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A Beginner’s Guide to Chair Yoga

Chair pose is a balancing pose that strengthens your upper body, legs, back, and core. It can also relieve tension in your neck and shoulders. It can be a challenge to get into, but if you take it slowly and gently, it’s a good posture for beginners and advanced practitioners alike. It also helps you build strength and improve balance, a fundamental component of yoga.

Utkatasana, or Chair Pose, is a powerful pose that’s aptly named: it’s a full-body workout that can feel challenging, even for experienced yogis. Striking a balance between effort and ease is key, as this posture demands that you use your quads, core, arms, and neck to push back against self-imposed boundaries.

It’s also one of the most versatile poses in yoga, so you can modify it to suit your needs. For example, new yogis and people with knee problems or injuries can lean on the back of a wall for support and to help prevent pain. Then, yogis can choose to raise their feet to the ceiling or lower them to the ground for additional challenge and stability.

To start, stand with your feet hip distance apart and extend your arms straight in front of you, parallel to the floor. Then, slowly sink into a seated position, keeping your chest open and the shoulders rolled down and back. You can hold the position for a few breaths or continue to fold forward, either raising your arms up to the sky or floating them into airplane arms. This version of the pose engages your upper body and strengthens the muscles between your ribs, improving breathing capacity.

In both versions of the pose, you can stretch your quads by swinging the right leg around behind the chair to hover off the mat. This version of the pose requires a little more coordination, but it can be very effective for people with knee issues and those who struggle to stretch their hips and back without discomfort.

This yoga pose can also be done as a spinal twist, as outlined in the video below. It’s important to keep the shoulders from creeping up towards the ears, as this can stress the neck. In this variation, yogis can add more challenge by spreading their fingers wide and rotating them toward each other to release the shoulders from the back of the head. They can also lift the elbows up while dropping the shoulders away from their ears to stretch the spine and create more space.

You can also practice the pose while sitting in a supported reclining pose or on a prop like a blanket, pillow, or block. This can be helpful if you have difficulty maintaining your balance in the pose or want to try it out during menstruation or pregnancy. It’s also recommended that you avoid this pose if you have a sprained ankle, back injury or injury to the knees. However, it’s safe to practice Chair Pose during most trimesters of pregnancy, but you should be careful if you’re in your third trimester because it may strain the knees and pelvic joints.