Ardha Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

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How to do it

Begin standing with both arms extended up.

Exhale: Contract your abdomen, bend your knees and place your chest over the thighs.

Inhale: Lengthen forward and move all the way up, leading with the chest.

Repeat a few times, then stay in the squatting position, lift your upper body up with your arms extended up and stay there for several breaths.

Breathing in Ardha Utkatasana

Inhale: Lengthen along the spine and lift your chest away from the navel.

Exhale: Hug your waist in toward the center. Be sure to keep the weight distribution even between your feet.

Pose adaptations

Three stages

Ardha Utkatasana: Three stages works wonders for strengthening the core and helping students understand the details of this pose, especially the lifting of the chest away from the navel. It is also a great back strengthener.

Arm pull down

Ardha Utkatasana: Arm pull down actively engages your latissimus dorsi muscles and helps to relieve tension in the upper back, shoulders and neck. It also strengthens your lower back, core and legs. Make sure that you do not lose abdominal support as you work on the arm movement.

Arms open-close

Ardha Utkatasana: Arms open-close Is great for relieving tension in the upper back and neck, as it alternatively engages and stretches those areas. It also helps to stretch the chest, while strengthening the core, back and legs.

Chest to thighs

Ardha Utkatasana: Chest to thighs emphasizes stretching and strengthening of the lower back. It is one of the best moves for lower back health, as long as you can lead with the chest on the way up. You can do the same versions without the arm movement to make your students more aware of the coordination between the movement of the torso and the movement of the legs.

Down and up

Ardha Utkatasana: Down and up actively strengthens the lower back, upper back, hips and thighs. It might be too strong for some beginner students or for those with weak or hurting lower backs. To make the movement a bit easier you can keep the hands on the knees.

One arm raise

Ardha Utkatasana: One arm raise is wonderful for strengthening your entire back one side at a time. It’s easier for most people than holding both arms up. It also helps to mobilize the shoulder and awaken the upper back.

Hands on knees

Ardha Utkatasana: Hands on knees is useful when you want to focus on what’s going on in the lower part of the body. You can focus on strengthening the core, or the weight distribution between the legs, or the position of the knees. It also works great for folks who cannot keep their arms up comfortably, or for those who get distracted by what their upper body is doing. It’s an excellent way to introduce new students to this pose.

On the toes

Ardha Utkatasana: On the toes is excellent for strengthening the ankles, calves and other leg muscles. It also trains your balance. You can experiment with keeping the heels higher of the ground (more difficult) or closer to it (less difficult).

Up and down on toes

Ardha Utkatasana: Up and down on Toes strengthens the muscles around your ankles, knees and hips. It also trains your balance and promotes overall structural integration.

On toes with cactus arms

Ardha Utkatasana: On toes with cactus arms strengthens your hips, knees and ankles and releases tension in the upper and middle back. It is a good adaptation to use after holding your arms up in other versions of Ardha Utkatasana to avoid neck and shoulder tension.

Bharmanasana combo

Ardha Utkatasana + Bharmanasana works great for warming up the lower body (particularly the hips and ankles) and the upper body (particularly the upper back and shoulders). It is a good way to experiment with shifting weight toward your hands if you intend to do arm balancing postures. It is also a good transition pose that takes you from standing to kneeling position.

Tadasana combo

Ardha Utkatasana + Balancing Tadasana works your entire body: it strengthens the muscles around your ankles, knees, hips and core, it strengthens and stretches your entire back and it mobilizes your shoulders. It also trains your balance and encourages the entire body to work together.

Chair hover

Ardha Utkatasana: Chair hover is one of the hardest versions of the pose; it actively strengthens the legs, back and core. Make sure that your knees are OK with that kind of load. To make a pose a bit easier you can stand closer to the chair and brush the middle of your thighs against it instead of the upper portion – that way you won’t have to squat as far down.

With block

Ardha Utkatasana: With block helps to maintain proper tracking between your hips, knees and ankles and strengthens your inner thighs. You can use the block with any version of Ardha Utkatasana to protect your knees. Be sure to place it slightly above the knees and make sure that the block is wide enough to prevent your knees from leaning in.

Sitting down

Ardha Utkatasana: Sitting down is a great functional exercise. No matter how young or old our students are, they need to be able to sit down on a chair or commode and get up from it. This version of the pose strengthens all the muscles that are engaged in that action. It’s a good one to practice for most people at different points of the day. In fact, you can do it every time you take a seat and it will be a good exercise for your body 🙂

Anjaneyasana combo

Ardha Utkatasana + Anjaneyasana is a very strong combination. It targets your legs hips and core, while also challenging your balance. It’s a great move to do to awaken your entire body.

Uttanasana combo

Ardha Utkatasana + Uttanasana is a great combo for strengthening and stretching the entire back. First you move between the poses to warm up your lower and upper back, along with your hamstrings, and then you stay in Uttanasana to stretch all posterior (back) structures of your body.