This month, utkatasana reminds us of the determination needed for new growth. It challenges us to dig deep and reach high, finding truth in that vital opposition. If we have the courage to balance at the edge of this paradox, finding stillness and release, utkatasana rewards us with increased strength and stability. It stimulates growth and clears away the emotional and mental blocks that set illusory limits on our potential to spring forth. Best of all, utkatasana generates a budding energy in our center that blooms throughout the body as we flower through our day.
While we will enter utkatasana at the end of the warm-up series during class, the pose is a great way to wake and tone the body during a break from sitting or working at a desk. If you are planning to enter utkatasana on your own, take care to coax the body through some gentle stretches that open the back and shoulders. Also, be sure to engage the muscles of the core to prepare the trunk to support the torso's weight.
To move into utkatasana, place the feet parallel and together, pressing the whole foot into the ground. Next, engage the mudra bandha, which corresponds to the muscles of the pelvic floor. Draw the muscles from the navel to the perineum up and in, tilting the top of pelvis just slightly forward of perpendicular to the floor. Keeping the abdominal muscles firm, engage the quads and glutes. Once the pelvic floor, the abs, the quads, and the glutes are all engaged, lower slowly into a seat by gently bending the knees and pressing the heels into the floor.
Once you find yourself in a seat, balance the pelvis by tucking the tailbone under slightly until the muscles of the low back release. Take a deep breath and extend your arms in front of you. When you feel steady, inhale and let your breath lift your hands. If balanced and properly aligned, yogis looking for an additional challenge may shift their weight back from here to bring their knees over their ankles.
Balancing here, harness the opposing forces that energize the pose. Ground the body actively by rooting through the feet, but let gravity pull the pelvis down to release the muscles of the lower back. Keep the ribs relaxed, but draw the abdominal muscles up and in to support the spine. Breathe as the pose's dynamic forces feed the budding energy that sprouts in the body's core. As this power builds, draw the shoulder blades down to release the upper back. Mindful not to arch the back and let the lower ribs pop out, lift the chest slightly as the arms shoot toward the sky. Engage the muscles at the top of the arms to relax the shoulders and relieve any strain on the neck. Finally, lift the chin slightly to gaze up at the fingertips. If this causes any discomfort, lower the gaze to relieve any tension in the neck.
Breathing deeply, feel the power of this paradoxical pose center and strengthen the body. Focus inward and seek stillness to clear away the mental noise. Growing long and strong in opposite directions, shoot up and root down with the breath, using each inhale to lift and each exhale to ground.
After a few breaths, release utkatasana and feel the budding energy bloom throughout the body. As we deepen and refine the pose this month, may our roots grow stronger as our efforts blossom and lighten every limb.