Utkatasana (chair pose) is probably one of the most dreaded yoga poses, one that has been the nemesis of many yoga students (present company included). But fear the chair no more because I have a few surefire tips to help you fall in love with this challenging pose:
After listening to the cues your yoga instructor provides to get into the pose in proper alignment, add this last step that most yoga teachers don’t include. Curl up the right side of the mouth, then the left side of the mouth, and all of a sudden you’ll have a big honking smile on your face. Everything is easier and more fun when you’re smiling.
Stay with your breath in the pose, and instead of letting your mind wander to either thoughts of wanting to harm your yoga teacher or guessing how much longer she is going to torture you, instead, think about the awesome benefits of the pose. I like to think about how muchutkatasana is going to help me when I ski. This asana is great for strengthening the thighs, ankles, calves, spine, and core – basically everything I need when I’m swishing down a ski slope. In fact, each time I come into utkatasana now, I go to this happy place, picturing myself on the slopes, knowing that my legs are going to rock on my next SKIASANA retreat. No sore, aching muscles for me! Don’t ski? You can apply the same principle to running, walking, dancing, or getting older.
Mantras can be a great tool to help you stay present in challenging poses. I help guide my students through a mantra that we repeat out loud together while holding the pose, and it’s really simple: “We – Love – Chair – Pose!” You can try this yourself either out loud or silently to yourself: “I – love – chair – pose!” If you say it repeatedly, you’ll start believing it, and if you don’t, you’re highly likely to start smiling and laughing while you say it (see #1). These affirmations will fill you up with positive energy to carry you through the posture – no matter how long the teacher has you hold it.
If all else fails, channel your inner Rocky and start singing the theme song from the movie in your mind:
Trying hard now
Getting strong now
Flying high now!
Yeah, you can hold this pose forever now!
Even though I know some students are calling me every derogatory name in the book, and I never fail to get a few frowns, utkatasana will always be one of my favorite yoga asanas to teach because it’s mentally and physically rewarding. Just remember to make it fun, smile, and remember how goodutkatasana is for you. Your thighs will thank you later!