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Standing Yoga Poses

Chair Pose

Utkatasana powerfully strengthens the muscles of the arms and legs, but it also stimulates the diaphragm and heart.

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Utkatasana (Chair Pose) is sometimes translated from Sanskrit to English as “Fierce Seat” or “Powerful Pose.” It is a strengthening and heat-building asana that brings all parts of your body together into a cohesive and powerful whole.

This asana is a meditation on determination and perseverance, as well as commitment. To successfully perform Chair Pose, you must seamlessly unite the strength of the legs, arms, and torso as you lift your core muscles and lengthen your spine.

Utkatasana can look simple—like a yogi sitting in an imaginary chair. “When you do the pose, however, it is definitely not a cushy, passive ride,” says Shiva Rea, the founder of Prana Vinyasa Yoga. “A deep squat, Utkatasana immediately engages the strength of your legs, back, and ankles. Here, power is not about domination or control over someone else so much as it is about aligning with the life energy within and around you. At the core level, Utkatasana teaches you how to find your seat of power within your pelvis, at the center of your body.”

Chair Pose demands strength and stamina in the body, but also focus in the breath and mind. When you are centered and aligned in the posture, you’ll feel like you’re accessing a great well of energy. Utkatasana offers a powerful lesson and a key concept in yoga: Steady practice over time is better than occasional, intense spurts. Consistency in yoga, and in Utkatasana, yields deep and lasting results.

Chair Pose basics

Sanskrit: Utkatasana (OOT-kah-TAHS-ah-nah)

Pose type: Standing balance

Target area: Lower body

Why we love it: “I’ve written poems about Chair Pose, that’s how much I love it,” says yoga teacher, writer, and YJ contributor Rina Deshpande.  “I am moved by how Utkatasana is not just about holding the heat-building chair posture. By ending with a bow of refreshing relief and standing back up again stronger than you had before, Chair is a whole circle of physical strengthening, warmth, and self esteem. To me, it’s an immediate boost of confidence and joy!”

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Pose benefits

Chair Pose improves balance and can build cardiovascular health and resilience. It primarily strengthens your core, thighs, and ankles.

Chair Pose: Step-by-step instructions

A woman demonstrates Chair Pose (Utkatasana) in yoga
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)
  1. Stand in Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms overhead so that your biceps are just slightly in front of your ears. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or join the palms.
  2. Exhale and bend your knees so that your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible. Your knees will project out over your feet, and your trunk will lean slightly forward over your thighs until your front torso forms approximately a right angle with the tops of your thighs.
  3. Keep your inner thighs parallel to each other and press the heads of the thigh bones down toward your heels.
  4. Firm your shoulder blades against your back. Direct your tailbone down toward the floor and in toward your pubis to keep your lower back long.
  5. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out of this pose, straighten your knees with an inhalation, lifting strongly through your arms. Exhale and release your arms to your sides into Tadasana.

Beginner’s tip

Practicing with your feet together will help awaken your inner-thigh muscles, but if you’re feeling unsteady, try stepping your feet hip-width apart. You can also squeeze a block between the thighs to engage the adductors.

Teaching Utkatasana

These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:

  • Remind students to be conscious of their knees in this pose. They should shift their weight back toward their heels to keep their knees safe.
  • Advise students to keep the head and neck in line with the rest of the spine. Instead of looking up, have them rest their gaze on the floor a few feet in front of them.

Variation: Chair Pose with a block

A person demonstrates a variation of Chair Pose (Utkatasana) in yoga
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Try with a block between your thighs to further activate your inner thigh muscles (adductors).

Preparatory poses

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)

Counter poses

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

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