Chair Pose: Utkatasana

Uticata: Powerful, Asana: Pose

How it Looks

Utkatasana: Chair Pose

Feet are grounded with all four corners of the foot rooted into the earth. Big toes are touching while the heels may come slightly apart. The knees are touching. Inhale the arms up overhead so the ears are between the arms, as the hips sink towards the earth and the knees bend.

Carefully check alignment to ensure the knees have not gone too far past the big toes; you should be able to see your toes. Do a body scan to make sure your tailbone is tilted towards the ground. Staying strong through the core will help to tilt the pelvis down so the spine does not enter lordosis. There should be a straight line from the top of the crown to the tailbone.

Figure 1: Utkatasana with locations on the body.

7) The chest is anterior to the back

8) The back is posterior to the chest

9) The abdomen is ventral

10) The lumbar region is dorsal

Muscles Used

The legs are strongly engaged in Utkatasana. The yogi will feel a burning in their anterior legs through the Rectus Femoris as well as their Quadriceps. So long as the position is held properly, they will be able to gently stimulate the posterior leg muscles: Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius.

Trunk Muscles should also be engaged in this position. Specifically, the Transversus Abdominis, the Internal Oblique, the External Oblique and the Rectus Abdominis (as pictured above). These muscles should be focused on as they will help to protect the lower back from injury.

Joint Movement

  • There is a slight medial rotation of the legs as the knees are together and the toes touch but the heels are an inch apart
  • A gental flexion of the spine brings the torso forward, though core is engaged so as to protect the spine from lordosis
  • Arms are abducted from the trunk as they are held in line with the ears above the head

Bones Used

All of the bones in the body are used in this pose, however the most important bones are:

  • The tarsal and metatarsal bones in the foot as they keep you grounded and balanced
  • The tibia and fibula in the shin and calf as they hold the body balanced
  • The sacrum, lumbar vertebrae, and thoracic vertebrae in the spine as they hold the body upright and maintain a strong back
  • The scapula, clavicle, acromion, and mandubrium of the shoulder area as they work together to hold the arms overhead
  • The humerus, ulna and radius of the arm as they work together to hold the arm overhead
  • Finally, the mandible, maxilla, orbital, nasal, zygomatic and frontal bones of the face as they should be concentrated but relaxed to create the fullest expression of this pose.
see photo below for locations of bones.
Big image

How it Feels

Utkatasana is a strengthening balancing pose. It is excellent for teaching the mind to focus on core strength so as to protect the lower back from lordosis. It helps the yogi to build strength in the anterior leg muscles. This pose builds a fire in the body and is very helpful in reminding students to focus on the breath, as the breath helps us to work through poses. The arms feel a wonderful stretch as they are in line with the ears.

The best release of Utkatasana is the final exhale as the yogi allows the knees to straighten, the arms to float forward as the head mindfully hangs low: ending the pose in a forward fold, perhaps with rag doll arms.

Connection with the Breath

"Sthira is steadiness and alertness. Sukha refers to the ability to remain comfortable in a posture. Both qualities should be present to the same degree when practicing [utkatasana]." (The Heart of Yoga, pg. 17)

"The practice of ujjayi breath has two advantages in [this pose]. First, we are closer to the flow of our breath and can remain more alert. Second, the sound tells us when we have to stop or change an asana. If we do not succeed in maintaining a gentle, even, quiet sound, then we have gone beyond our limits in the practice." (The Heart of Yoga, pg. 23)

Physical Benefits

  • strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves and spine
  • stretches shoulders and chest
  • stimulates the abdominal organs and diaphragm

Check out this Fun and Informative Video by Yoga With Adriene!


  • Desikachar, T. K. V. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. Inner Traditions International, 1999.

  • Long, Ray. The Key Muscles of Yoga: Your Guide to Functional Anatomy in Yoga. Bandha Yoga Publications, 2006.