There are many meanings of the word Utkat, some of them are proud, fierce, superior, etc.
Utkatasana is translated as the ‘Fierce pose’ or ‘Chair pose’. From the shape of the posture, the ‘Chair’ makes more sense than ‘Fierce’. But there is a story from Ramayana (one of the traditional epics from India) which supports the translation of ‘Utkatasana’ as ‘The Fierce pose’.
The story behind Utkatasana/ The chair pose.
As there are lots of characters and names in this epic, we will try to keep it as concise as possible but still convey the story and the reason behind the name of the asana.
Rama is the hero king, Sita his wife, and Hanumana is the monkey god with super powers. Ravana a demon king (rakshasa) abducts Sita when Rama was out hunting and took her away to his kingdom in an aircraft. Rama came back and couldn’t find his wife. He asked around and came to know that his wife is abducted.
Ravana took Sita to his kingdom Lanka (Sri-lanka in the present day). Rama was unable to find the location of this place, so he took the help of Hanumana who had superpowers, to locate his wife. Hanumana with flying superpowers flew around and was able to locate Sita in a garden in Ravana’s kingdom.
He landed in the garden and approached Sita giving her Rama’s ring so that Sita could recognize him as a friend. Suddenly some guards came and captured Hanumana; he being a notorious monkey got willingly captured even though he had the powers to break free. He was presented in front of Ravana who was sitting on his throne. To tease King Ravana and insult his superiority, Hanumana started growing his tail, coiling it round and round, creating a throne for himself so that he would be higher up than the Demon king.
We see from Hanuman’s action how lowly he thinks of the demon king Ravan. Ravana first abducted Sita and then sent guards to capture Hanuman when he tries to save her. This fierce righteousness burning in Hanuman as he comes to face Ravana is the feeling that we should try to recreate when we do the pose. He feels ferociously strong and so we try to embody that ferocity.
- Start in Samathiti (equal standing posture).
- Inhale and raise your arms up, perpendicular to the floor, palms touching, looking towards the thumbs. The fingers should be stretching up towards the ceiling/sky.
- Exhale and bend your knees (as if you were going to sit in a chair). The knee should not go beyond the toes (look down and your big toes should be visible).
- Keep the arch in the back reaching up with your hands. Press the palms together and try to move the arms back. Try to keep the shoulder blades away from each other and the shoulders away from the ears.
- Stay for 30 seconds to a minute.
- To come out of this pose inhale and straighten your knees, keeping the hands together fingers pointing upwards.
- Exhale and release your arms to your sides into Samathiti (equal standing posture).
- You can increase the strength of your thighs by squeezing a block or thick book between them during the pose,
- Keep the hands shoulder-width apart, if it is too difficult to hold the posture.
- Depending on the size and structure of the thigh some people might find it uncomfortable to keep the foot together, in that case, you can keep the foot hips-width apart.
- Make it dynamic (inhale hands up, exhale bend knees, inhale straighten, exhale hands down and repeat 20 times)
- Strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine
- Stretches shoulders and chest
- Stimulates the abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart
- Reduces flat feet by lifting through the arches
- Knee problems/ injuries
- Neck problems/ injuries