Utkatasana or chair pose
Aging is accompanied by a natural decline in muscle tone and bone density that contributes to decreased mobility, stability, strength and endurance. Maintaining this functional capacity helps retain the ability to perform daily tasks with ease, such as getting up from a chair.
Parkinson’s disease affects a person’s ability to move, and focusing on exercise helps to keep muscles strong and to improve flexibility and mobility. Yoga can improve balance, help overcome gait problems and strengthen muscles used in day-to-day movements.
Utkatasana, or chair pose, is a strong, grounding standing posture that helps strengthen the legs, core and back muscles. Utkatasana means ‘powerful pose’ and requires a balance of opposites in the upper (lightness) and lower (grounding) body.
- Strengthen the supporting muscles of the major joints, such as the shoulders, hips, knees, arches of your feet and ankles (especially integrity in the Achilles tendon)
- Develop core strength
- Strengthen the quads (which supports our vulnerable knee joints!) and glutes
- Help protect the knee joint by building stability
- Build heat in the body
- Open shoulders and chest
- Improve breathing by opening the chest and intercostals (rib)
- Knee problems can start using the wall for support
- Severe back problems
- Recent ankle surgery
- Especially in PD, certain associated medication can cause low blood pressure and associated light-headedness. Move slowly when getting into a standing posture.
- From Tadasana (see last mondays post), with your feet hip-width apart (for stability), spread your toes and feel the earth with the ball of your big toe, baby toe and heel.
- Inhale and engage your core by drawing your navel in and up, exhale a tall spine stacking your shoulders over your hips
- Inhale draw your arms up to shoulder height and on your exhale draw your sitting bones back and down like you are sitting in an imaginary chair.
- Use the forward reach of your arms to counterbalance the backwards sitting motion
- Inhale ground firmly through your heels and exhale sit back another inch, ensuring your shoulders reach towards to hips (engaging serratus anterior muscles)
- Re-engage your core and draw your tail bone down (to avoid compression in the lower spine), lengthen the whole spine upwards
- To take it further, inhale to ground and exhale lift your arms above your head, keeping your chest open and heart lifted
- You can further deepen the posture by releasing the heads of the thigh bones toward the heels. Bring your hands to your tops thighs. Nestle the bases of your palms into the creases of the groins and push the heads of thighs toward the heels, digging the heels deep into the floor. The lift the sitting bones up into the pelvis.
- Take a few more breath, inhaling to root down through your feet and exhaling to extend your fingertips towards to sky
Take time to explore this pose, it’s a movement we use so often during the day and building and retaining strength in these muscles are crucial for maintaining independence in our daily activities. For modifications, try it against a wall, have the back of a chair in front of you to hold on to for balance, or have the chair behind you and try to hold this position about 1-inch off the chair seat before sitting down.
So, have a seat! much love.