I have always found chair pose (utkatasana, or "fierce pose") to be a challenging posture for me, and every couple of years I realise that I have been doing different elements of the pose incorrectly. In my recent YTT, I worked on this pose quite a bit, and here is what I have come up with.
First, start working your alignment from the foundation.
- Your feet should either be together, or a small distance apart (i.e. aligned underneath the sitting bones);
- Your weight should be evenly distributed between the heels and balls of the feet - don't rock back onto your heels or lean too much into your toes;
- When you bend your knees, look down along your nose: you should be able to see your toes over your knees.
Remember that a lot depends on the natural alignment of your spine, in this case of your lower back and pelvis. There is no one-size-fits-all rule for spinal alignment because we are all starting from very different places! So:
- If you naturally have a pronounced lumbar curve, you will probably need to tuck your pelvis and reduce that curve;
- If you naturally have a very flat lumbar spine, you will want to encourage your pelvis to tilt forward a bit and allow your back to retain some curve;
- If you have a pretty "neutral" spine and pelvis, then you don't need to do much except maintain that neutrality.
- Engage the abdominals and draw the belly button towards the spine;
- Lengthen the sides of the torso and lift the collarbones;
- Drop the shoulders back and down;
- Engage the arms as if they could lift you higher in the pose! I have tight shoulders so I keep my hands shoulder-width apart. If even this causes too much tightness, you can also practice the pose with your hands in prayer
- Keep your neck and head in line with your spine (it feels like you are tucking your chin slightly, instead of craning your neck forward);
- Keep your gaze (drishti) straight down along your nose.
I'd love to hear if anyone has tips or stories to share about this pose. :)