Awkward Pose (Utkatasana)

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Awkward Pose, Utkatasana, (oot-kah-TAHS-anna)

utkata (powerful, fierce) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Utkatasana, Fierce Pose

Pose Type: Balancing, Strengthening, Standing

Difficulty: Intermediate

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing awkward pose

Warm up your body and strengthen your legs in Awkward Pose.

Awkward Pose Fundamentals

Awkward Pose is the third pose in the Bikram series, designed to warm up the body for the rest of the class.

It is similar to Chair Pose, and both poses are called Utkatasana – which translates to fierce pose in Sanskrit.

This asana builds strength in the legs and core and boosts circulation in the lower body.

The pose appears simple when you first have a glance at the pictures of others doing it – however, it is very challenging. It requires a good level of strength, balance, coordination, and focus to be achieved with good form.

In Bikram yoga, the pose is done in three steps, each more difficult than the previous, and these variations are performed one after the other. You can, however, stop at the first or the second alteration if you already feel enough challenge with them.

The asana also helps you attain greater focus, as it requires you to coordinate between balancing and finding perfect alignment. That is challenging and can only be done properly if you are completely aware and present.

Awkward Pose & Energetics

Energetically, this asana works on the root, sacral, throat, and third eye chakras. In this manner, it can help you find a balance between the lower and upper energy centers, rather than only focusing on a single aspect.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing awkward pose

Awkward Pose Benefits

  • Strengthens the legs and upper arms.
  • Improves the flexibility of the pelvis and hips, and lengthens the spine and ankles.
  • Reduces menstrual cramps.
  • Boosts digestion and metabolism.
  • Improves blood flow to the legs, knees, and ankles.
  • Relieves arthritis and rheumatism.
  • Improves your sense of balance and coordination and boosts concentration. 

How To Do Awkward Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Begin in Mountain Pose, ground your feet, and lengthen the spine.

2. Now reach your arms overhead, palm facing inward, and slowly bend your knees.

3. Try to create a backbend, opening your chest and drawing in the stomach. This is the first alteration of Awkward Pose.

4. For the second part, you will straighten the spine, and stand on your toes trying to maintain your alignment while balancing.

5. For the third part of the pose, you will maintain the alignment of the spine and remain on your toes, but you will sit as far down as possible, while still balancing your hips in the air. In this variation, you can squeeze your legs together to feel stronger and protect the knees.

6. Hold each variation for several breaths, and once you complete them all, go back to Mountain Pose.

Tips And Tricks:

  • Although your arms are up – relax your shoulders and move them down and away from the ears.
  • Energize through the fingers of the hands and toes.
  • Keep breathing – if you struggle to breathe, you might need to move back a step.
  • The alignment of the feet is one of the most important things in this pose. You will traditionally be instructed to keep them around 6 inches apart – but make sure you adapt the stance to your anatomy.
  • The same distance is recommended between the hands and knees – they should all ideally be hip-width distance apart.

Awkward Pose Variations:

Practicing On A Chair

Keeping the spine neutral is really important for Awkward Pose. That can be tricky if you have lordosis or a rounded posture. 

If you need to work on your alignment, it might be best to skip the leg-strengthening part – and sit down in a chair. From there, practice the action of the upper body, by pulling your abdominal muscles in, lengthening your tailbone down, and slightly tucking the chin, trying to reach a perfect alignment with your spine.

Once you’re able to do that, you can progress to practicing near a wall – touch your lower back to the wall to get a bit more support and continue to work on your form. 

Arm Placement

Balancing, leg strengthening, and keeping the spine neutral is already difficult – so you can change the arm placement while learning the pose.

Elongating the arms above the head can help with balance and with alignment, but can also create tension in the shoulders.

Instead, you can experiment with other arm placements. You can widen them into a cactus position with elbows bent, stretch them in front of you, keep them in Prayer Position on your chest, or place them on the thighs. 

Revolved Chair Pose

If you want to take this pose a step further, you can complete it with a twist. You can do the twist both with the heels down and lifted, although the latter will, of course, be more challenging. 

To perform this variation, place your hands in the Prayer position, close to your heart. Twist to the left, and bring the right shoulder to the outer side of the left thigh. Keep pressing the knees together, or place a block between your thighs. Repeat the pose on the other side. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Incorrect foot placement. Feet alignment is key to achieving this pose, yet many can get it wrong. The goal is to keep them aligned and parallel, but that can be difficult due to differences in anatomy. Still, try to focus on pointing your toes forward instead of to the sides, and distribute your weight throughout all four corners of the feet.  

Knees collapsing. Your knees should be in the same line as your middle toe. They shouldn’t turn inside or out. Also, they shouldn’t move past your toes – you should be able to see your toes when you look down. 

Injuries and Contraindications

This pose is not recommended for those with chronic knee pain or any injuries in the knees. Also refrain from the pose if you have injuries in the ankles, shoulders or hips. Finally, it might be best to avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure, vertigo, migraines or any other condition which causes dizziness and balance issues.

Related Poses

Chair Pose

Garland Pose

Goddess Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Downward Facing Dog

Mountain Pose

Tree Pose

Counter Poses:

Standing Forward Bend

Eagle Pose

Revolved Chair Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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