Parivrtta Utkatasana - TINT Yoga

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Parivrtta Utkatasana Revolved Chair Pose

    Quick Facts

  • Sanskrit (Original): Parivṛtta Utkaṭāsana
  • Etymology: Revolve (parivṛtta), intense (utkaṭa); pose (āsana)
  • Fun Fact about the pose: The archetype pose Utkatasana is sometimes also translated as ‘Awkward Pose’ – this pose variation certainly lives up to this name!
  • Asana Type: Standing, Twist
  • Main length muscle groups: Internal and external obliques; latissimus dorsi; serratus anterior, trapezius; gluteus maximus, gluteus medius
  • Main strength muscle groups: Internal and external obliques; lower body: glute muscles, hamstrings, vastii, soleus, muscles of the feet; upper body: psoas minor, abdominal muscles, triceps brachii
  • Vinyasa Breath: Exhale

How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step

  • 1 To get into Parivrtta Utkatasana, start in a standing position such as Tadasana with the feet hip-width apart and parallel.
  • 2 Bend the knees more than just comfortably.
  • 3 Close your ribcage and place your palms together in prayer in front of your sternum.
  • 4 Inhale to lengthen your spine. On an exhale, twist your torso to one side.
  • 5 Hook the upper arm of the opposite side onto the outside of the thigh, i.e. as you twist to the right side, hook the left upper arm onto the outside of the right thigh and vice versa.
  • 6 Push the upper arm into the thigh and firmly press your palms against each other.
  • 7 The elbows draw away from each other.
  • 8 Shift your bodyweight into the heels and send the sit bones back.
  • 9 Inhale to lengthen the spine. Exhale again to further rotate your torso towards the side you’re twisting to.
  • 10 Inhale to draw the navel in and engage the core muscles.
  • 11 Create a slight backbend by lifting the chest and chin slightly up (without overextending the neck).
  • 12 Check your knees again: The tendency here is that the knee on the side you’re twisting to draws slightly back. Consciously bend it a little bit deeper to bring both knees in one line.
  • 13 Look straight to the side so that you do not twist your neck too much.
  • 14 To release Parivrtta Utkatasana, return to the center with an inhale. Make sure you keep your core active as you do this.
  • 15 Rest, move on with your sequence, or twist directly to the other side.

Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose

  • Keep the knees in one line: The knees are very vulnerable joints as they carry the weight of the upper body. To avoid wear and tear or even injury, make sure your body weight is evenly distributed on both legs. The usual tendency is to sink into the leg on the opposite side than the one you are twisting to, i.e. putting the majority of your bodyweight on that leg. To prevent this, keep both knees equally bent and in one line. You should actually take the time to turn your head to look at your knees and check whether they are in one line.
  • Maintain a slight backbend: Although it is really tempting to just rest your upper body with your elbow on the thigh, avoid collapsing into the pose. Instead, focus on keeping a slight curve in your lumbar spine by pushing the sit bones back and lifting the chest up. Also roll your upper shoulder up and back. This makes it easier to draw the shoulder blades together and enjoy a nice front-opening in Revolved Chair Pose.
  • Twist from the lumbar spine: A common observation is that practitioners look up towards the ceiling as they twist. This makes the pose look more twisted but the only part of your spine that twists here is the cervical spine. However, you actually want to twist from the lumbar spine. This is why you should focus on twisting your navel further instead of turning the head (or even the eyes) up.

Adapting The Pose Through Modifications

Simplify

  • Your legs are screaming already? Practice Parivrtta Utkatasana on a(n actual) chair. Without the strain on your quads, you can focus more on the twist and front-opening. You can still push the sit bones back on your chair and lift the chest. Use the inhale to lengthen and the exhale to twist deeper without having to worry about your knees.
  • If your spinal mobility does not allow for enough rotation to hook your upper arm on the opposite thigh, keep the elbow between the legs. This means that you twist only ‘half-way’. Work in this position on the front-opening and twisting until you feel ready to rotate further.
  • Ankle mobility often is a limiting factor in all Chair Pose variations, including this one. So, if you feel you do not have enough space to lower the hips down, elevate your heels slightly, for example on a rolled-up towel or blanket. At the same time, this will allow you to lift your chest and shoulders more. A few centimeters of support underneath your heels can do wonders here!
  • Work on centering your thighs by putting a yoga block between your thighs. Squeeze the block together to emphasize the inward rotation of your thighs and, at the same time, stabilize your knees.

