Pose of the Week: Utkatasana

Image: BKS Iyengar in Utkatasana from Light on Yoga; James at the Wednesday night class.

This week’s pose of the week is Utkatasana. Utkata in Sanskrit means “wild, frightening, above the usual, intense, gigantic, furious or heavy”.  In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar gives the definition: “powerful, fierce, uneven.”  It is often referred to as ‘Chair pose’.

It’s a tough asana, even though it’s given a ‘2’ in the level of difficulty (out of 60) in Light on Yoga. These are the instructions given by BKS Iyengar: ‘Bend your knees till the thighs are parallel to the floor. Do not stoop forward, but keep the chest as far back as possible and breathe normally.’

Much easier said than done! Because as soon as we take our arms overhead and join our palms in Urdhva Namaskarasana in Tadasana, already changes start to occur. Do your arms bend, do your lower ribs push forward or does your neck shorten? Maybe your breath changes and your chest drops. It’s already becoming intense and you’ve just started!

You have to work against those tendencies, keep lifted and strong as you’ve learnt in your Tadasana.

Instantly as you bend your legs you will go down, and the tendency is to ‘stoop forward’ as Mr Iyengar says.  You have to lift up as you go down.  So there’s a dichotomy. You are divided between the descending and the lifting actions of the asana.

The pose teaches us about the sense of direction and brings us a clarity of the truth of which way we are really going.

This self-awareness is the cornerstone of Iyengar Yoga. Utkatasana is regarded as a ‘simple’ asana, however, our perception is challenged by the process of its duality. It provides us with the opportunity to assess what is going on with a clear mind and make adjustments and to change.

See you on the mat:)

Learn Yoga in Newport with us. Understand what Iyengar Yoga is and how it influences our teaching methodology