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Feeling Stronger Every Day: Styles of Yoga Chair Pose: Part One

Chair pose is uplifting and energizing. Your stamina increases, your breath can empower you, and you can build muscle and bone strength in feet, ankles, calves, hips, lower back, and legs. Chair pose cultivates mental fortitude for self-confidence, focus, willpower, and calm as we challenge ourselves physically.

Utkatasana is the Sanskrit name of this posture. Utkata is generally translated as strong, fierce, or powerful.

The fun variations provided in this and a subsequent blog post will explore variations of Utkatasana.

The Essential Pose

Stand in Mountain Pose with feet approximately hip joint distance apart.  Some practitioners and schools of yoga instruct feet together. I teach prenatal yoga, many boomers, and chair yoga. I emphasize stability, strength, and balance in this asana, so for most of my students hip distance apart works well.  Wider foot placement allows a more stable base of support, recognizing the actual dimensions and reality of the majority of my students’ bodies. However, feel free to experiment.

After all, it’s YOUR yoga!

  • Bend knees and lower hips behind your body as if you are about to sit in a chair.

What kind of chair, you ask? Well that depends. Keep reading!

  • Check in with knees to make sure they aren’t moving past your toes.  See photo below.
    This version is how NOT to practice. My knees are past my toes placing too much pressure forward on the knees.

    If your hips allow it, track the energy of the knees both physically and energetically toward the middle toes of the feet.

  • At the same time, think about “knees over ankles” If you have tender knees or a knee injury, modify with a gentler version with less knee flexion. See the “bar stool” or “malt shop” version below.
  • Press slightly more weight into heels to engage back of the body muscles, particularly feeling the glutes elongate. Yes you will be engaging the quads/thigh muscles.
  • Engage the core muscles of the low belly, preventing the pelvis from rotating forward too much.
  • Additionally, feel the breath inflating the low back. Try to maintain a neutral lumbar spine.
  • Breathe deeply and steadily for focus and determination.
  • Press into the heels and engage the lower body to come out of the pose.
Knees are stacked over ankles, spine is long,  and top of hips are in line with bottom ribs.

Feeling the power yet?

Experiment with arm placement. If you have a shoulder injury or are simply building lower body strength, try the version demonstrated below. I affectionally call this the “Mark Spitz”. You’ll feel the nice chest opening without straining the shoulders.

The next version is for those with tender knees or rebuilding strength. I call this the bar stool chair pose. Or, if you prefer, the “malt shop” chair.

Make sure to check out upcoming public classes and stay tuned for Part 2 highlighting chair pose for pregnancy, and even more variations!



  • by Ev
    Posted August 31, 2019 2:04 pm 0Likes

    Thanks for the good explanation on the chair pose. Namaste!

    • by Bonnie Golden
      Posted August 31, 2019 2:15 pm 0Likes

      Thank you for your feedback and for reading!!

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