Oh, Awkward Pose!!
You are a tough posture to love (especially that pesky 2nd part!). You challenge our focus, strength, stamina, and balance just after we’ve emerged from the intensity of Half Moon/Hands to Feet Pose. You make our quads burn, you send our ankles wobbling, you turn our arms to lead.
But what an important, powerful posture you are!
In fact, alternate names for this posture are not only the perhaps familiar “Chair Pose,” but also “Powerful Pose.” In Sanskrit, translations for the root, utkata, include proud, immense, difficult, superior, spacious, and fierce.
Fierce Pose. That has a nice ring to it.
Whatever you call it, this three-part posture is packed with physical and mental benefits that will serve you well during and after class.
Benefits of Awkward Pose:
- Strengthens and tones the arm and leg muscles
- Increases hip flexibility
- Increases circulation to knees and ankles
- Builds strength and flexibility in feet and ankles
- Creates space and strength in the lower spine, allowing for healing
- Warms up large muscles of the legs to prepare for the rest of class
- Raises heart rate, bringing fresh oxygenated blood to the entire body
- Engages focus, promotes concentration
Tips for practice:
- Take the time to make sure the insides of your feet are parallel to each other when you start. For most people the tendency will be for the toes to come out, heels in. Readjust as needed.
- No joke: engage your arm muscles. Contract your triceps. Push your thumbs against your index fingers. Yes, it’s a tough hold, arms parallel to the floor from beginning to end, but you will gain so much strength from your honest effort.
- Go ahead, GET DOWN! Sit your hips down!
- Spine is straight when you first bring your hips down, but then lift your chest and backward bend. Keep your chin parallel to the floor, but think Cobra spine.
- As your heart rate starts to come up, don’t forget to breathe in and out through your nose. Your brain will try to tell you that all this hard work is a problem. It’s not. It’s an opportunity to heal and strengthen your body and practice staying calm in the face of physical intensity.
Maribeth shows us how it’s done:
Active arms, stretching forward.
Spine backward bending.
Next steps: Sit down more, keep lifting chest and upper body back.
- Part II requires a tremendous amount of focus and determination. Choose a spot on your reflection in the mirror (shoulders or above), and don’t move your eyes.
- Again, SIT DOWN! You want to be in the posture as long as possible. Do you resist sitting down because of the intense work your quads have to do to hold you in place? Override that tendency, at least during one set. ZOOM, just sit down, see what happens. This is how you build strength.
- Higher on your toes. Push your heels forward. Higher on your toes. Push your heels forward. Higher. Push. Get it? So good for keeping your feet healthy and strong!
- Your upper body will have a tendency to pitch forward in this posture, even when you think your spine is perpendicular to the floor. Continue to stretch your fingertips forward, but keep your shoulders and upper body back, back, back, spine straight!
- It’s not uncommon for your legs to tremble during this posture. It’s okay, you are working hard!
Go for it, Maribeth!
Laser beam focus!
Up on the toes, heels forward. Beautiful!
Next steps: Hips down more, heels up even more, lean upper body back.
- Really. We mean it. Squeeze your knees together tight. Use your inner thigh strength.
- Think about building a strong, 3-sided box during this posture. Straight sides and 90-degree angles all around, from beginning to end.
- Before you start to lower down, stretch the top of your head up toward the ceiling. Keep that traction in your spine as you slowly bend your knees and lower down.
- That part you really hate, when you’re almost all the way down, and you’re tempted to just sink down onto your heels? Squeeze your inner thighs and slow down.
- Hover over your heels.
- Thighs parallel to the floor. You’ll probably have to drop your knees down to make this happen. Arms still contracted and parallel to your legs. Lean your upper body back to maintain the 3-sided box.
- Try not to pitch forward as you slowly come back up to standing. Yes, this takes tremendous strength and determination.
Nice form, Maribeth!
Thighs parallel to the floor, arms parallel to the legs.
Spine perpendicular to the floor.
Beautiful box from the side.
—Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford
(With special thanks to our student, Maribeth, for modeling alignment!)