Outside in the gym, they are called squats, but inside the yoga studio, they are known as “Chair” pose or Utkatasana. Just like those squats you do in the gym, chair pose has a variety of variations or options.
So as you may have guessed, this blog is all about chair pose. I’ll discuss benefits, approaches, variations, and then introduce some fun flows you can try out.
In general, a squat or chair pose is a super star that should be frequently part of one’s practice. Why? The answer is actually quite simple. A squat/chair pose gives you more bang for your buck in that you’ll work your entire lower body. MULTI-TASKING! Think quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and your calf muscles all at the same time. So if all those muscles are working, you burn more calories than you would with an exercise that uses less muscles. Also, it’s summertime and chances are you’re sporting capris, shorts, skirts, dresses, or even bathing suits. A toned or stronger lower body is a benefit!!!
In yoga, the typical chair pose can be approached multiple ways. Often, we approach chair from Mountain Pose because it is easy to lower oneself into chair. Sometimes, we are in a Forward Fold and we lift our torso up as we lower our hips to find chair. Every now and then, we might jump from Downward Facing Dog to the top of our mat then rising into chair kind of like we did from Forward Fold. Or we might even explore entering chair from one of our Warrior or Crescent Lunge poses. All in all, us yogis have some creative ways to get into chair.
Foot placement can vary and I encourage you to play with foot placement. 1. You can bring the feet close together allowing the big toes to touch and the heels the angle out a little. 2. You can place the feet hip distance apart. 3. You can certainly take the feet out wider. Often us teachers use the mat as a reference and cue to the edge or off your mat. So as you can see, there are options with regards to foot placement. It might also be cool to know that a wider stance brings the inner thighs more into play, whereas a closer stance brings the outer thighs more into play.
Hip placement or how low do you go can also be up to the yogi. The lower you go the harder you work those muscles! I’ve had my clients drop their arms to their sides and lower till their fingers touch their mats which always gets a response from the crowd…of course, blocks can bring the floor higher.
Arm placement is where you can get creative! The typical approach is to extend our arms out anywhere from 20 to 60 degrees out. However, if that is to much of a load on your back, you could bring the hands together at heart’s center or rest them on your thighs.
FUN CHAIR FLOWS:
1. This one is pretty simple. Come into chair pose however you’d like. Once in chair stay. If arms are extended, exhale as you twist reaching your right arm behind you. Inhale as you return to center. Exhale, twist left. Maybe do two to three rounds. Then settle back into chair, bring hands to heart’s center and find twisted chair. This Flowing Chair can be part of a standing sequence.
2. Here is a more dynamic flow. Find chair pose and settle. Then sweep arms back into airplane arms and lift heels. You’ll feel like you are getting ready to dive off your mat. Next explode upward with arms overhead for Extended Mountain. Then make cactus arms and open up your chest. Then sink back into chair where you can repeat this flow a few times in a vinyasa style.
3. This one is simple too. Find chair pose. Then bring arms overhead and bend elbows allowing hands to cup the elbows so you are making a little square with you arms. Exhale and tilt elbows to you right side. Inhale center. Exhale and tilt left. I typically do this once and again it works nicely as part of a standing series sequence.
4. This next one is pretty challenging and has three parts.
A. From mountain pose, sink into chair but arms will be slightly different. Instead of being at a 45 or so degree angle, arms will emerge straight out in front of you with palms down. (Think of Bikram’s Awkward pose). Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. Return to mountain but take your time (maybe slowly lift up by the count of 5).
B. From mountain, lift your heels up and keep them lifted the entire time. Arms will be the same. Sink into chair and hold again for 5 – 10 breaths. Come back into mountain. Return slowly.
C. For the third expression, heels are still lifted here and arms are the same. Sink into chair but have your knees knocked in together. Hold. Once again return slowly back to mountain.
Over all, I typically only cue this once and again as part of a standing sequence. My clients are good with doing it once.
5. Try a balanced approach to your chair with One legged/or wobbly chair. The approach is pretty simple. First, settle into Chair Pose. Once established, draw hands together at heart’s center. When you’re ready, lengthen and then your torso. Secure your twist by hooking your elbows outside of your thigh. Look down at your feet as you place your body weight on one foot (twisted side) and lift the non-weighted foot and then bending the knee. Of course, you’ll want to pursue this on your other side.
6. Or you could be more static and gentle with your chair pose. Here is a fun approach. Take a wide stance. Squat into chair. Next, bring arms overhead, bring palms together, and interlace fingers. Keep hands interlaced as you bend elbows, bring forearms together so arms are in front of the face. You are now in Elephant Pose which is a variation of chair pose but is a sneaky way to stay in chair for a few extra breaths.
So there you have it, all kinds of chair goodies. Put chair in your practice. Thread some chair flows into you sequence. Your lower body will thank you later.
**** I’d love to hear any fun chair ideas you might have!!! ****