Utkatasana is also known as the Chair Pose. To do this pose, begin in the mountain pose taught in Chapter 1. Stand with the big toes of your feet touching each other and your heels a bit apart. Lift and spread your toes until you feel solidly rooted into the ground. A firm foundation is necessary in order to gain the full benefits of practicing yoga. Now raise your arms, straightening your fingers and pressing your palms together, and reach up as much as you physically can (optimally, they should be perpendicular to the ground). Now proceed to bend your knees, moving your lower body back and down as if you are sitting in a chair. Your knees should go out past your feet and you should lean your torso forward so that it is over your thighs, creating what looks almost like a right angle with them. Now shift all of your weight to your heels and lengthen your body through your torso, keeping your back long yet with a slight curve in it. Stay like this for 5 to 10 deep, long breaths (depending on your level of endurance; start low and keep practicing until you can hold it longer and longer), then inhale, straighten out your knees, exhale, and lower your arms to the sides of your body, thus returning to mountain pose and ending the chair pose.
This pose will heat up your body (you’ll be sure to feel the burn as you do continue to do this pose!), improving your blood circulation throughout your body and loosening your joints to provide for better flexibility and comfort as you proceed to do more poses or workout. This move also strengthens various parts of your body, including your upper back, legs, and shoulders. This in turn leads to better posture and lessens pain in the back and lower body. Now, this pose is more difficult than many of the other poses in yoga, but that doesn’t mean you should skip over it or give up. Believe it or not, the literal translation of Utkatasana is not, in fact, chair pose. Utkata translates to “fierce,” making this the “fierce pose.” Who said yoga can’t build muscle and is only meant to relax? This pose will have you panting and sweating, and for good cause. It tones your legs effectively, stimulates the heart, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles (therefore reducing cramps), and actually surprisingly reduces the symptoms of flat feet. TIP – Don’t Be an Attention Hogger When doing poses (such as the chair pose) that require strenuous effort. One thing to keep in mind is to not be an attention hogger.
You may think that this is a pointless tip and that you would never seek attention (or rather, that you would prefer to deflect attention from yourself!), but you never know, you may be unintentionally doing this. Loud exhales of breath, loud breathing in general, sighs, and humming can distract those around you. If you find yourself panting, drink water. Keep hydrated by always having a water bottle handy, and take a break when necessary. Don’t overexert yourself. Remember that yoga is a personal, individual experience and practice, and if you feel the urge to sigh from having a bad day, keep in mind that those around you will not want to share in your bad mood. Avoid listening to music through your earbuds while practicing yoga; unlike working out, this is an exercise that requires your complete mental attention and is meant to create zen and peace of your mind. Also, listening to music may make you accidentally hum or sing out loud, breaking the focus of those trying to concentrate that are in your proximity.
Some good advice once shared with me is that your breathing and noises should only be loud enough for you yourself to hear on the mat. It shouldn’t go beyond your own mat. If you do find that you have a flair for the dramatic, tone it down during yoga. When you walk into a yoga class or take out your mat at home, change your mindset. Lose yourself within the poses and keep your mind blank. Don’t think that others are paying attention to you; pay attention to yourself. Yoga is not the right time or place to stand out or bring attention to yourself. It should not involve others at all or disruptive noise. Clear your mind, take deep breaths, channel your energy into your body, and let your energy flow. If you were in a bad mood, doing a couple of yoga poses may just take away that stress that had you tempted to sigh out loud.
If you were out of breath, doing relaxing, still poses will get your breathing quiet and back on track. If you, for some reason, suddenly felt like showing off, do the poses to the best of your ability, but rather than doing them in order to get attention or praise, do them for your own satisfaction. Everything in yoga is for yourself; you are both the audience and the star. Don’t forget this.
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