel the arising of sensations and the heat of any tensions coming to the surface. Allow these sensations to expand and dissolve. Afterwards, return to Tadasana, or follow up with Uttanasana (Intense forward stretch).

The practice of Utkatasana not only strengthens our will, but our sense of surrender as well. We observe how our desire can be channeled into a force greater than ourselves- one that holds us fiercely in grace.

 

 


Chrisandra Fox teaches weekly classes at Yoga Tree, Yoga Garden and leads The Heart of Renewal Retreats in California and beyond. She teaches in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training.

Chrisandra@gmail.com

Faern is a mixed media artist, photographer and yoga practitioner in San Francisco. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

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