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Yoga Pose Primer: Parvrtta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose)
Utkatasana is a yoga pose popularly known as “Chair Pose.” But I can’t imagine that ancient yogis—who had never seen, let alone sat in a chair—would have invented a word for “chair” just in case. Truth is, they didn’t. Instead, the root word—utkata—means “fierce.”
Utkatasana, a yoga pose that strengthens the legs, feet, and abdominals, is a staple in my healthy-hips regimen. It strengthens muscles that can help stabilize hypermobile hips. In addition, it stabilizes the core.The revolved version, Parvrtta Utkatasana, adds a thoracic spine rotation that can help soften shoulder tension.
One of the keys to releasing upper body tension is to stabilize your base. Utkatasana grounds the feet, and strongly focuses energy in the legs. When the upper body is supported by the lower body, it feels “safe” to release its holding pattern. And who doesn’t, at least sometimes, experience upper-body tension?
Safe Twisting in Yoga- Protecting the SI Joint
Another element of my healthy hips philosophy is that when you are rotating your upper body, it’s important to allow the pelvis to rotate too. The lumbar spine is not designed to twist. The facet joints (the articulating points that connect each vertebra to the adjacent ones) are designed to allow forward, side and backbending, but not rotation.
So keeping the pelvis square in revolved yoga poses can create unhealthy leverage on the sacroiliac joint, which is also not designed to twist. Twisting the SI joint can cause dysfunction, and can lead to painful conditions such as sciatica.
How To Practice Parvrtta Utkatasana - Yoga Tutorial
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) on a nonskid yoga mat. Your feet can be together or hip-width apart.
Place your hands on your hips.
Point your tailbone back (tilting the top of your pelvis forward), so that your knees bend and your torso extends forward.
Plant your heels to activate the backs of your legs.
Place your hands in Anjali Mudra.
As you rotate your upper body toward the right, allow your right hip to draw back. Your left knee will end up a little in front of your right knee.
Place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee.
Replant your feet, especially your heels, and lengthen your torso.
Take care not to turn your head up toward the sky. Look straight ahead so that your head and neck remain neutral.
Take 5 to 10 deep breaths.
Unwind your torso, straighten your knees and return to Tadasana.
Repeat on the other side.
Would you like to read another yoga pose primer from Charlotte Bell? Sukhasana: Not Always an "Easy" Pose.
Or learn more about Restorative Yoga? Nourish & Rejuvenate: The Art of Practicing & Teaching Restorative Yoga - with Judith Hanson Lasater and YogaUOnline.
Reprinted with permission from Hugger Mugger Yoga Products blog.
Charlotte Bell began practicing yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. She was certified by B.K.S. Iyengar in 1989 following a trip to Pune. In 1986, she began practicing Insight Meditation with her mentors Pujari and Abhilasha Keays. Her asana classes blend mindfulness with physical movement. Charlotte writes a column for Catalyst Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. She is the author of two books: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. She also edits Hugger Mugger Yoga Products¹ blog and is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, she plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and the folk sextet Red Rock Rondo whose 2010 PBS music special won two Emmys.