Level Up

  • Play with the position of your arms in Parivrtta Utkatasana to increase the challenge. You can, for example, extend one arm up and/or the other arm down. Stretch your fingertips away from the torso to gain strength and stability in this position.
  • For an extra challenge to your sense of balance, lift the heels off the floor in Revolved Chair Pose. Allow your legs to get shaky. Focus on pressing the thigh and the arm against each other as well as on sending the sit bones and the chest in opposite directions. You will notice that these actions help you to find or maintain your balance.
  • You can also balance on one leg and turn the pose into Eka Pada Parivrtta Utkatasana. The leg on which you have hooked your arm will remain on the ground as your standing leg. Start by slightly lifting the heel of the other foot until you eventually lift the entire leg up and bring the heel closer toward your buttocks. Looking down on the ground will make it easier for you to stay balanced.

Benefits of Parivrtta Utkatasana

  • Just like its mother pose Utkatasana, it is a great strength builder. The pose does not only strengthen the entire legs, from the glutes and thighs to the calves and ankles, but also your buttocks and the core.
  • With attention to the correct alignment, Revolved Chair Pose is beneficial for practitioners with knee issues as it strengthens the supporting structures around the knee joints.
  • If you really focus on the backbend in Parivrtta Utkatasana, you also get a nice front-opening for the chest and shoulders as well as a great stretch for the spine.
  • The twisting action gives your abdominal organs a gentle massage, which can promote digestion.
  • Maintaining your balance in this pose requires a lot of focus and concentration, which makes this asana a great workout for body and mind.

This pose is a must-do whenever I want to build a more strenuous yoga sequence. It includes everything that can possibly challenge you: squatting, balancing, front-opening, twisting – and breathing!

Doreen

Content Manager at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher

FAQ: Common questions about this pose

No, this is actually a good sign that your muscles are working and active. While learning new muscular patterns, they also become stronger. All this can be quite strenuous if you haven't used these muscles a lot, so shaking is a normal sign of expanding your capacity. However, you should still pay attention to your body’s limits and see what is tolerable. At any point when you feel it is too much, straighten your legs more or choose to take a different pose.

There is no definite answer to this question. You can actually hold it as long as you want to (or can). Chances are that this is not more than a couple of breaths. In more dynamic classes like in Vinyasa yoga, Revolved Chair Pose is mainly a transition pose where it is only held for one breath. However, in a Hatha-based class, the time spent in this pose can extend to five to ten full breath cycles (depending on the cruelty of the yoga teacher). The good thing here is that this gives you more time to work on the details and get deeper into the twist.

If practiced with the correct alignment and respecting your body’s limits, Revolved Chair pose is a great asana for your spine. The twist improves the mobility of the spine as this is an action we rarely do in our everyday lives. The additional front-opening provides a great stretch for the spine and opens the chest and shoulders. The strength you gain in your legs and buttocks provides additional support to your lower back. If practiced regularly, Parivrtta Utkatasana can help you improve your posture in any activity – something your spine will definitely thank you for.

There is no general answer to this question as every knee problem is different. If you suffer from a diagnosed knee injury, always consult with your doctor before you engage into any new kind of sports. However, if you ‘just’ have the feeling that your knees could use a bit more stability, Revolved Chair Pose is a great exercise to achieve this. As it strengthens the muscles and ligaments surrounding and/or supporting the knee (i.e. also in the hip and feet area), this pose can definitely help you to get more stability. This will protect your knee in everyday life as well as in any kind of activity.

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