Chair Pose — Utkatasana (OOT-kuh-TAHS-uh-nuh) — is a standing yoga pose that strengthens the thighs, butt, and hips. This variation, with a twist, provides a greater balance challenge while it stretches the spine, shoulders, and chest. Its Sanskrit name, Parivrtta Utkatasana (PAHR-ee-VREE-tah OOT-kuh-TAHS-uh-nuh) , comes from three words:
- “Parivrtta” — meaning “revolved”
- “Utkata” — meaning “powerful” or “fierce”
- “Asana” — meaning “pose”
It commonly goes by various English names, sometimes referred to as “Revolved Chair Pose,” “Twisted Chair Pose,” “Thunderbolt Twist,” “Prayer Twist,” or other creative variations. But no matter what your yoga teacher might call it, you’ll still gain all the benefits of this pose when you practice it!
Benefits of Chair Pose Twist
Parivrtta Utkatasana strengthens the mid- and low back and increases flexibility throughout the spine. It also tones the internal organs, including the kidneys and digestive organs. This helps with detoxification, which improves your overall health. This pose also tones your thighs, buttocks, and hips. It is also helpful for improving balance, posture, endurance, and confidence.
Only this pose, only this moment.
Do not practice Parivrtta Utkatasana if you are currently experiencing headaches, low blood pressure, or insomnia. Women who are pregnant should also avoid this pose. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Stand with your feet together, with your big toes touching. Beginners can stand with their feet hip-distance apart.
- Inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.
- Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet and your torso will form an approximate right angle over your thighs. This is Chair Pose.
- Lower your arms and bring your palms together in prayer position at your chest.
- Exhaling, twist your torso to the right. Bring your left elbow to the outside of your right thigh.
- Shift your left hip back slightly, squaring off your hips once again. Bring your knees into alignment.
- Press your upper left arm against your thigh and draw your right shoulder blade into your back to turn your chest to the right.
- To deepen the pose, extend both arms, reaching your right fingertips to the sky and your left fingertips to the mat. You can also place your left hand on a block.
- Turn your gaze to the sky. If your arms are extended, gaze at your top thumb.
- Bring your hips down even lower. Lengthen your spine even further on your inhalations and twist even deeper on your exhalations. Stack your top shoulder above your bottom shoulder. Draw your thumbs to your heart, and your heart toward your thumbs.
- Keep your weight in your heels and keep your feet pressing firmly together.
- Hold for up to one minute. Inhale as you return to center, reaching both arms overhead in Chair Pose. Straighten your legs, lifting through your arms. Exhale to release back to Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
Modifications & Variations
Chair Pose Twist can strengthen your thighs and bring great flexibility to your spine. To deepen or lighten the pose, try these simple changes to find a variation that works best for you:
- If you’re having trouble balancing, stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Work toward standing with your feet together and pressing your thighs firmly against each other.
- If you have shoulder pain in this pose, bring your palms together in prayer position, resting your thumbs at your sternum. Press firmly across your palms and broaden across your collarbones. Twist only as far as your shoulders and spine will allow without pain.
- If it hurts your neck to gaze upward, turn your gaze to the floor, instead.
- If your spine and shoulders are not flexible, or if you have a larger stomach or chest, it can be difficult to place your fingertips on the floor to the outside of your opposite foot. Instead, place a block to the outside of that foot and rest your bottom hand there. Alternatively, you can bring your fingertips to the outside of your same-side foot, or on a block next to the same-side foot.
- Learning to balance your weight in the heels can be tough at first. Try practicing the pose near a wall. Stand with your back a few inches away from the wall. As you bend into the pose, your tailbone should just slightly be supported by the wall, teaching the correct weight distribution.
- For a deeper challenge, lift onto the balls of your feet with your knees bent. Then, practice the pose while keeping your heels lifted.
- To help increase your thigh strength and body awareness in the pose, squeeze a yoga block between your upper thighs.
Chair Pose Twist can add variety to your regular yoga practice. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Maintain a slight arch in your back; don’t keep your back flat.
- Squeeze your thighs as close together as possible.
- Bring your thighs as parallel to the floor as possible.
- Keep your weight in your heels. Shifting your weight forward can over-stress your knees and fatigue you quickly.
- Remember to breathe smoothly and evenly throughout the pose! Your heart rate will increase, but if your breath becomes strained, ease up until you can breathe deeply again.
Twist It Out
Practicing Chair Pose Twist is a great way to help detoxify your organs, warm your body, and strengthen your spine and legs. It adds variety to your practice and it enhances your balance and focus. Challenge your physical and mental flexibility with a twist!