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For Beginners: Utkatasana

Though it looks like you're sitting in an imaginary chair, this is definitely not a passive pose.

By Shiva Rea

Now let's add another layer to the pose—the power of gravity. Start again from a standing position and squat down while meditating on those two opposing movements (sitting bones back, tailbone down) so that your pelvis is balanced. Imagine that your friend gravity is standing on the tops of your femurs (thigh bones).

Shift and center your weight so that your knees come over your ankles. Now extend your arms directly out in front of you with your palms facing each other, and then take them overhead in direct alignment with your shoulders. Allow your hips to dangle from your spine with the weight of gravity.

Rather than holding all your weight up, use this powerful pull towards the earth to relax your pelvis more deeply. This should again bring ease to your lower back and take any strain off your quadriceps. On an inhalation, come back up to standing.

Now we can harness the power of the pelvis through the lower belly. Let's explore the dynamics of the abdominal action from a standing position first. Take one hand to your lower belly and the other hand above the navel at your lower ribs and diaphragm. Lift your lower belly in and up towards your spine, keeping your lower ribs soft.

This subtle movement lengthens the spine upwards from the base of the pelvis while supporting your lower back. Be aware of creating tension with this movement, as we are often conditioned to "suck up" our gut.

Now sit down into Utkatasana again, this time raising your arms overhead with an inhalation as you begin to squat. As you exhale, position your pelvis and let your hips drop with gravity.

On an inhalation, lift your lower belly in and up. Allow your chest and arms to rise from this subtle lift at your core, bringing lightness to the strength of this pose. As you open your chest, make sure your lower ribs are not poking out, subtly breaking the upward flow of energy from your pelvis at your midback.

Refine your arms by stretching from your outer shoulders while keeping your inner shoulders grounded. This will free your neck so you can look up at your fingertips (don't collapse your neck back) or slightly down to calm the mind. On an inhalation, rise to standing.

Inside the Chair

Let's go down in the pose once more, this time listening to the inner teachings of Utkatasana. Try to release any attitude about the pose or yourself before you go into the pose. Let your body/mind/spirit be receptive while you are in the pose; adjust the alignment by your sensation of balance rather than by thoughts about whether it is right or wrong.

As you sit down, feel the consolidation of your energy in your pelvis, your center, your seat of power. Try not to fight or resist the strength of the pose. Go into this fire in the belly but keep your mind cool. Radiate your energy from your center out through your limbs.

Take a few more cycles of breath here, sinking a little deeper with the exhalation, rising from your roots with the inhalation. When you are ready, come up out of the pose on an inhalation and bring your palms together at your center.

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Reader Comments

Philip Parker

really explains the pose

Susan Weinstein

Wonderful! Thank you!

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