How to Do One-Legged Chair Pose (Eka Pada Utkatasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Also Known as: Standing Figure-Four Pose, Half Chair Pose, Whopping Crane Pose

Targets: Balance, hip-opener

Level: Intermediate

One-Legged Chair is what happens when Awkward Chair Pose (Utkatasana) meets Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandrasana). In addition to being a balance challenge in and of itself, it's also an important entryway into several advanced arm balances such as the Flying Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana). It can be used in sequences that focus on opening the hips, stretching the hamstrings, or challenging the lower body.

Benefits

One-Legged Chair Pose improves core strength and balance, opens the hips, and strengthens the legs. You are stretching your outer hips and gluteal muscles while using the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus maximus. You will need good focus to maintain this pose, which can help clear your mind. In everyday life, it is good to have well-toned legs and a better sense of balance to prevent falls. Opening your hips can also relieve the tightness that develops from sitting too much.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin by coming into Awkward Chair Pose (Utkatasana). Take several breaths here with both feet grounded into the floor. Make sure your thighs are low and your weight is back in your heels.
  2. Bring your hands to Anjali Mudra at your heart. Feel all four corners of your left foot on the floor as you start to peel your right foot off the ground. Keep your left knee bent as you cross your right ankle over to rest on your left thigh just above your knee.
  3. Flex your right foot strongly. If you look down, you should see a triangle shape formed by your legs.
  4. Stay in this position for three to five breaths. For balance postures, it's useful to find a place to look on the floor just in front of you. 
  5. If you want to go further, begin to bring your chest lower until your hands (still in prayer position) rest on your right calf. If this feels OK, you can continue to forward bend until your fingers touch the floor. Keep the bend in your right leg or straighten it, depending on which feels better.
  6. If you have bent forward, come out the way you came in, returning to an upright position slowly.
  1. Release the right leg to the floor and take a few breaths in Awkward Chair before doing the pose on the other leg.

Common Mistakes

To get the most from this pose and reduce the risk of injury, avoid these errors.

Bending Knees Too Deeply

If your knee extends past your ankle as you enter this pose from Awkward Chair Pose, you risk injuring your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Unfortunately, many yoga teachers coach you to do just that. This risk is especially great for girls and women.

Butt Position

Keep a straight line between your spine and your buttocks rather than excessively arching or rounding your back. Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your navel inward.

Raised Shoulders

Keep your shoulders down and loose so they aren't raised up toward your ears.

Modifications and Variations

As with most yoga poses, you can work up to the full version by using a modification at first. Then, once you have mastered the pose, you can introduce ways to get more of a challenge.

Need a Modification?

If you have difficulty maintaining the balance, practice this against a wall. You can either face the wall and place your hands on the wall to maintain balance, or you can face away from the wall and use it to support your back.

Work on your core strength with plank variations and yoga crunches if balancing is hard for you.

Up for a Challenge?

Once you can maintain this pose without difficulty, you might progress to One-Legged Revolved Chair Pose or to arm balances like Flying Pigeon.

Safety and Precautions

As with Awkward Chair Pose, you should avoid this pose if you have a knee or ankle injury. In both poses, you need to protect your knees by not bending the knees too deeply. This pose is not recommended for pregnant women. If you have low blood pressure or balance challenges, be sure to practice this pose against a wall.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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