How to Do Fierce or Chair Yoga Pose

Shoshana Hebshi-Holt
Utkatasana

Like sitting in an imaginary chair, fierce pose, or utkatasana in Sanskrit, is a powerful pose that can help build heat in the body and train the mind to find ease. It is also commonly referred to as chair pose.

Getting Into the Pose

Different schools of yoga have different alignment principles for utkatasana. Try starting with feet hip-distance apart, right in line with the hip joint. The toes are pointed forward, and all four corners of the foot can be felt pressing into the ground.

  • On an inhale, sweep the arms to the sky, lengthening the spine and pulling in the belly button.
  • On the exhale, sink the hips back, bending in the knees, as if sitting in an imaginary chair.
  • Staying fully grounded in the feet, lift the chest and continue to lengthen the spine by reaching the tailbone toward the ground and the crown of the head toward the sky.

The arms can take various positions, from staying extended, shoulders broad on the back and away from the ears, hands at the heart in prayer, hands at the hips or arms out in front, palms to the ground. Play around with arm variations to feel different sensations.

Hold the pose for at least five deep breaths, concentrating on lengthening the spine on the inhale and sinking the hips deeper on the exhale.

Go Deeper

Sinking the hips low, keeping the full foot on the ground, will bring you deeper into the pose, but there are other ways to turn up the heat.

Twisting Option

Moving into a twist really gets the legs to catch fire, and it opens the spine and shoulders as a bonus.

  • Step the feet together so the big toes touch.
  • Bring the hands to the heart.
  • Inhale and lengthen the spine.
  • Exhaling, begin to turn the torso to the left, starting from the navel and continuing through the ribs and then the chest.
  • Pulling the shoulder back and open to the left, continue to lift the chest, keeping the hips lower than the chest.
  • Take three to five breaths here, then return to center and switch sides.

Another option is to lift the heels, pressing the balls of the feet into the ground and pulling the heels up into the calves. As you push the heels up, sink the hips lower, finding a balance of strength and balance. Play with arm options here as well.

Benefits

Utkatasana strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles and back. With ample attention given to the abdominals, it can increase strength in the core.

Use chair pose to test stamina and will power. If the thighs begin to burn or tire, concentrate on breathing through it and continuing to hold the pose for the length of time determined.

Contraindications and Modifications

Those with knee issues should be mindful about not going to deep in the pose if there is any pain.

Since utkatasana elevates the heart rate, anyone with low blood pressure or heart issues should consult a doctor before practicing more intense yoga postures.

To keep the knees in good alignment and to help draw the pelvis under, slip a yoga block between the knees or the thighs and squeeze as you sink deeper into the pose.

Use a wall to help support the back while practicing utkatasana. This will allow you to hold the pose longer and feel the alignment of the spine.

Finding the Fire

Utkatasana is a popular pose in modern yoga classes, and for good reason. Its strength, stamina and focus-building qualities greatly enhance one's practice. Chair pose is a wonderful way to dig deep into yourself and find your resolve and stoke your fire.

How to Do Fierce or Chair Yoga Pose