• Utkata: Fierce / Furious / Awkward
  • Asana: Pose

Utkatasana is the third pose of the primary series of Ashtanga Vinyasa.

This pose builds strength of the legs and shoulders, and demands flexibility of the shoulders.

Focus on…

Squeeze the knees together, and bend the knees as much as possible while maintaining the verticality of the pose. Bending the knees too much will make the torso and arms lean forward in order to counterbalance, undermining the integrity of the position.

Keep the pelvis relatively neutral. Avoid excessive anterior or posterior tilting.

Press the palms together firmly, and take the head behind the line of the arms. Avoid lacing the fingers together, or letting the shoulders grip around the neck. Reach upwards as much as you can, using the motion of the arms to cultivate length of the torso. Pressing the hands together will allow you to access the side rib musculature (namely, the latissimus dorsi & serratus anterior muscles. This is the area below the armpits). Cultivating strength in the side ribs is important in a variety of postures, essential to arm balances, and necessary in establishing healthy alignment in the shoulder girdle and neck.

Keep the musculature of the neck supportive by reaching the nose towards the ceiling.

Vinyasa of the Pose

This pose is entered through the Surya Namaskara form. (Review these positions here)

From Samasthitiinhale and reach the arms overhead.

Exhale, and fold forward.

Inhale, look forward and lengthen.

Exhale, jump back to Chaturanga.

Inhale, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana 

Exhale, Adho Mukha Svanasana. While still exhaling, jump or step forward and land with the feet between the hands and the knees bent.

Inhale, join the hands overhead, keeping the knees bent. This is the state of Utkatasana. Take five breaths here.


Exhale, fold forward and press the hands on the floor.

Inhale, look forward and lengthen.

Exhale, jump back.

Inhale, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana 

Exhale, Adho Mukha Svanasana. From here, step forward into Virabhadrasana A.

Alternatives & Solutions

If you have a neck injury, or limited mobility in your shoulders, spread the hands shoulder width apart. Keep the neck upright rather than tilting the head back to gaze upwards. Over time, however, work towards the proper head position. It is important to return the neck to a fully functional range of motion.

If your hands are shoulder width apart, hold a block lengthwise. Press your palms firmly into the block to activate the side rib muscles (latissimus dorsi & serratus anterior). After several sessions with the block, leave it aside and find the same muscle engagement. Imagine an invisible block between your hands and ‘press’ into it if that is a helpful visualization.

Common Mistakes

Bending the knees excessively can make the body lean forward too much. In the below photo, there is too much hip and knee flexion. Instead, the knees should be straightened until the arms are vertical.

Utkatasana mistake

Don’t place the head between the arms, which prevents elongation of the shoulder joint. Instead, place the head behind the line of the arms.

Don’t allow the arms or legs to do the bare minimum. Instead, squeeze the knees & thighs together, and press the palms together firmly as you spread the fingers and toes.

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