Awkward Pose: the Benefits of Warming up With Chair Pose

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YogaSol > Bikram > Awkward Pose: the Benefits of Warming up With Chair Pose
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- Jason H, Old Greenwich

Hot yoga is about to get a little awkward! 

Remember the first time you attended yoga class and felt awkward because everyone was staring at you? 

Newbie jitters can be uncomfortable and feel a bit isolating at first, but chances are others were way too focused on themselves to notice your epic yoga moves anyways. Instead, if anyone looked, they were probably thinking, “Great yoga pants! I wonder if they sell them on Amazon?”

Little did you know at the time, that awkwardness was no stranger to the yoga game. In fact, it is literally a pose! The awkward pose; and it is a vital step in practicing Bikram yoga.

Table of Contents – Click the link below to jump to the information you want to read.

What is the Awkward Pose?

The awkward pose, or Utkatasana, is used to warm up the body and prepare the system for the challenges of class ahead. Warm ups, like this pose, are often overlooked because yoga is considered a gentler form of movement. However, without proper preparation, you’re more likely to sustain injury, have less flexibility and have more trouble maintaining correct posture. Slumpy posture may not seem like much of a deal breaker, but if you want the maximum effects of your yoga practices, posture is key. 

Nicknamed the chair pose, Utkatasana is the last part of the warm up series and focuses a great deal on the legs and lower half of the body, while still hitting the upper body and spine. Although this stance appears rather simple, there is a considerable amount of concentration, coordination and stability involved. This particular yoga pose is performed in a three part series, and is more challenging with each step.

Performing the pose: Step by step instructions

The beginning – Part 1:

  1. Stand erect with your feet flat on the ground 6 inches apart. Your feet should be perfectly straight. Make sure that the gap between your knees is also 6 inches.
  2. Put your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor and keep your elbows straight. Your palms should be facing downward. Your fingers should be touching each other. 
  3. Now lower your hips and bottom as if you are going to sit in an imaginary chair. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground and your spine should be elongated. All of your weight should be pushed through your heels at this stage. Make sure your chest is pushed out forward and you are leaning back. 

The lift – Part 2:

  1. Stand back up straight, keep your arms in the same position, and your feet and knees the proper width apart. 
  2. Lift yourself up onto your toes and stretch your entire body up towards the ceiling keeping your spine straight.  

Straight Back – Part 3: 

  1. Return again to the standing position. Your arms should still be straight and parallel to the ground. 
  2. Lift yourself up onto your toes, only raising your heels slightly. 
  3. Squeeze your knees together. 
  4. Slowly lower your hips and bottom as if you are trying to sit in a chair once again. This time, go even lower with only about an inch in between your heels and your bottom. As you slide down, keep your back straight as if you are sliding down a wall.

Make sure to breathe normally and keep your core engaged throughout each step of the pose. The hold times for each phase will vary depending on your instructor or stamina. A good rule of thumb is to try holding for five to fifteen breaths each. As you practice, your hold times will increase. 

Reaping the Benefits of Awkward Pose

Now that you have mastered the technique, it’s time to learn the benefits you can achieve by practicing this sequence regularly. Besides warming up the body prior to a session, the awkward pose is said to do the following:

  • Strengthen arms, legs, and core  
  • Help relieve menstrual discomfort 
  • Improve flexibility, especially in the ankles, hips and toes
  • Alleviate back pain
  • Increase fresh blood flow to the knees, ankles, and other joints 
  • Warm chronically cold feet
  • Help relieve arthritis symptoms in the lower body 
  • Improve mental concentration and focus

Making Modifications

If the benefits of the chair pose sound great but the exercise appears too challenging, do not fret! There are some modifications you can make to improve your experience. 

  • If you are experiencing neck discomfort, you can look towards the floor instead of straight ahead. 
  • If your shoulders are feeling strained, move your arms into the cactus position instead of out in front. 
  • If balance is an issue, you can hold your pose in front of a wall for added support. 
  • If it is too difficult to bring your knees together during phase three, you can keep them in line with your feet. 

Proper form and posture is important to avoid injury, so if you feel that the pose is too challenging, try the modifications above. Do not strain yourself and force the pose incorrectly. 

Tips for Holding Challenging Poses

Regardless if you are using modifications or not, learning a new pose can be challenging. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help yourself hold challenging poses for longer. 

Set Your Intention

Your mind plays a gigantic role when it comes to your abilities. Have you ever heard the famous saying from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”? If you set an intention at the beginning of your session, you can use that to help guide your mind and redirect your attention every time it slips away. 


Yoga in general is a helpful practice for breathing techniques. Often people hold their breath when they are uncomfortable, which in turn, makes them more uncomfortable. Track your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and focus on elongating your breaths. 

Be Still

Stillness brings you to a place of relaxation. Instead of focusing on your next move or thought, take a moment to be truly still in your body and your mind. Settle into your positioning and enjoy the stillness of your pose. Sometimes you just need to be!

Perfecting your Awkward

Whether you practice yoga regularly or you have been interested in taking a class for a while now, the only way to perfect your pose is through instruction and practice. There is no need to feel awkward, as we hold classes for all levels in a warm (some may even say hot) welcoming environment. 

Our Bikram yoga classes take place several times a week where we cycle through all 26 hot yoga postures. Our original 90-minute classes also include breathing exercises. If you don’t have the time to commit to a longer class, you can always join our shortened 75-minute version. 

Sign-up today and come practice your awkward pose with us at YogaSol!

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FAQs about Awkward Pose

  1. What if I can’t hold the pose for the entire duration? No worries! We encourage all hot yoga participants to do what they can do and forget the rest. The main thing is to try the pose and follow the instruction and rhythm of the class. You can always hold the pose longer in the next class. And you’ll be excited about your progress!
  2. I don’t want the instructor to make adjustments to my posture during class. Is that okay? Yoga at YogaSol is all about you! So, if you’re nervous about in-class posture adjustments, talk to your instructor before the class begins. Let them know you’re nervous about being called out in the middle of class, and you can share how you’d like to receive feedback. Your teacher is here to help you get what you need from your practice!
  3. What if I lose my balance in front of everyone? We’ve all been there! Everyone loses balance from time to time. So, don’t be nervous. Be prepared that it’s likely to happen. And know that’s just part of the journey. You’ll see others in the same situation as you. And you’ll get better with balance the more you practice.

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