Now my friends, if you are imagining in a beautiful yogi dream that you will be reclining on a lazy-boy sipping hot cocoa by the roaring fire …pause for effect…, then allow me to burst your bubble and bring you back to reality cause that’s not the case. (At least not if you practice yoga asana.)

Utkatasana is an active pose that creates a fiery burn in the thighs (the quads and hamstrings) and in the glutes. And, it strengthens the foundation for all of the standing poses.

Utkatasana – What is It?

Most commonly, you will see Utkatasana performed during the Second Sun Salutation series aka Sun Salutation B. It is the 2nd and 18th posture.

Yet in researching the Sanskrit meaning for the word Utkatasana, we learn that the name for this pose “comes from the Sanskrit utkata, which means “fierce, proud, high, haughty, superior, immense, large, difficult.”

It’s quite interesting to follow the link for the above definition which also shares some of the mythology around the pose. Having a greater understanding that the only “chairs” in India would have been the thrones for royalty makes this pose even more regal and adds to the strength and fiery power that it cultivates.

If we are mindful in the practice of the pose, we can embody the strength that those who know and truly believe that they are royalty embody.

Utkatasana – How to do it?

You will find many different variations and expressions of Utkatasana. But as I played around with the pose researching what felt good and how I would teach it to a wide audience of individuals, I ultimately chose four variations that I believe can be adapted to most any body regardless of skill, ability, and body shape.

Remember that the goal for this pose is to create strength and nourish the fire within. Focus on fusing the belly button to the spine, reaching the arms up and out while keeping the shoulders away from the ears. Mindfully engage all of the muscles in the lower body: the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductor and adductor muscles, as well as the calf muscles – this will keep the knees from knocking in our out. And really press into the feet making sure that your weight is evenly distributed.

Now without any more talk, lets experience Utkatasana.

Utkatasana – On A Chair

Utkatasana on a Chair

This version of Utkatasana is great for beginners or more advanced yogis wanting to fine tune their mind-body connection.

How to:

Begin sitting in the middle or towards the front of a chair or other firm seat. (I don’t recommend sitting on a couch or lazy-boy armchair.)
Sit nice and tall imagining a puppet string pulling the crown of your head up towards the ceiling. Your shoulders should be down and back away from your ears. Remember to engage your core. INHALE.
EXHALE pressing your feet into the floor to engage the legs almost as if you were going to stand up.
On the next INHALE, bow forwards as if to drag your arms across the floor, and rise up leading with your arms.
You may choose to come all the way back upright, or stop just before so there is a slight bend forward.
Focus on maintaining the pressing sensation in the feet to engage the legs throughout the entirety of the pose. If your body relaxes, press into the feet again to engage the legs.
Hold the pose for 5-10 complete cycles of breath.
EXHALE to bring the arms back down to your sides.
I recommend practicing this pose alone 3-5 times and/or adding it to your daily yoga practice.

During a Yoga Practice

If you are exceptionally lucky, you will be able to find a yoga class the specifically uses the chair during the practice. If a chair yoga class isn’t available to you, ask the yoga studio owner or gym representative if you can use a chair during yoga class. If neither of these options is available to you, skip the pose by staying really active in mountain pose, or try one of the other modifications below.

Utkatasana – On the Wall

Utkatasana on the Wall

This is a great version of Utkatasana to practice if you are unable to practice with a chair. It will also develop the strength in your thighs that will be needed during long holds in chair pose, or when the class utilizes a deep squat chair pose. (You’ll learn more about the deep squat chair pose further down.)

How to:

Begin standing one and a half to two feet away from the wall. (The distance away from the wall is ultimately determined by the distance of the humerus [thigh bone] – or the distance between the knee and the hip when sitting.) INHALE.
With an EXHALE, use your hands to gently sit back against the wall. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground (at a 90 degree angle) or just slightly higher. Press into the ground through your feet while pressing the small of your back into the wall. This will engage the thighs, glutes, and core.
INHALE to extend the arms up overhead being mindful to keep the shoulders down away from the ears.
Hold the pose for 5-10 complete cycles of breath. If this seems impossible, take it slow and build up.
EXHALE as you come away from the wall and back to standing.
I recommend practicing this pose alone 3-5 times and/or adding it to your daily yoga practice.

During a Yoga Practice

Unless you practice outside or your studio or gym lines every wall with windows (which could be considered literal hell on earth), you should be able to easily transition from your position on the mat to the wall and back again. Don’t worry about “interrupting” the flow, and if you’re concerned about bothering other students, pick a place near a wall already so the shift is easy for you. Ideally, a good yoga teacher won’t be bothered if you are adjusting and modifying a pose to make it work for you and your body in the moment.



I love and prefer this version of Utkatasana myself.

How To:

Begin standing with your spine long hands down at your sides. Your feet can be together with big toes touching or hips distance apart. INHALE and EXHALE.
On your next INHALE, bend your knees and squat down to lightly graze your fingertips across the mat and rise up leading with the arms. Keep your knees bent slightly, tailbone tucked, shoulders away from the ears, and spine long.
Hold for 5-10 full cycles of breaths.
EXHALE coming to stand straight up drawing the hands together and down following an imaginary line through the center of the body.
Repeat this 3-5 times following the breath.

During a Yoga Practice

This is one of the most common versions of Utkatasana that you will see in a yoga class. The second is a deeper version of Utkatasana most commonly seen in Power Yoga, Vinyasa, and Hatha style yoga classes.

Utkatasana – Squatting Deep

Deep Squat Utkatasana

While we were dating, my husband would come to the free yoga class I taught at church on Tuesday nights. And this was the pose he hated the most. I would often combine it with Cactus Arms for just a little more fire and to add to his torture. (It’s a wonder he wanted to marry me.)

How To:

Follow the steps to come into Utkatasana above.
Then, on your next EXHALE, sink down deeper bringing your thighs as close to parallel as possible.
Hold here for 5-10 full cycles of breath.
INHALE to push through the feet and come back up to standing bringing the arms back down by your side.
Repeat this 3-5x following the flow of the breath.

During a Yoga Practice

Up the intensity of a gentler yoga class by incorporating a deep Utkatasana variation to increase the fire and heat of the body.

Final Thoughts about Utkatasana

Chair pose. Utkatasana. Whatever you call it; these variations can help you build the strength in the lower body to fuel you forward into many of the standing postures of a yoga asana practice.
I hope you take the time to explore each variation and regularly incorporate them into every yoga practice you do. Just because you have “mastered” an easier version doesn’t mean you can’t go back to it and explore it in a different light. And feel free to practice them alone.

If you enjoyed learning more about Utkatasana or have any questions, let me know. I am always looking for feedback. I would love to share in your yoga journey.

All my love!